Posts filed under 'Mozzarella Company'
There is never a dull moment with Paula Lambert. Spend just a couple minutes with her and you can understand immediately how it is possible that fresh mozzarella went from being virtually unknown to award-winning in a matter of years. The Mozzarella Company is one of our industry’s founders in that she helped create the market and the movement of artisan cheese. Listen closely to her stories- they contain invaluable insight into how to make an artisan cheese business successful.
Mozzarella Company Interview
Find previous posts about The Mozzarella Company here.
Up next: Fiscalini Farmstead Cheese Company
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April 2nd, 2009
One of the Mozzarella Company’s head cheesemakers, Octavia, has recently opened a restaurant in West Dallas where she is serving up fresh, authentic Mexican food in a cozy, converted old diner. Paula took us to eat at Paraiso Restaurant Taqueria tonight. It was such a treat to see Octavia there- normally her daughter runs the show at the restaurant- but the highlight was definitely the food. Still in its early stages, the restaurant opened about six weeks ago and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Paraiso is located in Cockrell Hill section of West Dallas on West Jefferson.
We went with a troop of friends and colleagues from the cheese factory and based on Paula’s recommendation we started with a round of Gorditas for the table. Soft corn tortillas made on premisis (see below) filled with various meats or vegetables, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and topped with some crumbles of queso fresco. They were accompanied by a hot chili sauce- I could put about a pinprick’s worth on mine before my tongue was on fire. Tasty.
You can see from the lineup of our main entrees that our eyes were bigger than our stomachs but also that we got a variety of dishes. Some of us had grilled chicken with various sauces like mole, our vegetarian representative had flautas- divine, many had tacos, and Paula swung out to try something called a Sopas. Sopas are like individual tarts made from corn tortilla dough and filled with meat, pico de gallo, sour cream and toppped with queso fresco. I realized that none of this is particularly revolutionary food but this is exactly what is refreshing about it- it is just the simple, authentic mexican dishes done very well. A satisfying meal for both your belly and your pocketbook. Just make sure you bring beer if you need to have it as they aren’t selling it in house yet.I watched this woman make tortillas until our food came. I’d never seen a press like the one she was using.
December 10th, 2006
Sorry to fall off the face of the earth but I am down here in arctic Texas; it was colder in Dallas than New York when I arrived last Saturday. I am here to help cheesemaker Paula Lambert, owner of the Mozzarella Company, with her holiday gift baskets. Of course I’ve also been dabbling in the cheesemaking room and today I helped make one of the most special cheeses at the Mozzarella Co.- Christmas Cheese.
There are conflicting rumors about how Christmas Cheese was born…something about a misguided batch of Queso Fresco but one decade later the recipe is definitely set (to read the official story check out the Mozz Co newsletter here). One of Paula’s most valuable cheesemakers is a spry, kind woman named Octavia. She brought me into the make room today and got me to roll up my sleeves to mix all the Christmas Cheese fixings into this tub (2ft x 1ft x 1ft) filled with crumbles of Queso Fresco curd. When I saw the orange disks I assumed they were using annatto- the standard orange coloring used for cheddars and things- and I was wrong. The creamy white curds take their color from ancho chili paste which adds nice, rich flavor.
An important detail about this cheese is that all of the ingredients are mixed throughout the curds by hand. It is like giving a tub of cheese a seriously deep tissue massage. It was incredibly satisfying to watch this mass of crumbles turn from white to a light orange color. There are also fresh jalepenos mixed in and they create wonderful variation in texture.
Once all of the ingredients were distributed throughout the curd we took it in sections about the size of a tennis ball and packed them into shallow, round forms that are like cookie cutters- open on both sides. We smoothed off the tops and then popped the disks out onto a tray so that Elena (another cheesemaker here) could adorn their tops with slivers of fresh jalapeno in a little star pattern.
When I first saw the Christmas Cheese I had my reservations as I’ve gone the slightly cheese snobbish, looking sideways at colored cheeses, but this one put my snobbery to shame. Forget about lemon chocolate stilton, sage derby, or mango ginger cheddar and dig in for a Southwestern treat that makes sense. Queso Fresco has always gone with chilis this is simply an unconventional, if not more convenient, format for the pairing.
My favorite tasting of Christmas Cheese so far, other than having chunks of it while I take my breaks from gift basketing, was on a warm roast beef sandwich created by Paula’s husband Jim. We didn’t even speak while we ate them, we just mmm’d and aaah’d. I enjoyed it so much that I had a second one for lunch this morning.
Now for any of you who are out there saying, ‘Well, that is nice for someone else but I don’t like spicey things…’ this cheese is not dangerously hot rather it is well balanced with tang and a nice dose of seasoning. This time around on the Christmas Cheese make I was up to my elbows in curd but I promise I’ll get some photos of the next round on Monday.
And I’ll be sure to capture the ladies stretching out thin rope like strips of Oaxaca which might be heaven in the form of cheese when they lop a warm slice off for you that is still warm and lightly salted with a squeeze of lime on it. As my dear friend Nancy would say- “It is so good it makes you want to hit something.” I am prone to pounding a fist on the table but I don’t recommend this at holiday parties- too many pieces of fancy china and half-filled drinks lying around.
