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
By Jim Israel