The Guide to West Coast Cheese by Sasha Davies Is a Winner!

The Guide to West Coast Cheese by Sasha Davies Is a Winner!

Got a foodie on your gift list this year? If so, your holiday shopping just got a little easier. “The Guide to West Coast Cheese” by Sasha Davies is a perfect gift that helps the caseophile in your life delve deeper into cheeses from the left coast.

The book, published by Portland, OR-based Timber Press, explores more than 300 cheeses handcrafted in California, Oregon, and Washington. It is an indispensable resource, clearly and concisely written with expert authority.

The West coast has been a unique and special incubator for cheese culture, with a deep history of dairy culture and a flourishing renaissance today from north to south.

Father Juniper Serro, who put down roots in missions throughout (southern) California, bringing with him cows, dairy and Spanish style cheeses. In the Bay Area, David Jacks transported his buttery, smooth cheese from Monterrey by boat into San Francisco in crates stamped “Jacks, Monterrey,” where locals dubbed it “Monterey Jack,” one of the original “American Original” cheeses.

On the Oregon Coast Tillamook, a schooner brought high quality coastal dairy inland, showcasing and launching an enduring brand. Small, local dairies flourished and defined the region into the 50’s and 60’s.

The 2000’s saw a rebirth of artisanal cheese throughout a region stretching from the Bay Area north to Seattle and beyond, as a trifecta for great food emerged: a food-savvy populace, locavore vibe and farmer’s market friendly worldview. The recent history is fairly well known, with a flourishing of small, artisanal creameries gaining recognition regionally, nationally and internationally.

This phenomenon hit home for me when I saw the maps of West Coast cheesemakers included in the beginning of the book. Little dots abound with creamery names that are hitting the mark with fine cheese after only a year or two in the business. The sheer volume of talented cheesemakers, both new and veteran, experimenting with original recipes and new and intriguing flavors over such a wide area is simply breathtaking.

Davies’ book delves into the study of cheese in a unique and compelling way. From the get-go, she says, “I was interested in putting out reference tool for people to introduce the huge number of cheeses made in three states. It’s a guide for anyone who loves to eat cheese and wants to understand what’s being made here and understand how they are similar and different.”

Like most cheese creatives, Davies did not start out in cheese. Rather, a passion for it evolved and gradually encompassed her professional endeavors. Her cheese adventures began as an apprentice affineur in the cheese caves at Artisanal in New York City. She managed the caves at the venerable Murray’s Cheese and, in 2006 Davies and her husband embarked on a four month journey to forty American artisan cheesemakers, producing blogs and podcasts on

A move to Portland in 2008 landed Davies squarely in the middle of the west coast scene. She notes, “I just felt (during the “Cheese by Hand” tour) that this would be the next big region in hand crafted cheese. It felt like this 4 years ago and still does, not in a rivalry sense, but just as an epicenter.”

“There are some landscape and geographical aspects to it that make it an interesting region but,” she notes, “it’s also the fastest growing cheese region in terms of the most new cheesemakers springing up.”

The parallels were strong with Vermont, a northeastern cheesemaking mecca. “When we came out to the northwest on our visit, I noticed there was not only a growing number of smaller producers but a large number were turning out high quality cheeses similar to Vermont,” she says.

“People here were really focusing on cheeseboard cheeses, some modeled on European cheeses some on fanciful ideas of cheeses people wished existed,” she observes. “The density of handcrafted cheese production in this area is simply stunning.”

As many authors and cheese experts like to point out, it helps that the west coast, particularly the northwest, has a climate and geography that is conducive to dairy farming in that there are no harsh winters. The high amount of rainfall and temperate climate translates to a longer grazing season, which makes for great grass which leads to great milk and cheese. Combine this with a growing cadre of talented, dedicated cheesemakers and it can only lead to incredible things.

So for the perfect present for the cheese lover in your life, look no further than a copy of “The Guide to West Coast Cheese” paired with a selection of several represented cheeses from your local cheese shop. Happy holidays will be had by all with this memorable gift meant to be savored and celebrated.