Homebrewers could sense the craft beer boom before it happened. Now, home cheese makers know a storm is fermenting on the horizon.
Founded in 2011, Queso Diego is a club for “San Diego’s cheese and cheese making enthusiasts.” Of the 183 members, some craft their own curds. Queso Diego also championed the cheesemaking category at the San Diego County Fair, a competition that’s seen growth over the last few years.
But no one is really producing fresh cheese like ricotta and mozzarella in San Diego for retail. Even the aging process (that gives us cheese like Manchego and cheddar) is largely untouched. Venissimo Cheese, the decade-long torchbearer of the city’s cheese scene, considers “local” cheese to be made in Los Angeles or even Northern California.
Venissimo says it’s interested in someday making and aging its own cheese, but for now, efforts are focused on its newly opened Headquarters at Seaport Village location. The shop does everything except actually produce the stuff: It’s a wholesaler, holds educational cheese classes, and acts as a general retailer.
Soon, there will be a few local affineurs (individuals who specialize in aging cheese). Due in spring, The Patio on Goldfinch has plans for a “cheese cave:” a temperature- and humidity-controlled room for cheese aging. Cam Fomby, owner of Counterpoint in Golden Hill, is currently in the process of licensing and building out a back room for cheese making and aging.
“Interest in artisan cheese is higher than ever,” says Rob Graff, director of Venissimo’s academy of cheese. “We have a long way to go before we reach the apex.”