A Peck of Local Picklers

By Hope Nelson, Photos by Sarah Culver

Move over, store-bought salt-drowned pickles and limp sauerkraut. Pickling and fermenting has been standard operating procedure for home cooks, small makers and restaurants around the region, with an array of diverse pickle makers who are doing their own thing and doing it right.

Blue Duck Tavern, Washington, DC

His colleagues call him the “King of Fermentation Nation,” and by all accounts Blue Duck’s Chef Brad Deboy lives up to the title. With Deboy at the helm, the upscale restaurant nestled within the Park Hyatt Washington sports a fermented food within nearly every menu item—and he’s only just begun.

“Almost everything that we’re trying to do here has a little bit of history, a little story to it,” Deboy said. The history of fermentation runs deep—and shares a connection to the name of the restaurant, too.

“I started digging into the word tavern … the things they used to do in taverns is they either made it in house, they had a guy next door who did it or they brought it from the surrounding area,” Deboy said. “So I said, ‘All right, let’s dig into the Old-World techniques and really anchor down because I feel like that fits our concept really well too.’”

Deboy’s fascination with fermentation began at home. He began experimenting with krauts and other foods by keeping a closet full of jars in several stages of preparation, just to monitor what worked and what didn’t in various conditions. That hobby became part of his day-to-day job at Blue Duck, and it’s easy to see the results in myriad ways.

One of the fruits of his labor: chicken-fried quail with koji marinade.

“I’m in love with koji right now,” Deboy says, referring to a fungus used in making soy sauce. “It’s my thing.” The quail dish is a prime example of taking an Old-World technique and bringing it into the modern realm by adding in a twist of American-style Southern fried chicken. The koji itself—borrowed from Japanese cooking—sings with umami and a salty, hearty, need-to-have more taste.

Deboy takes only partial credit for creating such dishes. The rest, he says, is owed to the process of fermentation itself.

“It’s really Mother Nature doing her job. It’s amazing,” he said. “You can’t fake it, let’s just be honest. None of those flavors you can fake.”

DC Dills

Admittedly, it’s a rare pickle purveyor who gets their start in pies. But for Lydia and Jeff Bhaskarla, the owners of DC Dills, it took an unusual origin story to find their place in the fermentation world.

The Bhaskarlas’ pie business, Lovebirds, took flight in 2010 and introduced them to the world of small-business food sales. What started as a farmers market offering became a staple at local grocery stores, and the Bhaskarlas realized they were onto something. But they also realized they needed to grow.

“Even though we had a good product and had gotten into a lot of the local big grocery stores like Roots and Mom’s, I knew we needed to start focusing on other things,” Lydia Bhaskarla said.

So the Bhaskarlas landed on their next big idea.

“My father planted this huge quarter-acre garden, and I would watch him and my mom can and make jelly,” Lydia said. “My mom used to make peach jelly. I just kind of grew up in that atmosphere and started to appreciate it, and kind of started to see a trend. … My husband envisioned the pies, and I started to envision the pickle trend.”

In March 2013, DC Dills was born.

“I just really wanted to focus on doing something that was very good, something very down-home and something very unique. And that’s kind of what we did,” Lydia said. DC Dills started off with six or seven flavors and styles and now have more than 20, expanding their wares from traditional cucumber pickles to sauerkraut and pickled beets and tomatoes.

In terms of their top sellers, Lydia Bhaskarla says, “It really depends on the demographic. If I go into Baltimore and Southern Maryland, our Chesapeake dill and our sweetened Krabbies are two of our most popular. If you’re in Bethesda and it’s more of a Jewish demographic, then our kosher dills and our half-sours are extremely popular. You go into places like Sykesville, not only do they like the Chesapeake and sweetened Krabbies, but they’re crazy about the other flavors.”

For a market list and more information, visit dcdills.com.

No. 1 Sons, Arlington

Venture nearly anywhere in the DMV region and you’re sure to spy No. 1 Sons’ wares at a farmers market. The family-owned company has expanded from five to two dozen markets over the past four years and has capped off its traditionally slower wintertime season with a full-throttle pop-up adventure in Del Ray.