More from me next week. Enjoy your holiday parties.
December 10th, 2006
Name: Mozzarella Company
Owner: Paula Lambert
Location: Dallas, Texas
Animals: MozzCo gets both their cow and goat milk from a number of small dairies around the Dallas area.
Cheeses/Products: MOZZARELLA(goat and cow), Queso Oaxaca, Ricotta (goat and cow), Feta (goat and cow), Queso Fresco (traditional and flavored), Queso Blanco, Creme Fraiche, Mozzarella Roll, Hoja Santa, Caciotta (traditional and flavored, cow and goat), Mascarpone, Mascarpone Tortas, Smoked Scamorza, Crescenza, Blanca Bianca, Montasio, Montasio Festivo, Herbed Goat Logs, Fresh Texas Goat Cheese (traditional and flavored), Deep Ellum Blue, Mascarpone
More Info: www.mozzco.com
I called Paula from the road when we were nearing Dallas and asked her if she was still at the photo shoot she had been part of over the last few days (she is one of the busiest people I know)…she assured me that she was doing nothing at that moment except waiting for Michael and I to arrive and tell her all about our travels. So when we arrived we gave Paula and her husband Jim a bit of an update over dinner, at a restaurant called Ciudad, which included some fantastic upscale tex-mex food (her cheese was indeed on the menu).
In the morning we sipped cappucinos before making the 7 minute drive to the Mozzarella Company. Almost 25 years ago Paula decided that she could not live without the fresh mozzarella she had known during her time in Italy and that she was the ideal person to bring that delectable cheese to Dallas. She figured out the zoning requirements for a small factory and came across a spot in the Deep Ellum neighborhood in Dallas. As we drove she explained that the neighborhood earned a reputation during the 1920’s when a group of blues musicians began creating new kinds of music that evenutally became known as the Deep Ellem Blues. She also mentioned that the neighborhood had a reputation for being a bit “seedy” which I think she might secretly like about it.
We spent the day with her two head cheesemakers, Carmen and Octavia, who have been with the company for 19 and 21 years respectively, and their crew in the cheese room. The crew is made up entirely of women who were so generous with their time and kind enough to not laugh too hard at our attempt to form balls of mozzarella. Within the seven hours we spent at the cheese factory the women made eight varieties of cheese- all with attention and care. AS you can imagine this means there is some hustle happening and also that they arrived at the factory well before we did to begin pasteurization of the two vats of milk (one cow and one goat). The pasteurizers were emptied and re-filled multiple times that day in order to produce the cheese needed for upcoming orders. Carmen arrived early that morning (before 5AM) to get things started and then passed the baton to Octavia that afternoon who continued with cheesemaking until 7:30PM.
There are two large pasteurizers which double as vats. The trick to making so many styles of cheese in one day is the overall schedule for production and having the right kind of equipment and layout as the Mozzarella Company does. There are at least 10 large rectangular plastic tubs that sit on frames with wheels attached- this means that the room can be reconfigured at a moments notice. After milk is pasteurized it is poured into these tubs which are bascially smaller vats to allow for staggered cheesemaking of a variety of cheeses. For example, when we were there two or three of the vats were used to make mozzarella; the whey from each of these vats was poured off into another movable container, wheeled to the back of the plant and transferred into a small vat that is used to make ricotta and queso fresco. Meanwhile, a few other small vats were filled with goat or cow milk for making caciotta. Having multiple vats of caciotta allows them to make some traditional (plain) and other small quantities of ancho chile and other herbed varieties. The entire setup is simple, low-tech and enables the women to make large quantities of cheeses all by hand.
When the mozarella curd was ready, it was chopped up into strips and then smaller bits with a knife and submerged in hot water. One person worked the curd with a long paddle, gently stretching it and folding it in on itself. Once it was sufficiently stretched, the other women stopped what they were doing and gathered around one end of the table to begin pulling off pieces of the flexible curd and forming them into various shapes for bocconcini, half pound, and one pound balls. Such a beautiful thing to watch and it was only one of the cheeses we saw them make.
I returned the following morning because the ladies were making one of my favorite Mozzarella Company cheeses, Hoja Santa. They were just beginning to blanch the leaves when I arrived. Hoja Santa leaves are HUGE. Each leaf is pulled out of the boiling water and put into an ice bath before being stretched out on a plastic mat. Small rounds of goat cheese that were made the week prior were pulled from the cold storage to be wrapped. I always assumed that each piece of cheese was wrapped in one entire leaf and watching Octavia I saw that each piece of cheese was wrapped with about one third to one half of a leaf and that wrapping each one was like completing a puzzle. It looked so complicated that I opted out of leaf wrapping and instead followed Octavia’s wrapping with the string of rafia that winds around each piece and is finished with a small bow.
That evening we went to dinner with Paula, her husband, and two of her friends. We went to Hector’s Restaurant which was excellent. The chef started our meal off with a cheese platter for the table and declared that Paula is the “Grand Dame of all things cheese.” We could not agree more. She is a savvy business woman (which the cheese world needs) who is turning out a robust line of cheeses that are truly made by hand. We never thought we’d say this but we kind of can’t wait to get back to Dallas, Texas….
June 15th, 2006