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Divorcing? Middle of Your Life? Just Say F- It and Make Cheese

You know what they say: When life gives you lemons, make cheese. At least that’s what Sebastopol-based Lisa Gottreich and Miriam Block did. The two women—who met at a dinner party in the winter of 2008—found that not only were they both recently divorced and looking to remake their lives, but that there was something grounding about making magic out of milk. “There was no game plan,” says Gottreich. “I was working for a large oncology group as an operations analyst. Miriam was in software. To let go of work, I’d go home, chop wood and milk goats. My friends always said, ‘You were born the wrong “ish.” You should have been Amish, not Jewish.’”

Two years later, Gottreich and Block are business partners in Sebastopol’s Bohemian Creamery. The duo make true farmstead cheese—meaning the goats and the cheesemaking are handled on the same property (they buy sheep and cow’s milk from neighboring farms)—which is now served at the best SF restaurants, from Nopa and Marlowe (where I first had an oozy, deliciously stinky bite of their cow’s milk Boho Bel) to Perbacco and Quince. For the most part, their cheeses are Italian-style, and include washed rind examples as well as aged hard cheeses such as a goat’s milk grating cheese called Romeo, modeled after Romano. Although they now distribute to Whole Foods Market, Gottreich says, “I will never give up my core chefs. Chez Panisse once made a French onion soup topped with some of our very aged Boho Bel. I love to know what chefs are doing with my cheese!”

Bohemian now has 42 goats, seven acres in Sebastopol and a creamery of their own that opened in May. When I ask Gottreich about their most memorable moment so far, she says, “Yesterday we just made our first batch of cheese in our own creamery. To get it running, we had to take out a USDA loan. I’ve been painting, caulking. We finally have our own aging rooms. We both just broke down in tears.”