We had dinner at our hotel in Jerez. We had read that the restaurant was really good. WOW...great meal, everything was fantastic. We ordered a starter (tapa) of Payoyo goat cheese with fig conserves. It stopped me dead in my tracks. I instantly fell in love with this cheese. It was a cheese I have never had before. It was slightly tart like goat cheese yet there was a sweetness to it. The fig conserve that was served on the side made this dish one of those dishes that one can only dream about......uh, not anymore :)
I left the restaurant and googled Payoyo cheese. It is a blend of goat's milk and sheep's milk. Payoyo is a breed of mountain goats native to Andalusia in Southern Spain. Grazalema is the name of the village and the name of the Andalusian Nature Preserve where the goats live and the dairy resides. Payoyo goat cheese is made in this remote area by a 14 member cooperative begun in 1997. The cheese is hand crafted into 3 1/2 pound wheels that resemble Manchego cheese. It is semi firm and not quite as dry as Manchego.
Being the dedicated foodie that I am, I decided to go straight to the source and see those goats that made me so happy and meet the artisans that produce this delight. I love the internet....it turns out that Grazalema is only 1/2 hour from Ronda, where we were planning on spending the night. Woo Hoo! Luckily Ron was happy to take me on my adventure.
We headed out to Grazalema in search of special goats and great cheese.
It was a small village in a National Preserve. I fell in love with this village. It was so quaint. We drove around town on cobble stone streets.
Up in the hills we spotted the Payoyo goats.
After some exploring we found the co-op building where they have their office. Not far from the office we saw an old building where they make the cheese and finally we found the cheese store.
Mission accomplished! I had hoped to see the cheese makers in action but we were short on time and the language barrier was a challenge.
I bought a small chunk for the road. We had a long flight to Germany later in the day so we didn't think a wheel would travel well. I loved this adventure and we were happy explorers as we headed down the mountain for a three hour drive to the airport.
I'm trying to find some of this cheese here in the states. The fig conserve that was served with the cheese at the restaurant was an English green fig preserve made by Wilkin and Sons. It was the perfect compliment along with a nice crusty baguette.