food and beverage industry

What are California cheeses, and why should we add them to our pantries?

Julian Cirineo
What are California cheeses, and why should we add them to our pantries?
California cheesemakers pride themselves on the quality and sustainability of their cheeses. We asked these chefs why they use them, and where to get them.

Cheese is one of the most universal ingredients in the world, with an endless array of varieties used by different cultures. People patronize all kinds of cheeses – whether heritage, processed, or even rustic ones made at home. It is a food that has as much history and connoisseurship as wine.

Caseiculture as an industry in different regions developed at different paces. One region that has gained recognition for the quality of cheeses made is the golden state of California. In fact, the Real California Milk logo has become something of a seal of excellence sought by both chefs and home cooks looking for a product to use for their dishes since it was first introduced in 2007.

While the seal is relatively younger, the dairy industry in California is actually more than 250 years old and was first started by European settlers that brought with them wines, cheeses, and other types of food. Today, the industry has grown to be the largest milk producer in the US, while still remaining to be made up mostly of family-owned farms (99% of their total milk producers).

Yes, family-owned. Real California Milk cheeses would eventually go toe to toe against other cheesemaking regions and bag a number of accolades over the years, claiming a stake in the global cheese industry.

In the Philippines, Real California Milk has also gained a reputation as a symbol that chefs trust. In fact, it is a seal of excellence chefs look for in products. Real California Milk recently worked with a group of up-and-coming chefs to create The Dairy Kitchen, a special online food delivery project featuring dishes with their cheeses as the star. 

Speaking with these chefs, they shared with us why they chose to work with Real California Milk, and why California cheeses make great additions to anyone’s pantries.

Chef Alvin Ong, Sourdough Cafe + Deli & Mono

Beginning his path in the food scene by studying both culinary and entrepreneurship, Chef Alvin Ong admits that he has had businesses in the past that weren’t successful ( which he considered as learning opportunities). He would then work as a food engineer for Synergy Asia, which eventually introduced him to Real California Milk Philippines.

In 2019, Chef Alvin had been experimenting with dehydrating potatoes and their application in different food products while working on projects for Real California Milk. At the time, a cousin of his approached him with an idea of opening a wine lounge in Quezon City.

As he was building the menu with another chef, he decided to combine a winery, a boulangerie, and a fromagerie in one place, drawing inspiration from their classical culinary training from the Center of Culinary Arts. This was how Sourdough Cafe + Deli & Mono started.

With sourdough bread being one of their main offerings, they were able to ride on the sourdough trend that started in the middle of the pandemic and has since then been able to add more outlets including a new branch in Makati and a commissary that delivered fresh bread to different locations.

Cheeses also played a big role in Chef Alvin’s culinary career as he would hold private cheese and wine tasting events, pairing Real California Milk artisanal cheeses with different bottles. Chef Alvin shares that he is very picky with what products he uses, which is why he works with Real California Milk. “That’s my philosophy as a chef, using real ingredients. We don’t use compound butter but we use French butter, we don’t use non-dairy whipping cream even if it’s half the price. We would use real ingredients.”

And when you stand for something real, he believes people are willing to pay for the authenticity.

For The Dairy Kitchen, Chef Alvin is offering grazing boxes that would give foodies an opportunity to enjoy the full taste of the different cheeses along with cold cuts, jams, wine, and other accouterments. He’s also offering cheese fondue kits, as well as cheese croquettes. And one of his newest experiments too is Kwahsaimada, or cronut-ensaymada topped with mild cheddar.

And when it comes to pairing cheeses with wines, Chef Alvin has a few tips. He suggests pairing Gina Marie Cream Cheese with a bottle of berry-tasting Rosé which would form flavors similar to strawberry cheesecake. You can also try TomaRashi, which is Toma cheese with the Japanese spice Togarashi, paired with Chardonnay. But ultimately, he shares, it’s all about you.

“There’s no perfect pairing for cheese and wine. It’s up to you how you’re going to blend it.”

Chef Markus Patimo, Happy Tummies

Never one to shy away from a challenge, Chef Markus Patimo of Happy Tummies is always looking for something new to tinker and experiment with. The 35-year old chef has been doing cooking shows, most recently a segment within GTV’s Good News show, sharing his love for food with as many people as he can reach.

He has worked with big brands like Burgoo, Cibo, and Italiannis in the past, and was also part of Chef Jessie Sincioco’s team at Le Soufflé in Rockwell, as well as stints from abroad. One of his proudest creations through the years? An odd combination of steak and lychees which he says is a must-try.

Chef Markus is proud to be part of The Dairy Kitchen, sharing that this new challenge is a way for him to continue experimenting with unique, random, yet delicious combinations. For the Dairy Kitchen, he created stuffed squash blossoms with California orange cheddar and cream cheese served with mixed berries compote. Another variation he made included cheesy pork filling served with plum sauce. He also created cheese bacon scones, which he suggests you have with some jam and cream cheese on the side.

He adds that using Real California Milk cheeses gives him the balance he needs for his flavors. “It complements every ingredient I put in my recipes that requires cheese. With California cheese, there’s this unique taste that you can’t explain that you could actually put in every single recipe you have in mind even on those that don’t require cheese,” he shares.

If you’re thinking of creating something yourself, he suggests using Real California Milk cheese on salads with some vinaigrette, which will complement the pungent flavors of cheeses well.

Chef JV Bautista, Hogwings by House of Griddle

Hogwings by House of Griddle was born out of encouragement from Chef JV Bautista’s wife. Chef JV, after all, comes from a line of culinarians. His grandmother owned an eatery back in the ‘90s, his grandfather was a head chef for a hotel in Manila, his own father was a chef, and other relatives were also involved in the culinary industry.

Chef JV is the youngest cook in their family and grew up playing in the kitchen. His first job was as a kitchen assistant whenever his father would be invited to cater for private events. Then he worked as a line cook for his father’s small restaurant, which gave him more enthusiasm to pursue culinary arts as a career. And after years of grinding and learning both in the real world and in school, he opened his own restaurant in 2016.

Part of his culinary journey was his exposure to Real California Milk Philippines which invited him to train with other chefs a couple of years back. There, he would learn more about the brand that he’s already familiar with. “I’ve always been using Real California Milk cheese for my dishes, even before they invited me to be part of Real California Milk Philippines Cheese Training in Shangri-la Boracay [in] 2019. We all know that Real California cheeses are [respected globally], they’re the best of the best when it comes to the quality of dairy products,” he recalled.

For The Dairy Kitchen, he prepared selections of fusion pizzas. The first is the Goody Pizza, a 12-inch thin-crust pie that features Vigan longganisa and Real California Milk orange cheddar. His 10-inch porker quesadilla on the other hand is made with soft flour tortillas that have been crisped and filled with 8-hour slow-cooked pulled pork with melted cheddar.

Chef JV adds that he enjoys the cheeses in other ways too, and encourages people to try and experiment on their own. His personal favorites include putting cheddar in noodles, pizzas, and quesadillas among other things. “This was ridiculously addictive! And I am not just saying that. I wanted to eat more and more! And yes, you can try it for yourself!” 

Chef Gerevic Orocio, Ome Japanese Cafe

Growing up with two parents who were both home cooks, Chef Gerevic Orocio has culinary excellence embedded in his genes. And after formalizing his training at the International School for Culinary Arts and Hotel Management and getting a headstart with fusion food locally, he found an opportunity to work in Portland, Oregon in the US.

Portland is known as America’s “Foodie City”, and there he worked at a farm-to-table restaurant called Pono Farm Soul Kitchen, working with another celebrated culinarian, Chef Ric Ramos, who became a huge influence in his career.

Chef Gerevic brought home with him his fondness for California cheeses, particularly the artisan collection from Real California Milk which includes Fiscalini cheddar and Marin French triple cream brie. “Their artisan cheeses are some of the best, and I believe it can go toe to toe with some of the renowned cheeses from France and even Italy,” he shared.

And as he began creating the menu for his Japanese cafe, Ome, he decided to add in dishes that make great use of cheeses he has learned to love. He created udon carbonara with applewood-smoked bacon, poached egg, and ricotta. He also has an omurice (omelet with rice) with California cheddar, and a chicken katsu filled with mozzarella cheese fried in Japanese panko.

“Nothing beats fresh and homemade Ricotta cheese using California milk, which I enjoy using for various pasta dishes. We also like to utilize the Monterey Jack to add a little spice to our Japanese creamy omelet rice dish. Their variety of cheddar is great with stuffed chicken roulade similar to our featured chicken and cheese katsu wherein the cheese oozes out as soon as you cut into it.”

The Dairy Kitchen

Real California Milk products, which include milk, cheeses, ice creams, and drinkable yogurt are available in supermarkets, delis, specialty stores, and membership shopping outlets nationwide. But if you want to try out what the chefs have prepared, you can order them through The Dairy Kitchen.

The Dairy Kitchen by Real California Milk is a special online food delivery project from Real California Milk Philippines. For more information, visit www.realcaliforniamilk.ph, or like and follow Real California Milk Philippines on Facebook and Instagram. The Dairy Kitchen by Real California Milk runs from October 1, 2021 to December 31, 2021. – Rappler.com