“All our growth has been self-funded and very organic,” says co-owner Caitlin Roberts, who runs the business with her brother, Yi Wah.

As a fresh-foods vendor, No. 1 Sons shifts its focus throughout the year, homing in on the flavors of each season and bringing its freshest wares to market. Up next for spring: the Sons’ annual batch of spring ramp kraut.

“It’s sauerkraut that’s done with ramps and dill and a few of our spices. It’s really delicious and we have that wild garlicky taste,” Roberts said. “It’s complemented by the sourness of the sauerkraut, but people love the fresh dill taste contrasted with the sharp taste of the ramps.”

For summer, keep an eye out for the company’s half-sour and full-sour pickles—“People always comment on how crisp they are,” Roberts says—and their fermented chili sauces.

Over the winter, No. 1 Sons paired with local favorite Bagel Uprising to open up Salt | Bagel, a pop-up enterprise in Del Ray at the home of the Dairy Godmother. The experiment was a decided success: Customers found a lengthy line nearly every day and sellouts by the afternoon. Does this mean a future in brick-and-mortar?

“As of right now, nope! We’re both just farmers market businesses and this is our downtime,” Roberts said.

For more information and a list of market locations, visit number1sons.com.

Your Food Waste CSA, Delivered

By Whitney Pipkin

The avocados are too small. The apples don’t stand up on their own. The carrots have a little too much, shall we say, character. But Hungry Harvest's customers don’t seem to mind. In fact, wanting such foods to go to good use is one of the reasons they signed up to receive a weekly share of the so-called“ ugly produce” from the Columbia, Maryland–based startup. Since launching in 2014, the company has diverted 2 million pounds of produce that would have been wasted, instead delivering it to customers and donating another 400,000 pounds to hunger relief organizations.

Hungry Harvest has grown exponentially since early last year, when its CEO and co-founder Evan Lutz appeared on the ABC reality show “Shark Tank”—and walked away with a $100,000 check from one of the celebrity investors.

The numbers, after all, can be hard to ignore: Forty percent of food never gets eaten in this country, because it is deemed unsellable at the farm, rejected at the grocery store or left languishing in the back of refrigerators and on plates. Hungry Harvest’s business model takes aim at the fruits and vegetables falling through the first two cracks by recovering misshapen eggplants or rejected tomatoes and delivering them directly to customers.

The company’s delivery network has expanded in and around Washington, where Ritesh Gupta, the company’s director of impact, says customers are familiar with the problem of food wasteand eager to do something about it.

“There’re so many people in this area that are interested in sustainability but lead busy lives,” says Gupta. Customers“ tend to come from the education or government worlds, where there’salready a conversation going on about ugly produce.”

As an employee of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency who works on food waste issues, Adams Morgan resident Claudia Fabiano was an early convert to the Hungry Harvest concept. She replaced her community-supported agriculture (CSA) box, which was smaller and required her to pick it up each week, with deliveries of produce she knows might otherwise have been tossed. The boxes are less seasonal in nature, because they pull from a broader growing region, but they also include avocados and mangoes instead of“ all root vegetables all winter. ”Hungry Harvest’s weekly shares cost an average of $30, with a “mini harvest” option available for $15 and a“super organic harvest” box for $55.

“Generally, you have to be someone who likes to get a variety of stuff,” Fabiano says.“ You understand the idea and support the cause if you’re doing this.”

The company’s weekly boxes are currently available throughout Washington, DC, Arlington, Alexandria, Baltimore and Philadelphia, with plans to continue expanding into the suburbs. New delivery options allow offices to subscribe to weekly fruit boxes or to coordinate deliveries for several employees.

Fabiano says she builds her meals around the produce that comes in her box each week, and knowing the source encourages her think twice about throwing any of it out.

“Somebody took the effort to glean this stuff out of the potential waste stream and deliver it to my house,” she says.“ It’s already been through a lot to get here, so it would be silly for me to throw it in the trash.”

Can’t swing a CSA right now?

