Contented Cows

When you come across a carton of milk in a supermarket labeled Organic Valley Farms, you might be forgiven for curling you lip and muttering "Right, sure. . . . " But in this particular case, your cynicism may not be warranted. As far as our (admittedly limited) research indicates, Organic Valley dairy products are not only organic but humanely and sustainably produced by more than 600 independent farmers and dairypersons scattered across 19 states. Organized 16 years ago as a cooperative of just seven farmers, the company is still headquartered in impeccably rural LaFarge, Wis., and a visit to the corporate Web site ( shows that in addition to dairy, Organic Valley growers offer eggs, meat, and soy products, and are active in the campaign to bring healthy meals back to school lunch programs. Product availability varies by region; locally, keep an eye peeled for the dairy products of co-op member dairyman Andrew Dykstra of Burlington, particularly OV's new nonhomogenized "cream on top" milk—just like Bossy used to make. This cheese stands alone It's taken a year, but the diabolical business plan behind Kurt Dammeier's Beecher's Handmade Cheese is finally emerging. Earlier this month, members of the media were sent 8-oz. samples of Dammeier & Co.'s latest product, Flagship, cheesemaker Brad Sinko's unique cheese balanced in flavor between cheddar and Gruyère. The cheese, mildly pungent, firm but creamy, is priced at $15.95 a pound, more than competitive with quality products from the U.S. and abroad. No, the diabolical part is that Beecher's employees innocently offer samples of Flagship on one of Beecher's own brand crackers. The combination of the cracker's buttery crispness with the cheese's subtle but lusty flavor produces organoleptic synergies beyond description: Let it suffice to say, either cheese or cracker is seductive enough; if you don't want to succumb to hopeless addiction from the first bite, eschew the combination. At 80 cents an ounce, those crackers alone could bust your budget. FEASTING THROUGH A STRAW In the print and online media, much has already been made of Jones Soda Company's expanded line of holiday novelty sodas, which includes flavors like—shades of Bertie Botts' every-flavor beans—mashed potatoes with butter and green-bean casserole. After scandalizing palates nationwide in 2003, Jones' turkey and gravy soda— referred to around the company's Seattle offices simply as "T&G"—made its triumphant return this year as part of the holiday line. Last week, the local beverage company offered its oddball assortment of seasonal drinks on a limited basis; the 15,000 five-packs were available both at Target stores and, where they went on sale for $15.95 apiece at 8 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 11. If you did manage to get your hands on one, don't even think about drinking it: Last year's turkey and gravy two-packs sold for as much as $63 each on eBay, according to a recent Associated Press report. The campaign is clearly a PR coup for the company, so much so that Jones employees frequently compete to think up new and increasingly strange soda flavors. According to a company rep, recent staff suggestions include kimchi, honey-baked ham, egg salad, and sushi; we at Hot Dish believe that a multipack of Passover-themed sodas (matzoh-ball soup, kishke, brisket, and kugel?) cannot be far behind. Food and/or beverage news? E-mail Hot Dish at

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