Blain Hages has been a Pacific Northwest cheese maker since 2003. He previously worked at local fixture Beecher’s Handmade Cheese and is now at the amazing Cherry Valley Dairy in Duvall, Washington. We chatted with Blain (on his birthday!) to learn more about his cheesemaking journey, his grandmother’s awesome cinnamon rolls, and his favorite seasonal treat. You can find delicious Cherry Valley cheeses in our pantry shop!
What brought you into the world of food?
When I first witnessed live cheesemaking I knew I was going to dive in and create for a long time. The early Beecher’s days were dynamically awesome with excellent ownership and a stellar head cheesemaker. It was the best feeling to be able to work on the creamery production floor at Pike Place Market. I worked on my feet and provided food for my local community; both of which resonated with me. I got to participate in the upward curve of a good idea.
Today, at Cherry Valley Dairy, our experienced team mainly focuses on butter, soft-ripened and natural rind cheeses. I’m proud to say we produce nationally acclaimed artisan dairy goods with eighteen ribbons and counting. On the horizon we have new bandage wrapped cheddars that are due to be cut in August 2021. We’ll let you know how it goes!
What does kinship in the context of food mean to you?
When I think of kinship I cannot help but think about my grandma’s hands and how hard she worked on every meal. Cooking started for me in the mid ‘80s at age eight in my grandma’s kitchen. She taught me that “true” cinnamon rolls are started by boiling skinned potatoes and to never ever throw out the potato water. It gets used too. My grandparents’ roots are from Croatia, Yugoslavia, and Austria. I remember eating things that had names I could never pronounce nor remember. Nonetheless, it was a warm kitchen with an endless supply of generational recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
What is your favorite fruit or vegetable? And ideal meal?
My favorite fruit is pineapple. My favorite meal is sushi. Yes, sushi. Not only do I appreciate the knife technique and the art of the cut but the “umami-ness” of flavors from a Japanese menu. Sushi all day. Sign me up! :) One of my favorite cheeses is a nice, salty Roquefort.
Your favorite seasonally inspired recipe?
Every year for my birthday — which is today, the 22nd — my aunt makes me a pistachio cake. I love the color pistachios give off once finely chopped and cooked. Feel free to add a couple of whipped cream layers in your next pistachio cake! Go for it! Any pistachio cookie will do fine, too. :)