Sue Conley, a Chez Panisse alum, and Peggy Smith, former co-owner of Bette’s Oceanview Diner in Berkeley, founded this California institution in the ‘90s. The pair started out in Point Reyes Station, where they established a small cheese-making room in a renovated hay barn using milk from nearby Straus Family Creamery. Today, Cowgirl Creamery’s award-winning cheeses are sold in over 500 stores and restaurants, including this well-appointed (and recently renovated) European-style cheese shop in the Ferry Building. Cheesemakers Eric Patterson and Miguel Martinez have since taken over the day-to-day of eight aged cheeses—a few of them seasonal—and two fresh cheeses. The best-seller is the Mt. Tam, a buttery triple cream. Don’t overlook look the fresh cheeses, including ricotta, mascarpone, and creme fraiche.
In a city claiming an array of culinary achievements—burritos, $4 specialty toast, avocado-everything—there are few foods San Franciscans geek out over more readily than cheese. That’s because Northern California has a boon of high-end, artisanal cheese producers. From small-batch indie farms to award-winning French masters, these San Francisco cheesemongers are dicing up some truly special wheels.