Consider spreading the #foodwaste message by adding Hungry Harvest’s ugly produce emojis to your texting arsenal.

Download Ritesh Gupta’s “Ugly Produce! ”emojis for free from iTunes.

Learn more about Hungry Harvest

Reviving an Authentically American Spirit

DC’s first rum distillery is ready to show you what you have been missing

Words and photos by Kurt Powers

Tucked away in one of the many unassuming warehouses near Union Market sits Cotton and Reed, DC’s first rum distillery and tasting room. The towering walls and high ceilings, pierced by large skylights, give a bright airiness to the tasting room’s stylish mix of natural and industrial décor. Co-founders Jordan Cotton and Reed Walker opened the distillery to make the kind of rum that would elevate and showcase one of America’s first, and often overlooked, spirits.

Rum is Reed’s favorite spirit, but it also has an interesting American backstory according to Barman and Beverage Director Lukas Smith.

“In the 19th century, rum was far and away the number one distilled product,” Smith says. “For 50 years, America was the largest producer and exporter of rum in the world.” However, as America developed beyond its colonial roots and other spirits became more popular, the large rum producers learned to rely mostly on marketing campaigns and gimmicks to sell the spirit. “It became about having fun, not about the product,” Smith says. Rum makers targeted their campaigns toward the young, referenced pirate stereotypes and promoted overly sweet products and drinks. “There was no reference to any historical grounding of the product.”

Cotton and Reed is bringing the focus back to the product. “In this country, no one knows how big the world of rum is,” Smith says. Many people come in and tell him they are not huge fans of rum, that it’s too sweet for them. Smith counters that their rums are different. Their unique fermenting formulation, which includes a mix of a Belgian saison yeast strain and a wild pineapple yeast strain, gives their product some astringency—or “grip,” as Smith calls it—to the mid-palate and a mild, warm fruit finish, for balance. Smith’s cocktails, which can be enjoyed in the tasting room, play on and highlight the various flavor profiles and aromas found in their white and spiced rums, which are all produced on-site.

One of his favorite drinks, the Rum G&T, is a surprising take on a classic beverage usually enjoyed during the warmer months of the year. “It’s probably something that will never come off the menu,” Smith says. They make all the syrups in-house that form the base of their sodas and cocktail mixers. Smith also makes the tonic water from scratch, infusing it with select botanicals used in making gin to evoke the flavor notes you would pick up in a typical gin and tonic. With some fresh lime juice added, the result is a complex and “super-duper refreshing” drink, Smith says. With a nod to the past and an eye to the future, rum’s revival is well on its way at Cotton and Reed.

Rum doubters, newcomers and enthusiasts alike can buy and taste Cotton and Reed’s rums and cocktails in their handsome tasting room, located at 1330 5th Street, NE, Wednesdays through Friday, from 4pm to midnight and on Saturday and Sunday from noon to midnight. For more information and to schedule a tour, go to cottonandreed.com

Click here for The Rum G&T recipe

The "Top Chef" of DC's Food Policy

The "Top Chef" of DC's Food Policy

By Whitney Pipkin

If you’ve read anything about the District’s food policy council since it was christened last year, it might have been that the gregarious celebrity chef Spike Mendelsohn was named its chair.

But behind the curtain of local government, a red-bespectacled urban planner is putting that council’s wishes into action—one email at a time.

“I get an overwhelming number of emails and phone calls,” says Laine Cidlowski, who was appointed as the city’s first food policy director in October 2015. “It’s a good problem to have.”

A community gardener in her spare time, Cidlowski worked for seven years in the city’s planning department before being tapped to oversee the council now charged with improving access to healthful food for all DC residents and making it easier for food ventures to do businesses in Washington, among other initiatives.

Food advocates already at work on many of these issues say Cidlowski has the right mix of food-minded interests and city-government chops to do the job.

“She … has a passion for codes, regs and mapping,” Lauren Shweder Biel, executive director of DC Greens, wrote in a blog post about the city’s decision. “We can be sure that, in her hands, our food policy decisions will be carefully considered.”

