Anyone who has palled around with me even a little knows that I have a serious thing for goats. I find them generally adorable, I appreciate their nondiscriminating palates, and most of all, I like what they produce: goat’s milk yogurt, kefir, and goat cheese. For years I’ve been imagining a fantasy future for myself in which I find a patch of land, acquire a small herd of Nubians, and make incredible aged artisanal goat cheeses for a living. The hitch? I have no idea how to make goat cheese. I’ve never even made ricotta or yogurt. In the world of milk crafting, that is the equivalent of a track star having no clue how to tie his or her shoes.
Wait, scratch that—I had no idea how to make goat cheese until last month, when I attended the Foodcrafting 101 class at the Institute of Domestic Technology. Highlighted in this month’s Los Angeles magazine Food Lovers Guide, the class is one of several the institute conducts at the bucolic Zane Grey Estate in Altadena. In a mere six hours I learned how to can peach preserves, bake homemade bread, create my own custom mustard, and finally, make my own chèvre in view of the estate’s herd of goats nibbling hay a few feet away. (Yes, that was the sound of my head popping like a balloon.)
It was a thrilling experience, not only because I got one step closer to my pipe dream but because of the sense of empowerment that comes with making something so basic with your own hands. My classmates seemed to share the feeling. Who knows? Perhaps one of them might be the next It producers of tangy sourdough, traditional German pickles, gourmet “nutella,” high-end chocolate, or small-batch ice creams—all of which are having a moment at this moment, thanks to local talents.
The pages of this month’s Food Lovers Guide now on newsstands reflect the recent explosion of the DIY food movement in L.A. Things like home brewing, flour milling, beekeeping, and growing mushrooms—once fringe hobbies (OK, nerd hobbies)—are suddenly au courant. The result is an unprecedented boom in artisanal products for sale at neighborhood farmers’ markets, gourmet shops, and specialty stores. Buying these goodies doesn’t just mean you’ll make the best grilled cheese sandwich on the block (with gooey cabecou cheese on rustic Storefront sourdough with caramelized onion jam), you’ll be reviving lost arts.
To help you make sense of it all, we’ve compiled a delicious and indispensable field guide to edible L.A.—an encyclopedia—with information on where to find everything from avocado honey to fragrant za’atar. As for the goat cheese, you can find that at my house, where I’ve made two batches since my class in September. I may not have the land or the herd, but I’ve got the recipe and I know where to buy the raw milk. Step one to life dream, complete.
To read The Food Lovers Guide, pick up a copy of the November issue on newsstands or subscribe NOW.