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Valley Shepherd Creamery

211 7th Avenue [between 3rd & 4th Streets]

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It did not bode well for Valley Shepherd Creamery: on the day after its opening last October 27th, a huge early blizzard hit New York, and Park Slope residents spent days digging out.

But, Samantha Safer, the manager of Valley Shepherd, was surprised and pleased to notice the store traffic during those first days was strong. And, it’s been that way ever since.

Yes, Valley Shepherd, a small, tidy storefront close to 3rd Street, is doing quite well, thank you. Owned and operated by Valley Shepherd Farm in Long Valley, NJ [in Morris County], the shop specializes in sheep and goat cheeses –25 to 30 kinds is the estimate of this writer, taking a glance at the cheese counter. The farm itself has a herd of 600 sheep and 100 goats; consequently, 90% of the cheeses offered are from sheep’s milk, the rest goat’s milk.

Ms. Safer, an enthusiastic, ebullient presence, has done a fine job here: cheeses are, indeed, the big sellers, but there are plenty of other choices, too. Fresh lamb sausage, ‘imported’ from the farm, is offered to customers, and fresh bread daily. Valley Shepherd has its own brand of raviolis and gnocchi, and sells pasta sauces as well. Sandwiches are available – Samantha mentioned one combination to the writer: prosciutto and fresh cheese in a ciabatta roll. Ah, heaven.

The store’s typical customer shops for some basics every day: fresh milk [in old-time glass bottles, with the cream on top], cheese, fresh yogurt [from goat’s milk, authentic Greek yogurt] and bread. Samantha told me that the cohesive, small-community attitude of Park Slope aids a store like Valley Shepherd. Shopping every day for fresh milk somehow is appropriate for a hamlet like Park Slope.

An interesting fact: sheep and goat hard cheeses are available this time of year, but not the ‘soft’ varieties. That’s got to do with the fact that breeding and birthing are seasonal; when the mothers are lactating to nurse their offspring, milk is available for the production of soft cheeses.

Incidentally, the farm offers full-day cheese-making tours out there on the farm: each participant produces his own cheese, and in three months, he’ll have his own wheel to munch on. If dinner parties are more your thing, there’s a monthly dinner party at another location using only food produced at the farm.

All in all, Valley Shepherd Creamery, with its multitude of tasty options, is a great addition to our neighborhood.

By Jim Israel

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