Now that Cidlowski has been at the post for more than a year and the council has had a handful of meetings (they’re open to the public!), [DA1] we sat down to ask her about surprises, successes and priorities for the coming year. Edited excerpts follow.

How would you describe your job to someone at a cocktail party?

I work on food policy for the District, so I touch on a wide range of food-related topics: everything from food-related businesses, to people making value-added products, to urban farming, to healthy food access, to nutrition education. It’s a little bit of everything, and a big part of the job is seeing how those things all fit together at a systems level. It’s really about connecting people.

The great thing about this job is there’s so much going on already and so many enthusiastic groups and engaged partners that have been doing this work for a long time. It’s not like they need someone to step in and be a savior. It’s really just an opportunity to elevate the work they’re doing.

That’s a lot. Which would you say is your highest priority?

My top priority is getting rid of food insecurity, especially east of the river.

It’s the hardest thing we have to work on and it’s also the most important thing—something that there’s been effort on for years, but there hasn’t been a lot of traction or activity. We see all this activity and attention and buy-in, but it’s not necessarily getting to the people that have the highest need.

I think the main way we’ll be able to achieve that is by getting a combination of full-service grocery stores and smaller grocery options in Wards 7 and 8.

What’s the District government’s role in this?

If it were going to happen on its own, it would have happened already, because people would have created businesses that relieved the area’s food insecurity because they saw them as financially viable. But if it hasn’t made sense from a business perspective, it’s still a human right—to have access to your daily needs, to food and drink. It’s just really important for us to continue to be a place that can have residents of all income levels; if they can’t get food, it’s not a sustainable way to live.

What are some of the obstacles to running a food business in DC?

There’s definitely a shortage of industrial space. Less than 5% of all land in the city is industrial space and, compared to the surrounding jurisdictions, it’s relatively expensive.

But we have been working on some of those things. We worked on fixing the food truck regulations and the farmers market regulations. We’re working on allowing more small commercial corner stores, updating our zoning regulations to be more open to things like restaurants in more places.

Right now, there are [categories for] restaurants, fast food and delis, but when they updated the zoning they made it a bit more of a continuum, so it’s not quite as complicated. But we also have to work with the Department of Health to make sure that the health inspections follow along the same lines.

Even with those obstacles, are there still more restaurants here than city residents can support?

It’s still a hard city to open a restaurant, because the retail rents are so high.

We have 1,914 restaurants open in DC. I know 800 opened this past year and several hundred closed as well. There’s a high degree of turnover.

Who’s to say whether some of those that closed should have closed? Is there a bubble? I don’t think so.

Does the change in federal leadership affect your work on the local food front?

People have been saying that, out of this sort of crisis and unsureness about what the federal government is going to do, there is opportunity. I think that’s absolutely true and that we can pursue our own agenda all the more aggressively locally.

We have control over this area and we can be a visible example to the federal government about what can work and what the opportunities can be.

I think it’s more important than ever that we do work locally.

Got (Local) Milk?

By Leigh Glenn

Imagine a local dairy farm and you might envision something like Nice Farms Creamery in Federalsburg on Maryland’s Eastern Shore: 120 acres of permanent pasture, fenced into paddocks with a mixed herd of Holsteins and Jerseys, crossbreeds of Friesian, Milking Shorthorn and Lineback, moved regularly to fresh grass. The land supports 35 to 40 milk cows of 85 in all.

Too much snow to access the pasture? They get hay. At milking time, they receive a little grain and fresh fodder in the form of barley grass that’s grown hydroponically in a room off the milking parlor.

What’s unusual about Nice Farms is that this dairy used to be in the distribution system that covers most of the industry, in which milk is collected in bulk tanks, hauled away, mingled with milk from other farms, pasteurized and homogenized, bottled and delivered to grocery stores. But Nice Farms opted out of that system and other dairy farmers around DC have begun to do so as well.

