Monday, January 05, 2009

Cesar Cheese

Three years ago, a man named Cesar called me saying he wanted to be a cheesemaker. I must say this happens a lot. People get it in their heads that being a cheesemaker is a romantic way of life full of fortune and fame, and then they call me, only to have me burst their bubble by telling them it's a lot of work for often little pay.

So that's what I told Cesar and his wife when I met them three years ago. Having recently immigrated from Mexico, Cesar had a passion to make cheese like he'd eaten in his own country. I remember telling him he would have to go to school, get his cheesemaker's license, and then intern with someone for 240 hours if he wanted to make cheese. 

It seemed like a long shot.

And then last week, Cesar called me again. "Do you remember me?" he said to me on the phone and right away, I knew it was Cesar. It turns out he did go back to school, he is working with a licensed cheesemaker, and he's now selling his own cheese under his own label: Cesar Cheese.

"Remember you told me to go back to school? Remember you said it would be a lot of work? Well, here I am," Cesar told me. "I am making cheese."

And he's making REALLY good cheese. Every Tuesday from 6 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Cesar travels from his home in Random Lake, Wis. to Roelli Cheese near Shullsburg and makes cheese. It's for sale at the Roelli Cheese store, as well as the Piggly Wiggly in Cedarburg, and a few other little cheese shops in the area.

My favorite is his Hand Stretched String Oaxaca Style Cheese -- it's string cheese the way string cheese was meant to be. Yum. Cesar is also making Queso Fresco and Quesadilla Con Chile Rojo (with red peppers). The Queso Fresco is good on salads, tacos and tostadas.

I asked Cesar if being a cheesemaker was everything he hoped it would be, and he said emphatically answered yes, except for one thing -- when he gives and sells cheese to his friends and co-workers at his day job in Random Lake, nobody believes he actually crafts it. 

"I take the cheese home and nobody believes that I make it," Cesar says. "I need you to write about me and put a picture of me stretching my cheese on your blog - that way people will know for sure it's really me."

No problem, Cesar. Here you go. I wish you well in your future of cheesemaking!!

9 comments:

Vin de la Table said...

I've been looking for a Oaxacan style cheese to enjoy at home in California ever since visiting the region four years ago, to no avail. Thank you for filling this artisan cheese gap in the states, Cesar, and thanks for writing about his adventures, Jeanne. Maybe I can try to have Cowgirl Creamery order it for their wholesale accounts so I can serve it at the wine bar whose cheese trays I put together?.... Does Cesar make enough?

Beatriz said...

I've myself have had Cesar's Cheese and it is the best! The Oaxacan string cheese is very hard to come by and the majority of cheese makers do not get the texture or the taste right. Cesar's cheese is the real deal. He is a very dedicated cheese maker and he even takes the time to make home deliveries.

To respond to Vin de la Table, if you want to make a large order, Cesar can make it happen.

Anonymous said...

Cesar is a great friend and even better cheesemaker everyone should be inspired by the hard work he has put in, the long and sometime rough he has traveled, and incredable drive that Cesar posses. His string cheese is the best I have ever tasted. I am a proud and loyal customer who has reffered his cheese to many friends with nothing but rave reviews. Any large order you want I'm sure Cesar will do anything to fill it.
Congrats on your accomplishments Cesar and Haiti!
Ryan Road

Lou Cheese said...

Cesar Cheese?

We might be related.

cheese underground lady said...

Hi Vin de la Table -- just talked with Cesar again and he would be thrilled if you wanted to ask Cowgirl Creamery to carry his cheese. Email me at jeanne@wordartisanllc.com and I'll send you his contact info.

asianbadger said...

Well done Cesar!!

I'll have to get some...like Vin, I've been looking for this style of cheese for some time.

Bien hecho, hombre!!

Susan said...

Great success story!! I work for WholeFoods in London and Mexican style cheeses are impossible to get. I am taking a cheese making coarse in February with the hopes of starting to make some of these cheeses. I would love to talk to Cesar about his cheese making experience. I can pass along his info to the Whole Foods in his area as well. We are always looking for local producers. My contact info is Susan.ORegan-Reidy@Wholefoods.com or snuzin.london@googlemail.com

Sarah said...

I work at Sendik's Food Market in Mequon, WI in what else? but the Cheese Department. We recently started to carry Cesar Cheese. It is by far the best string cheese I have ever tasted. It's the perfect balance of salt and stringy-ness all in one package. It's amazing how in one day we sold out of his product. He has a great story and his a wonderful person to deal with. I highly suggest to anyone who has not yet tried this cheese that you should find somewhere to get it. As far as I know all 8 of the Balistreri owned Sendik's Food Markets in the area do carry his cheese.


s_neuburg87@yahoo.com

Fernando (Chicago) said...

Cesar Este muchacho es un verdadero ARTESANO, lo que sus manos hacen es digno de admirar y de destacar, su producto es de lujo, una delicia al paladar, realmente un producto inigualable. (Escribo esto en espaƱol castellano, ya que no mucha gente hispana sabe ni entiende ingles y aun qu emuy a lo lejos ellos quieren buscar informacion en la WEB, y no hay nada en su idioma, aparte que este producto es 100% hecho por manos aztecas) Felicitaciones Cesar.