This is the first in a series of posts exploring NJ's diverse culinary bounty. A chance to show NJ as more than the corridor of refineries along the Turnpike or the montage at the beginning of "The Sopranos".
If I were to show you photos of northeastern NJ and asked you to guess where the picture was taken, NJ would probably be low on the list of states. The rolling, bucolic scenery is more reminiscent of VT than an area about an hours drive from New York City. Here nestled between state parks, lakes, farms and more legends than you can shake a stick out(check out Weird NJ) is Bobolink Dairy. The owners Jonathon White and Nina Stein White are deeply committed to creating artisan cheese and bread in the most natural ways possible. This means treating their cows with respect and allowing them to be, well, cows. There are not treated as some kind of milk production machines. Bobablink Dairy has been around since 2003, so they are not just reacting to the sustainable hype.
The drive from Hoboken to Bobalink Dairy was quite pleasant. The roadside became more rural with each click of the odometer. Cresting one hill, I was treated to a beautiful mountain vista. That was totally unexpected and I'm still trying to figure out what mountains they were. A sign for the dairy came into view and I turned onto a small country lane. A few more turns and the dairy itself appeared. A sign pointed to the driveway. Only I didn't see a driveway, I saw what looked like a hiking trail. A reconnaissance mission proved that this small, eroded, path heading steeply down hill was indeed, the driveway. I pointed the Saab towards it and hoped for the best.
The driveway looked far worse than it actually was and I parked next to an old oak tree. A quick look around showed that they were not pandering to tourists. The weathered barn lent a certain air of authenticity to the place. I walked into the commercial area of the dairy and was met by a case full of cheese. Not the sanitized, triple wrapped cheese on your grocers shelves, but the real deal covered in molds of many colors cheese. A rack behind the cheese carried many loaves of rustic looking breads. This was going to be good.
A person quickly appeared removing the plastic gloves from his hands. He was busy actually making cheese when I came in. A conversation about the different cheeses they made and quickly segued into me tasting them. The first thing I noticed about these cheeses was the texture. They all had a much looser, crumbly texture than commercial cheeses of the same type. The cheeses did seem to posses deeper, more complex flavors as well. I purchased a cheddar and a softer cheese they call Drumm. Along with my cheese purchase, an olive and onion ciabbatta loaf came home with me. I made my way back to the car, anxious to share my finds with E back home in Hoboken.
For any intrepid souls wanting to make the trek over to Bobalink Dairy here is there website with hours, how to sign up for a tour and how to sign up for a cheese making class: