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(post, Kathleen Bauer)
It's like the old Sesame Street song, "One of These Things Is Not Like the Others": 1. An ex-Marine. 2. Nigerian Dwarf dairy goats. 3. Raw milk cheese. Can you guess which one doesn't belong? Well, if you guessed #1, thinking it was unlikely that an ex-Marine would be raising Nigerian Dwarf dairy goats with his cheesemaker wife on a farm in Southern Oregon, then you haven't run into Vern Caldwell of Pholia Farm. He and his wife Gianaclis (pron. jon-uh-clees) built their off-the-grid, solar-powered dairy and home in Rogue River, Oregon, on 23 acres of the 220-acre farm that Gianaclis grew up on. I ran into him the other day when he came up to do a tasting of Pholia's Elk Mountain and Hillis Peak cheeses at Foster & Dobbs, and you couldn't hope to meet a nicer guy. He's so nice, in fact, that his next stop before making the seven-hour drive home was going to be at Quail Run Creamery to help fellow goat-breeder and cheesemaker Scott Catino install some equipment. And Vern and Gianaclis's cheeses? The word "Yum!" doesn't begin to do them justice. The Hillis Peak has a distinctive reddish rind from the Spanish paprika and olive oil that is rubbed on the outside of the cheese. The flavor is mild with a silky feel, even though it's been aged for at least six months (putting it high on the Dave-safe list). One taste of the Elk Mountain (right), though, made it my instant favorite. Aged for six months and brined in Wild River ale, this cheese has a firm, dry-ish texture and a robust flavor, perfect for a cheese plate with pears and figs. The one I can't wait to try, though I'll have to wait until December to get some, is the Wimer Winter. Made only during the fall and winter, it rates three of my favorite cheese descriptors: salty, creamy and, best of all, stinky. Their cheeses are available at aforementioned Foster & Dobbs Authentic Foods on NE 15th as well as Steve's Cheese in NW Portland. Get some soon!