Most dairy farmers work in a system that doesn’t let them call the shots. Dairy is a big global business worth billions of dollars. In the United States, the federal government sets prices and processors like Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) and Land O’Lakes predominate—they spent $2.28 million on federal lobbying in 2016, according to the Center for Responsive Politics—and hold sway over farmers, who are under great pressure to get big or leave. In February, for example, DFA announced plans to “de-pool” 900 dairy farmers in the Northeast, says Peter Hardin, longtime industry observer and publisher of dairy industry journal, The Milkweed. That means farmers will lose their distribution channel—and maybe their businesses.

Similar dynamics are at work in the organic dairy industry. Either way, the outlook for most dairy farmers is as bleak as an overcast winter day. They are subject to decades-old prices and present-day expenses.

Despite the credo of “get big or get out,” with the misery has come opportunity—for farmers willing to take risks and go into direct sales. This has been a boon for DC–area dairy lovers, who today have many choices about whose milk, yogurt, ice cream and butter to buy. All of the dairies in this story run pasture-based operations. The land benefits from the fertilizer in the form of manure and the dung beetles that break it down. The cows benefit from getting access to fresh grass. Farmers benefit from fair prices and customers benefit from having direct relationships with the farmers and the knowledge that they can enjoy high-quality products and support their local economies.

New Models for Maryland Dairy

In Maryland, where dairy farms number 417, down 143 in the last 10 years, dairy farmers have built a dozen on-farm processing facilities since 2008. This includes three who used to do bulk collections through the co-op system.

Nice Farms is one of them and you might say it took a war for dairy farmer Bob Miller Jr. to see a way forward—not the battle in the dairy industry, but the one in Iraq. Former Army Captain Miller was on patrol in Kirkuk in 2008 and noticed farmers coming into town to sell what they grew directly to eaters. Many of the Iraqi officers with whom he patrolled also were farmers and he asked about this. It was a revelation: Even with stringent restrictions on direct sales in the United States, Miller thought going that route could help his family’s dairy survive. But first, he needed to build an on-farm creamery, so Miller resigned his commission in 2009 and invested his savings in making it happen.

The transition came just in time. When Nice Farms was still selling into the co-op system, there were two other dairies nearby. Within a few years, both had closed.

Today, Nice Farms is at capacity, both in terms of stocking rate—the number of cows the pastures can support—and products sold. Customers include Rise Up Coffee’s flagship store in Easton, Chesapeake Bounty in North Beach and St. Leonard and other local grocers. Miller also sells at markets in Salisbury, Lewes, Stevensville and Annapolis, where people line up on Sundays for his milk, yogurt, ice cream and hand-churned butter, which often sells out.

Northwest of Frederick is a dairy family that’s stayed in the cooperative system, but since 2001 has developed direct sales via home delivery, farmers markets and an on-farm store.

Given the fluctuations in what dairy farmers are paid in the co-op system, South Mountain Creamery wanted to stabilize its income stream. “Things are more expensive, but the price to the farmer hasn’t changed in 30-plus years,” says Tony Brusco, CEO of South Mountain. “Sometimes there are periods where the prices are so low that farmers are living on credit cards and trying to stay operational that way.”

For Brusco and his wife, Abby Sowers Brusco—daughter of founders Randy and Karen Sowers, who began dairying in 1981—starting the creamery was a natural offshoot of the way they shopped: buying meats and breads from a local butcher and baker in Frederick. But they didn’t see the potential until, in that first year, they had an old-fashioned hog-butchering day at the farm, with big, steaming kettles that attracted people driving by. And it dawned on them, they might have something people would be interested in.

“People today want to know who is providing their food, that the food is coming to them fresh and wholesome,” says Brusco. “They want to know it’s safe.”

Today, deliveries of South Mountain products—milk, cream, yogurt and more—within a 70-mile radius, plus sales on-farm and at the markets, account for 40% to 50% of the farm’s dairy sales.

In contrast to those who’ve been dairying for a couple generations or more, John and Mary Fendrick of Woodbourne Creamery in Mt. Airy got their start through their children’s 4-H activities when they got a Guernsey for their children to show. That was 17 years ago.

When Rock Hill Orchard came up for sale, the Fendricks decided to go for it. The farm lacked dairy infrastructure, but had 60 acres of corn and soy that could be converted to pasture.

