Women We Admire: Sue Conley And Peggy Smith

Women We Admire By Julia Burgi

There are some rockin' women who are working towards a better world, bite by bite, through the foods they produce. We'd like to bring some of them to your attention! On Tuesday we shared Stacey Murphy's story and the company she founded, BK Farmyards. Today we bring you two women who're making some of the best cheeses stateside.

Sue Conley and Peggy Smith of Cowgirl Creamery are artisan cheese producers who make unique and delicious project with awesome ethics.

Co-founder Sue Conley's fascination with food began at an early age. Her grandfather ran Washington D.C.'s most popular cafeteria-style restaurant, Sholl's Colonial when she was a child. After her first trip to San Francisco, though, Sue Conley was hooked to the city's ambiance, working her way through the restaurant industry there. After running a restaurant of her own with friends, Bette's Oceanview Diner, Sue looked for a change of pace. She found it nearby, especially inspired by the Straus Family Creamery, a local, organic dairy farm, from whom Cowgirl Creamery still sources their milk!

Peggy Smith, co-founder, through a series of restaurant experiences, was drawn to the "Bay Area's food renaissance," eventually settling into a job at the revolutionary restaurant of Alice Waters, Chez Panisse. After discovering the wonders of cooking sustainably sourced food, international wines, and French cheeses, Peggy was immediately attracted to opening up an artisanal creamery.

When first starting their food ventures in the unique microclimate of Point Reyes, California, one of the Straus Creamery family members warned Sue and Peggy that the world of cheese production was akin to the "Wild West" - and thus the concept and name of Cowgirl Creamery was born!

After a series of learning experiences, Cowgirl Creamery set to producing their own fresh, organic cheeses that they hoped would be accessible to a wide variety of palettes. Mt. Tam, their star cheese, is a cow's milk cheese with a bloomy rind. It has remarkable buttery, earthy flavors. No wonder Mt. Tam has won numerous cheese awards, including Best Soft-Ripened Cheese from the American Cheese Society.

These great ladies thank the high quality of the Straus Family's milk and their simple approach to cheese-making as the drivers towards gustatory success. Their locally produced products are now distributed all over the world to customers seeking to satisfy their palettes!

Right now, Cowgirl Creamery makes five aged cheeses as well as a variety of fresh products such as cottage cheese and creme fraiche. Besides Mt. Tam, my favorite Cowgirl Creamery cheese is Red Hawk, another soft cheese with an orange-hued bloomy rind that is washed in a brine solution.