Late Sunday, I came across a tweet by David Buehrer of Greenway Coffee & Tea:
WTF’s a milk class? So I clicked on the link:
Well, that didn’t answer very many questions either. How many questions can I really ask a dairy guy? And to have it at a bar? (Grand Prize Bar happens to be one of my favorite bars in Houston by the way.) Not really convinced.
But then I started to make a slow connection. I’ve noticed the Way Back When Dairy stall at the Eastside Farmer’s Market as of late. I’ve gotten a couple of pints of cream from him. They were pretty good but other than that, I didn’t really know too much. I’m kind of lactose intolerant anyway (I’m Asian).
A word on my relationship with milk. I used to have milk with every meal in my younger days, until my mom sort of made me stop because it got kind of crazy. And then I became lactose intolerant. I drink the occasional cappuccino and latte and I cook with milk products (cream and butter) quite a bit though. Yet, I’ve always felt weird buying those dairy products in store. Why? Because I’m pretty aware of how those animals are raised and how the milk is processed. It’s not just about sustainability here, to me, that’s important but secondary (although in my experience, quality products tend to come from sustainable sources.) I’m just not fully convinced that commodity milk production results in a good product. As a cook, the product is one of the two things that I’m most concerned with. (The other is execution. Get both of those right and your food will taste better, guaranteed.)
So with some concern about the milk industry and the quality of my product, I wasn’t expecting a lot but decided to head GPB to for the Milk Meet anyway. I figured if anything, I’ll just get a couple of brews at the bar to cap off my work day.
But of course, I got more than what I asked for. What struck me was that Mark (the farmer) not only knows his cows and milk, he was PASSIONATE about it. His work day is tough, always starting at 5am and ending as late as 11pm. He has a small herd of 60 or so cows that are almost always hanging out in the pastures. Commercial farms house much larger units of about two to four thousand cows and some as many as eight thousand.
Also, unlike commodity milk that is pasteurized at 275°F for a brief moment, cooking the shit out of the milk, Way Back When’s milk is low pasteurized at 145°F for a longer time of about half an hour. The only downside to that is shelf-life, a mere 1-2 weeks versus your 45 day plus of commodity milk. Then again, the product’s a lot fresher since you’re getting it straight from the farmer.
To kill an absolutely overused phrase, the proof is in the pudding. We had a sample of his milk. It was extraordinary. It was creamy and delicious. It tasted like a cow product, like that delicious fat cap on a strip steak. It made me smile. To myself, I was thinking, “I have no idea how much this is, but it’s so amazing I can’t pass it up.”
So if you are every by the Eastside farmer’s market in Houston on Saturday, go check out the Way Back When Dairy’s stall. Give it a shot and let me know what you think.