Cheese curds are, admittedly, a Midwestern delicacy that horrifies most Californians. Mostly, it’s the unappealing name because what is a curd anyway?
The chewy, squeaky nuggets are unaged bits of cheese that have separated from the whey and are best eaten the day they’re made or breaded and fried with a melty center (they have them at Bird and The Bottle in Santa Rosa).
But if you’re lucky enough to walk into Sebastopol’s William Cofield Cheesemakers just as co-owner Keith Adams is making a batch of Cheddar — like I did — you might just get a warm one right from the tank.
No promises, because he’s a busy guy, but it’s an unforgettably delicious experience. They’re also for sale in the cold case at the Barlow cheese factory and shop to warm up at home.
Curds are just the cherry on top of Adams’ cheesy experience. The Davis native is living his dream of making British-style wheels of Stilton-style blue cheese (Bodega Blue) and aged Cheddar (McKinley) in Sonoma County while still operating his Alemar Cheese Company in Minnesota. Alemar makes an award-winning Camembert-style cheese and the tomme-style Saint James, both available in the Sebastopol shop.
Marrying the aged dairy goodness, Adams makes the ultimate grilled cheese sandwich ($16 with slaw and chips) for visitors to his pub, a handful of wooden tables and umbrellas in a quiet alley outside his shop.
The sandwich has several secret ingredients, but Adams cops to including his St. James and McKinley Cheddar on Red Bird Bakery bread. The outside gets a smattering of extra-aged Cheddar crusted on top. Paired with housemade tomato soup ($10) Adams created with Chef Michael Dotson (formerly Petaluma’s Crocodile restaurant) it’s transcendent.
“The soup has 19 ingredients, and it took a lot of tries to get it right,” Adams said between batches of his new raclette-inspired cheese.
The pub also offers beautifully arranged cheese boards with fruit, chutney, bread and nuts ($16 to $82 for eight people).
“We wanted just to do a few things but do it really well,” he said. The menu also includes a Cheddar and apple salad ($13), wine, beer and hard cider.
“You can just come and set up shop for the afternoon. It’s a little oasis,” Adams said.
Save time afterward to peek into the cheese-making room, where you’ll likely find Adams up to his elbows in curds and whey.
Wm. Cofield Cheesemakers is at 6780 McKinley St. #110, Sebastopol, 707-755-0130, wmcofieldcheese.com. Open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday through Monday.