The Chocolate Life

Discover Chocolate and Live La Vida Cocoa!

In November we were invited to take a tour of my favorite creamery, Straus Family Creamery near Pedaluma. Although we didn’t get to see any actual cows, the pasture was too wet, we did get to observe a family-run business and try some of their tasty experimental ice cream flavors!

I was particularly excited as I have been using Straus cream in my truffles since I started my business. It really does make a difference in the taste and texture of the ganache. Most people I talk with know of the Creamery’s ethical reputation and rich history but I’m always willing to educate them if not.

I’m very fortunate to live in a place where I have easy access to such a quality product made by artisans.

Interestingly, I often get questions about the glass bottles. Certainly an unique feature, it also serves a practical function. Glass is inert and produces no off flavors, not to mention that it recyclable and reusable. I pay a $1.50 deposit on each bottle that is refunded when I return the bottles. I’m usually buying more cream at the same time so the deposit is in constant rotation.

Please take a look at some of my pictures of our creamery tour.

Vintage glass milk bottles lined the conference room where we were greeted by Rich Martin, VP of Sales and Marketing, AKA our tour guide.

We were provided with clean suits, which included baby-blue booties.

Wendy from Socola Chocolates adorning the fashion of the tour.

Bird’s eye view of the surprisingly small facility.

Many metal pipes crossing every which way above our heads. These two taking raw milk from pasture to bottle.

Line ‘em up and ship ‘em out!

Each bottle is inspected before leaving the building.

Pasteurized not homogenized so the cream floats to the top. Made the old-fashioned way in small batches.

We got to see plain, vanilla and maple flavored yogurt in the process of heating and cooling. So tempting to stick a finger in the cratered surface!

Only four yogurts across being filmed at one time.

Amazing to see the yogurt go from the vats to the containers.

Only one guy filling the ice cream containers.

Today it was the Vanilla Bean ice cream.

Flanking Albert Straus in front of the two-story high signature red Straus milk crates. We proudly display our canvas goodie-bags.

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Comment by Robert Shea on January 31, 2010 at 9:54pm
I almost forgot, I don't think Claravale is certified organic or anything, but Albert Straus mostly gave me grief when I said that I use a non-certified organic chocolate (cluizel). Organic just isn't that important to me.
Comment by Robert Shea on January 31, 2010 at 9:45pm
Claravale Farms, a few hours south of here via i5. 100% jersey cows and raw... I've been working on developing a zero heat, UV-C pasteurization technique for milk that should really allow the flavor to shine.

I am not 100% sure I'll be sticking with Claravale, they make an amazing product, better than anything else I've found in the US, but then I've never really looked. Right now I'm in hunt of 100% guernsey milk. Should have slightly less butterfat than the jersey, but a sharper flavor and more vibrant color (which will be nice in white chocolate ganaches and such.

That said, until I'm rich, Straus goes into the cereal every morning. ;)
Comment by Christine Doerr on January 31, 2010 at 5:26pm
You had recently said that you found another local small dairy producer. Care to share?
Comment by Robert Shea on January 31, 2010 at 1:46pm
No cows for your tour? I'm starting to think they have no cows. I've been there a handful of times and you're like the tenth person I know that has visited them and not a single cow on any visit! ;)

Also, Straus employs a continuous pasteurization technique, which is sorta like an infinite batch and not "small batch," as artisans are fond of saying. Batch processing of milk is slower, more costly, and a legally controlled term. (Tastes a whole lot better though!)

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