Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Fossil Creek Creamery & Brix

The forecast for today was for thundershowers and lightning, so we changed our plans from driving around mesas and flash flood areas to taking a trip to Strawberry, Arizona. Never heard of it? Me neither.

Our plan on this trip was to use Edible Community magazines to guide us to interesting places. Unfortunately there is no Edible Flagstaff... there should be because this town takes local sustainable foods very seriously. Most of the restaurants we've eaten at will tell you exactly where they source their beef, fish, cheese, fruit, and vegetables. It's often listed on the menu. If not, the server doesn't have to go to the kitchen to find out the name of the farm.

When we were in Phoenix, I'd read about Fossil Creek Creamery in an issue of Edible Phoenix. I'd also seen Fossil Creamery goat cheese on the menu in the restaurant in Scottsdale. I looked it up on the web but Strawberry is outside Phoenix, not on our planned route north.

However it's not all that far south of Flagstaff and doesn't involve mesas and flash flood areas. Here's what the weather looked like when we left Flagstaff.

The road took us past Lake Mary and into the mountains.

In the Mormon Lake area this part of lake bed was dry, but the colors of the ground cover were lovely.

And further on, Aspen trees were glowing gold in the distance.

Yes, there really is a town called Strawberry near Fossil Creek. And yes, it was raining when I took this photo through the wet windshield.

We had called ahead because they aren't usually open on Tuesdays during the fall and winter. Owner Joyce Bitner answered the phone and assured us that they'd be home and encouraged us to come visit. We were greeted by the goats when we arrived.

When we rang the large bell nearby, John Bitner came to greet us as well. Turns out his son lives in Santa Barbara near San Marcos High. We shared some Santa Barbara stories as we tasted a variety of creamy goat cheeses. Then we tasted his goat's milk havarti and a goat's milk cheddar that had just come out of the press. They also make goat's milk fudges and the outstanding goat's milk caramels. Caramelized goat's milk... yum!

We planned to have a car picnic around our purchases, choosing a wedge of havarti some plain and strawberry chili flavored soft goat cheese. Plus chocolate pecan fudge and a couple of those caramels (wish I'd bought more).

We met Joyce briefly on her way out. She asked us which festivals around Santa Barbara they might want to bring their products to. They just recently got into Whole Foods, but they like doing festivals too.

John took us out to see the goats. Each goat has a name. During birthing season in April, they invite children to visit and bottle feed the babies. During the summer, if you show up at milking time around 4 pm, you can help milk the goats.

These goats are really pets that share their milk to be made into cheese and fudge. They live good lives. All their milk goats live out their lives on this farm. When they are past milking age, they just become part of the extended community.

This is a car wash brush that the goats use to scratch their heads and bodies.

The climbing equipment in the background allows them to climb and to play King of the Hill. The turnaround time at the top is pretty short. However, getting your photo taken apparently trumps standing on top of the cable spools.

John explained the keyhole feeding boxes.

Goats take a mouthful of feed and shake it before they eat it. If the feed lands on the ground, the goats won't eat it.

However if shaken over the trough, the food lands back in the trough, and gets eaten. Very tricky.

John and Joyce also raise llamas but not for milk. The llamas guard the goats.

Leaving, we headed out on the road to Camp Verde hoping to have dinner at the casino restaurant we'd stopped at last week, but missed because we were too late for lunch and too early for dinner.

We'd had a rain-free visit at the creamery but our luck was running out. We went through this heavy rainstorm before we arrived at Camp Verde to find out that the restaurant is not open for dinner on Tuesdays.

Luckily, there was a fry bread stand across the street. Hmm, best fry bread we've had... topped with honey. We were glad we had a box of Saraphina's Princess baby wipes in the car to use after we finished licking our fingers.

This was our reward for the trip, along with the delicious fry bread.

We headed back to Flagstaff on I-17 as it was getting dark. We set the GPS for Brix, the sister restaurant to Criollo Latin Kitchen, where we'd eaten dinner on Day 7. I'd been reading about this restaurant on Yelp and in the local food reviews.

It was a cozy romantic setting with friendly staff and great food choices. It was difficult to narrow down our selection.

You know a meal is going to be good when the bread they bring to the table has a good texture, crust, and flavor. They brought us ciabatta slices baked nearby at the Village Baker. A special touch was the small pot of European style cultured butter with Hawaiian pink salt sprinkled on top.

Our first course was agnolotti (a small ravioli).

It was filled with cheese and served with chanterelles, baby spinach, and topped with cheese shavings.

Our next course was a red pepper parsnip soup.

That's a drizzle of chive oil on top. Who would have thought of putting parsnips with red pepper? This combination works!

I have to apologize. I generally use my iPhone for the food photos because it's not quite so annoying to people at neighboring tables, but the lack of a flash makes the results unpredictable. The other photos don't do the food and plating justice so I'll just describe them.

After I gave our server a copy of the current Edible Santa Barbara, the kitchen graciously sent out an amuse bouche of Creekstone Farm grassfed short rib finely chopped with thin-sliced green chili and pasta served over a small grilled carrot. Just the right amount of heat and the great flavor of grass fed beef.

Our main course was house-made tagliarini and chantrelles served with a plum and white wine sauce, onions, greens, and topped with shaved cheese.

We ordered a side of brussel sprouts. They were small and delicate with a lightly browned surface, served with onions and mushrooms.

We had no room for dessert but couldn't pass up the Almond Brown Butter Cake with whipped cream fraiche and Fuji apple syrup.

In addition to a relaxing delicious meal, we got a tip from the waitress on where to get the best grass fed burger in town. More about that tomorrow!

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