Houston Dairymaids is the Place to Shop for Cheese
On a busy street, just north of downtown, sits an adorable white and orange building with a large sign alerting passersby to its contents: CHEESE. This is the home of Houston Dairymaids, where chefs and cheese lovers find their matches in milk –aged milk, that is. Over 150 varieties of this dairy favorite utilize sheep, goat and cow milk to beckon discerning palates while showcasing the talents and textures from local, national and international producers. The business got its start 8 ½ years ago when owner Lindsey Schechter witnessed a growing need for liaisons between dairies and the markets in which they sold their products; a combination of farming demands and distance made it difficult for producers to connect with an ever-growing community of buyers. Schechter realized she could be the much-needed third point in making this trade triangle a success and began sourcing cheese to sell wholesale to Houston restaurants, all the while maintaining booths at local farmers markets. Her following began with local legends Monica Pope and Chris Shepherd, but it quickly grew to encompass numerous others.
Consumers embraced her business with such fervor that a few years ago she extended her reach by opening a storefront to the public, which is now open six days a week. Aside from selling cheese directly to consumers, she also hosts daily tastings (selections change weekly and visitors are encouraged to sample as often as they wish), plus regular classes that highlight pairings or focus on a specific cheese type for tasting and learning. About one-third of the cooler at Dairymaids is stocked with cheese from Texas producers. Schechter says she likes to focus on farmstead dairies, which means the animals are raised and milked on the same property where the cheese is made, which ensures the milk retains its inherent qualities.
The Texas offerings include Mozzarella Company (Dallas), Veldhuizen Farms (Dublin), CKC Farms (Blanco), Pure Luck Dairy (Dripping Springs), Lucky Layla Farms (Garland), Sand Creek Farm (Cameron), and Latte Da Dairy (Flower Mound). They also sell cajeta (goat’s milk caramel) from Blue Heron Farm (Field Store) and cheeses produced by Eagle Mountain Cheese (Granbury) from Sand Creek Farm milk. Additional inventory comes from California, Wisconsin, Vermont, a few Southern dairies and abroad. The resulting cheeses range from fresh chevre and fresh mozzarella to bloomy rinds, washed rinds and harder cheeses that promote a variety of flavors and textures. All of the cheeses are available for sampling and customers are always welcome to participate in the daily tastings (no set time, just come on in). By featuring around 6 cheeses in a casual setting, Dairymaids provides a mini tasting tour of their cooler while educating tasters on milk types, dairy history, pairing suggestions and tasting notes. A selection of wines (including Texas’McPherson, Duchman and Pedernales) and numerous crackers, jams, breads and nuts make this a one-stop shop for any cheesy event. If “create your own”is not your style, Dairymaids is happy to cater by designing the perfect cheese plate or custom gift box for any personal or corporate occasion. And don’t worry if your eyes are bigger than your stomach as you taste your way through the delectable treats in Schechter’s store, which is very easy to do. As she will attest, “There’s always room for cheese.”