Tuesday, October 12, 2010

We drove 70 miles for a tepid welcome

Map of Holland Township in Hunterdon County. I...Image via Wikipedia
It's a long drive from Bergen County to the new Bobolink Dairy in Milford.

We visited Bobolink Dairy in Sussex County a few times -- lured by its rustic, wood-fired bread and artisanal, grass-fed cheese. We held on for dear life as the car plunged down a hill to the parking lot in Vernon, and we photographed some of the cows.

I had met B. the baker when he worked at Balthazar Bakery in Englewood (to where he eventually returned), and I wrote about the dairy and its owners, Jonathan and Nina White, for The Record. So after they moved, we were eager to see the new Bobolink Dairy & Bakehouse in Milford, Hunterdon County.

The farm is set among rolling, wooded hills in Holland Township, which is on the Delaware River. (We also saw signs for Bethlehem Township, Alexandria Township and Union Township, different from the Union Township near Elizabeth in Union County.)

I used the navigation system in my car on Monday, and it's 70 miles from Hackensack, about a 90-minute drive. But we spent barely 15 minutes there sampling bread and cheese, and making purchases, then jumped back in car for the drive home. What just happened?

The store is bigger than the old one, but there is no coffee or tea available, and nowhere to sit down and chew the duck fat (which you'll find mixed with garlic on a great ciabatta loaf). We wanted to have lunch, perhaps  cave-aged cheese and greens between two slices of crusty bread, but the store doesn't make sandwiches.

When we walked in and asked if there were sandwiches, Nina White said she could slice bread and cheese, but the male employee behind the counter didn't move. Then she left. He also was something of a wise-acre, because when I asked if the dairy made reduced-fat or skim-milk cheese, he was dismissive of the idea. He also tried to impress me with his knowledge of raw-milk cheeses.

(Although I met Nina about two years ago, we didn't recognize each other. After she left, I asked the man behind the counter if that was, in fact, her, and gave him my card to give to her later.)

As you'd expect for artisanal bread and cheese, prices are high, but I didn't see a list displayed in the store. I bought a loaf of that ciabatta with duck fat ($6) and a sourdough ($5.50) and two small chunks of cheese ($12.50), plus a bottle of local honey with walnuts ($9). 

The wise-acre behind the counter used the same board to slice bread and cheese, so my two chunks picked up crumbs.

We had driven 70 miles, but the couple that arrived next announced they were from Queens, N.Y. Just imagine. After coming all that way, no restorative cup of coffee or tea and no place to sit down and contemplate the peaceful surroundings.

Of course, the Whites don't survive on walk-in customers. They sell most of their products at farmers' markets and to restaurants, and that's where they seem to put most of their energy.

Bobolink Dairy & Bakehouse, 369 Stamets Road, Milford; 908-996-7891.

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  1. Dear Victor,

    Thanks for the mention. I'm sorry that you were disappointed, though our website makes no mention of a cafe. In fact, if we offered sandwiches or tables, we would be considered a restaurant, which we are not zoned for.

    Our shop guy is smart and hard working, and knows our products well. Our sales principle is to share what we know with the customers. BTW, he had just returned from a 2 hour ordeal of getting our herd out of the woods after a hunter apparently left a gate open.

    In any case, we don't make reduced fat cheeses because we're artisanal cheesemakers, and we are committed to making the best cheeses we can using the milk just as it comes from our cows.

    Bobolink sells at farmer's markets, on the internet, and on the farm, and we endeavor to give every one of our venues our best energy. We sell a very small percentage of our products to restaurants. Most of our customers either bring our products home to enjoy, or take them to a picnic at one of the many lovely state parks in our region.


  2. Thanks, Nina:

    In good weather, would you prohibited from putting a picnic table outside? Or some chairs?

  3. Come to think of it, two of the world's greatest cheese are made with skim milk: Grana Padano and Parmigiano Reggiano.

    The imported Grana Padano I bought at Costco recently said the cows graze in the same pastures as they did in Roman times. Chef Mario Batali has called Parmigiano Reggiano "king of cheeses."

    Both are wonderful and allow people who are watching their weight to enjoy a great product without feeling guilty.

    I don't see how your artisanal cheese would be be affected by less milk fat.

  4. Then you don't know cheesemaking.

  5. You don't just cut back on the fat and call it cheese.


    They could change their whole business plan and go for those cheeses instead of the ones they created. But why? Because you said on a blog they think they should?

    There already are great cheeses made with reduced-fat milk, and you have access to them at Costco. What's wrong with these guys doing their own thing? Jesus, you're such a grouch sometimes.


Please try to stay on topic.