While creating the pastures, the Fendricks also toured other small dairies’ on-farm processing facilities. They visited a Greencastle, PA, farmer who used a robotic milker. They were sold on that technology, because the cows come in whenever they are ready to give milk. A scanner reads the radio-frequency ID tag in the cow’s ear and adjusts the equipment to fit her teats. The machine cleans and disinfects the teats, attaches the milker, milks the cow, disinfects the teats again and she’s free to go. The system, says Fendrick, saves on labor and increases quality of life.

After running numbers and exploring business plans, the Fendricks decided it would be best to sell their own milk directly to customers. “The price you get is totally in your hands,” says Mary Fendrick. “If you go through the co-op system, you have to pay to have your milk shipped. The price of milk is set by the government based on the price of cheddar bought and sold on the commodities market. If you come out even, most small-scale dairy farmers consider themselves lucky.” But, she adds, in that system, farmers almost need to milk 3,000 to 5,000 cows to make anything—and that’s not a scale that can be handled by a family.

And in Virginia…

About an hour southwest of Woodbourne Creamery, near Winchester, is Hedgebrook Farm, the first dairy in Virginia to get into “cow boarding.” Third-generation dairy farmer Kitty Hockman-Nicholas chuckled at a man who’d bought two Jerseys from her to hand-milk and who was returning the cows; they’d kicked over the bucket. He still wanted the milk, though. Her attorney, she says, went to then-State Milk Commission Administrator John Beers and returned with a cow boarding agreement.

Virginia law prohibits raw-milk sales, but recognizes cow-share programs on a case-by-case basis. Farms that have cow-share programs are not subject to inspection, but if they have Grade A licenses, like Hedgebrook, they are inspected. With cow-share programs, owners buy a share in the cow, entitling them to milk from the cow. They are also responsible for the cow’s upkeep including feed and veterinary expenses. Should the cow die or be dried off, they are not entitled to get milk.

“It’s just been wonderful,” says Hockman-Nicholas, who notes that the share owners’ herd has grown to 10 Jerseys. Hedgebrook delivers twice a week into Northern Virginia.

Hockman-Nicholas probably would have kept selling milk into the co-op system, except that the co-op told her to get out of raw milk or leave the co-op. She didn’t feel she could exist on what they were paying her, so she left.

At that point, Hockman-Nicholas had been making cheese for about six years and has added butter to the mix of products, which includes honey and grass-fed beef. Hockman-Nicholas wants people to understand where food comes from, so she and daughters Shannon and Jackie run an on-farm B&B and will soon have a quartet of “tiny houses” where people can stay. She is also obtaining organic certification to serve as a supplier to Sandy Lerner’s Gentle Harvest fast organic restaurants.

Hockman-Nicholas, who just completed a huge fencing and water project, so that water is available in all the paddocks, drinks her milk with lunch every day. “If I didn’t believe in our product, I wouldn’t do this,” she says. “You are what you eat, just like the cows are what they eat.”

Tasting Notes: Local Diary Farms

by Susan Able

Photos by Hannah Hudson Photography

Photos by Hannah Hudson Photography

We put local grass-fed dairy milk to the test—well, the taste test. Two experts known for their palates, Chef Omar Rodriguez from Oyamel Cocina Mexicana and Nadine Brown, wine director at Charlie Palmer Steak DC, joined a gaggle of milk aficionados as Edible DC poured milk from four Maryland family-owned dairies against two brands of grocery store milk. All the milk we tasted was whole milk. We cleared our palates with cookies.

The local dairies we tasted all make what is called creamline milk, the most natural form of milk. This milk is pasteurized, but not homogenized and immediately we noticed a color difference. The local milk was slightly more yellow and the farmers tell us in high summer, grass-fed milk becomes decidedly yellow. All of the dairy farmers in our tasting pasture raise their dairy cattle solely on grass, with hay in the winter.

Also, and this is key: All the local milk we tasted had been bottled within the previous 48 hours.

