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Sweet Basil and the Bee: Any way you slice it — Three artisanal cheese makers bring array of products to market

CHICO — In the fresh cheese lexicon, between the velvety smoothness of Quark and the graininess of fresh Ricotta, lies fromage blanc. It is a soft, tangy cheese with a hint of lemon that can be spread on crackers, dolloped on a fine baked potato, baked in a tender lasagna or dotted on a wood-fired pizza.

Save it for the end of the meal and serve it as a dessert with berries and local honey or transform it into a decadent cheesecake.

Endlessly versatile, fromage blanc is popular in cooking because, unlike sour cream, it heats without separating, and it has a lower fat content. The French enjoy it like we use cream cheese, spread on crusty artisan breads or bagels. The Belgians make a hot, open-face grilled-cheese sandwich with it.

Fromage blanc is one of several artisanal cheeses you’ll find tucked in chilled tubs in stalls interspersed between green stacks of leeks, broccoli, bok choy and arugula of the produce vendors at the Saturday Farmers Market.

There are three cheese vendors, two from Orland dairies, and North Valley Chevre, a goat cheese vendor from Cottonwood.

New cheese on the block is Paul Schmidt’s Orland Farmstead Creamery, at the market on alternate Saturdays. Schmidt stocks fromage blanc, a fresh, tender, lightly salted feta; Queso Fresco, a fresh cheese used in Mexican cooking and pretty little tortes; and Tomato Pesto, Cherry and Artichoke Lemon to be spread on a cracker or baguette, and to make a tasty addition to your cheese


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