A Cook’s Tour of Phoenix

I’m working on a story about goat cheese producers around the country, and I had the fantastic opportunity to ride along with Wendell Crow of Crow’s Dairy (Buckeye, AZ) as he made deliveries to Phoenix restaurants. He supplies some of the top chefs in the valley with fresh chèvre, feta and goat milk.

Wendell comes from a dairy family, but he switched from cows to goats in 2006 in a bold move. Most in the business don’t consider goats to be proper “dairying” (yes, they use ‘dairy’ as a verb). So Wendell’s hoping the skeptics will have to “eat crow,” as his license plate indicates. Now, after farming his whole life, he’s getting a glimpse of the good life with kitchen access to fantastic restaurants and resorts in the Phoenix area. He’s on a first name basis with some of the most noted chefs in the business. But despite producing a gourmet product prized by the culinary elite, he still considers himself a farmer. “I guess I’m just a desert rat,” he says in assessment of his life’s work farming on the outskirts of Phoenix.

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I’m be weaving Wendell’s story into a larger article, tentatively titled “American Chèvre.” I’ll be talking with several small-scale cheese producers around the country, plus area chefs and winemakers about the prospects for and benefits of locally produced chèvre and how best to enjoy it.

I’m no expert on chèvre, but I had a chance to try some fresh samples before they’d even been cooled. Crow’s base chèvre was clean and tart, with some bright acidity and a lush texture. He attributes its richness and complete lack of gamey or goaty character to his Nubian herd and careful handling and feeding of “the girls.” Their butter pecan chèvre was decadent, like eating ice cream at room temperature.

Tagging along with Wendall also afforded me a glimpse behind the scenes in kitchens like Pizzeria Bianco, Lon’s and the Phoenix Art Museum. He’s definitely earned their respect through his commitment to quality and hands-on approach to customer service.

More to come.

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