Top Pick Of The Week

February 1, 2005

. .
Red Hawk Cheese
How did this little red mound win “Best of Show” over 615 other competitors? Sheer wow factor that, as with an award-winning glass of wine, a mere photo cannot hope to convey.

Cowgirl Creamery’s Red Hawk:
Queen of the Rodeo


The way the story goes, in the early 1990s, when Berkeley, California restaurant chefs Sue Conley and Peggy Smith told Straus Family Dairy matriarch Ellen Straus of their plans to make cheese in an agricultural region an hour north of San Francisco, Mrs. Straus responded, “It’s the Wild West out there, ladies.” From that comment, the two “cowgirls” named their new enterprise.

They opened up shop in 1997, and a scant five years later had roped in a passel of awards, including “Best of Show” for their Red Hawk triple-crème at the American Cheese Society’s 20th Annual Conference. It achieved this distinction over 616 other cheeses judged by the country’s most knowledgeable palates.  (Not coincidentally, the cheese is made from organic cow’s milk from the herd of the Straus Family Dairy—the first organic dairy farm in the Western U.S.)

Cowgirl Creamery Red HawkA washed rind cheese with a complex, layered and robust flavor, Red Hawk combines a triple-crème’s voluptuous creaminess with dimensions of earthy flavors cheese sophisticates seek. If this begins to sound like cheese erotica, well, it might be. One expert has said that washed rind cheeses “teeter on the brink of respectability.” The heady, pungent aroma of a washed rind cheese delights many, but frightens others who lack the passion to sample its pleasures. The taste is very different from the aroma, but the two blend in a gustatory embrace—beefy and masculine, elegant and silky. If you like Epoisses and Muenster, you’ll like Red Hawk even more.

It’s no wonder that one judge at the American Cheese Society awards called Red Hawk “a breakthrough in American cheesemaking”; and one of our own NIBBLE testers said, “It’s hard to believe that this is an American [made] cheese. Surprise! American farmstead and artisanal cheeses now rank with the best in the world. 

Named not after its reddish washed rind but after a raptor that circles the skies in northern Marin County where the cheese is made, the cheese is itself a force of nature. It will engender discussion and delight wherever you take (or send) it.

You can enjoy Red Hawk by itself, on a cheese plate with a contrasting selection of cheese kin (Cowgirl Creamery includes Red Hawk with its award-winning Mt. Tam (First Prize, Soft Cheese Category, American Cheese Society, 2004) and St. Pat in the Cowgirl Creamery Collection. For variety, you can:

Serve it with sweet condiments, such as quince paste, artisanal and infused honeys or mostarda, the Italian fruit condiment.

For a wine pairing, try Pinot Noir or Riesling (Alsatian or German).

We’ve been told that Red Hawk got mentioned in an episode of “Will and Grace,” and has been recommended on “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” and “Oprah.” But we’re too busy eating it with our foodie friends to watch TV.

— Karen Hochman

FORWARD THIS NIBBLE to your cheese-loving friends.

Red Hawk Triple Crème Cheese

Red Hawk is produced organically and is a member
of Marin Organic

  • 12-Ounce Cheese
  • Cowgirl Creamery Collection

Shipping additional. Prices subject to change.

Purchase online at

Or by telephone toll-free at 1.866.433.7834
(Monday to Friday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. PST,
weekends in December)

red hawk
Moo-ve along and get some soon—although it
looks plentiful here, supplies are limited.

Red Hawk is also available at at specialty food and cheese stores and e-tailers.² Prices and product availability are verified at publication but are subject to change. Shipping is additional.

¹Individual cheeses are not available in the online store, but the Cowgirl Creamery Collection that includes it is. You can order individual wheels of the cheese by phone (as well as the Cowgirl Creamery Collection). As an aside, these are not huge wheels—4 inches in diameter—and we can happily polish one off as dinner (just don’t tell our diet doctor).  So, you might want to order a few.

²Prices vary widely—we’ve seen them from $16.99 to $21.99 and have heard reports of up to $40 based on supply and demand (which is what happens when you’re named Best Cheese in America). But don’t let price stop you from enjoying this wonderful cheese experience.

Read The Holey Word Of Cheese

Cheese Bible Cheese Lovers Cookbook Cheese
The Cheese Bible: This Bible provides a wealth of information on this irresistible favorite. Click here for more information.
Cheese Lovers Cookbook and Guide: 150 recipes and tips for buying and cooking with cheese. Click here for more information.
Cheese: From Fondue To Cheesecake, by Fiona Beckett. No matter how you enjoy cheese, this book is guaranteed to please. Click here for more information.


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