Nadine Brown Wine Director of Charlie Palmer DC and Chef Omar Rodriguez of Oyamel (Photos by Hannah Hudson Photography)

Nadine Brown Wine Director of Charlie Palmer DC and Chef Omar Rodriguez of Oyamel (Photos by Hannah Hudson Photography)

The grocery store milk did not compare in quality or flavor on any dimension to local dairy milk. The color of grocery milk was closer to pure white. Grocery Store A’s milk was a national brand and though it was whole milk, it tasted lean and almost watery compared to the rest. And, it tasted, well, not fresh. As Chef Omar said when I asked him to describe what “not fresh” tastes like, “It’s muted, there is no brightness or complexity. Old milk degrades; even though it isn’t spoiled, it just tastes dull.”

Grocery Store B’s milk was from a large commodity dairy in Pennsylvania. It poured white, and while it was better with more flavor than the first sample, it still did not have the character or fullness of flavor of small-dairy milk.

And the winner?

Well, we didn’t have one. Each of the tasters had a personal preference, but we all agreed on one thing: There was nothing like the flavor of fresh local milk. It was surprising how unique each one was in flavor. If you think of milk as a uniform beverage with one canvas of flavor, think again. Like wine, the way the milk tasted changed as it warmed, developing a stronger flavor and an even fuller, fatty mouthfeel.

Nadine Brown summed it up: “This was very different than I expected, because I didn’t think each milk would have such a distinct taste. But just like wine, what makes tasting the milk come alive is hearing the stories of each of these farmers, what kinds of cows they have and their approach to dairy farming. It makes you appreciate their work, just like you can appreciate tasting a wine when you know the story of how it was grown and produced.”

Woodbourne Creamery Whole Milk, Mt. Airy, MD

Purchased at Bethesda Central Farm Market, $4.50 half gallon

Montgomery County’s only grass-fed dairy, this milk is produced by a herd of 60 Golden Guernseys. It was also slightly more yellow than the rest.

“This milk was rich and balanced, with afternotes of butterscotch. It must make great ice cream.”

“This milk had a distinct buttery and sweet flavor. I don’t drink a lot of milk, and I would go out of my way for a glass of this.”

South Mountain Creamery, Middletown, MD

Purchased from Baltimore’s 32nd Street Market, $4 half gallon ($2 bottle deposit)

The area’s only home-delivered milk, produced by a herd of Holsteins, the black-and-white cows known for producing more milk than other breeds.

“This is the milk we use here at Oyamel. I like that it is balanced and clean, with a flavor richness.”

“For me, this was my favorite. I appreciate the others and they are great, but they had a higher fat content, and this one tasted a little cleaner. It would be my go to.”

Nice Farms Creamery, American Corner, MD

Purchased from Anne Arundel County Market, $4 half gallon

This Eastern Shore dairy produces its milk from 50 cross-bred dairy cattle: Jersey, Dutch Belted, Milking Shorthorn and Lineback. The intent was to develop smaller, hardier cattle that can thrive in a grass-based system and maintain a solid milk performance.

“This milk was pure and had a great creamy texture. I could see drinking this at home, it’s nice.”

“Creamy and balanced, not as sweet as a couple of others; I like that for everyday.”

Clear Spring Dairy, Clear Spring, MD

Purchased from FRESHFARM Markets Dupont Circle, $4.50 half gallon

A solar-powered milking operation, Clear Spring Dairy’s farmers, Mark and Claire Seibert, produce milk, yogurt and butter from 45 Jersey cows, known to produce milk high in butterfat.

“This milk was rich, and you could taste a grassy note on the finish—in a good way.”

“A sweet buttercream taste.”

Read two additional diary stories:

The "Raw Milk Underground" Beckons 

What's Up with A2 Milk

Bowling for Breakfast


Recipes to start your spring day

By Alexandra Dawson and Susan Able

As a longtime proponent of make-ahead meals, I’m a wellness warrior who loves to create multi-serving recipes that require only moments to prepare a workweek’s worth of nourishment.

Click here for the Cacao Porridge Pots With Blueberry Compote recipe