When describing a bright day Lithuanians have a saying: the sun is rolling on the fields. It was exactly the type of day when me and my friend took off to explore Southern region of Lithuania – Dzūkija. Our goal was to visit countryside dairy farm in Dargužiai village – the place which is often talked about among the local cheese lovers.
I had wanted to check out ‘Sūrininkų namai’ (Cheese Makers’ Home) ever since I tried their cheeses in a secret dinner party in Vilnius. What you would normally expect when talking about Lithuanian cheese is fresh ricotta type of thing, so I was quite impressed sampling very much French tasting fermented and matured cheese coming from a small dairy farm in Lithuanian village. Later on things started coming together as I learned that the founder of the Cheese Makers’ Home had worked in dairy farm in France before he came back and started making his own cheese in Lithuania.
Dargužiai is about 45 minutes away from Vilnius when going by car. We were enjoying the sunshine and watching the scenery of Lithuanian plains while chatting away until we saw the off-turn to the village. We stopped at the local shop to ask for further directions. It appeared that the cheese house was just up the road and in a couple of minutes we reached the destination. The shepherd dog met us at the gates and showed us the way towards an old wooden house.
We walked across the porch and into the house and were greeted with smiles of two ladies behind the counter. The place had a typical countryside feel to it, with a long wooden table and old tiled furnace. We looked around the room first and I took a peek in the old pantry creatively converted into a fridge, with a variety of cheeses in it. Needless to say I was determined to try them all. There were two types of baked cheese listed on the hand written menu hanging on the wall along with sampling board of five cheeses.
Little truckles of cows’ milk Raudonikis (which translates into ‘red head’) looked very appealing to me, so I ordered one to be baked for me and my friend went for goats’ milk Spira. Cozy setting with tables and chairs on the porch of the house looked inviting, but we chose to sit at the table inside so we can chat with cheesemongers while sipping fresh mint tea and waiting for our treats.
The ladies told us that there are 20 goats and 5 cows in the farm, who roam free in the fields. The owners of the farm make their own cheese from non-pasteurised milk using French recipes as well as they sell some produce from the other local farmers. Cheese making courses are held here and they even had French master visiting and giving lessons on the process of cheese making. The place stays open only during the warm months (from April to October), but it is possible to buy their cheeses in a couple of places in Vilnius throughout the year – Tymo market on Thursdays and Guru restaurant on Sundays.
By the time our plates arrived to the table, we could hardly wait to tuck into the food. We loved the simplicity of preparation of the cheese: it was wrapped into a parcel of baking paper with some herbs and a knob of butter, which was tied with a string and then baked into the oven.
Our job was to unwrap the parcels and discover fragrant melted cheese inside. Cabbage and carrot salad and some fresh home-made bread was served on the side and we simply couldn’t wish for more. Goats’ cheese tasted very mild and cows’ cheese had more of a tangy flavour, even though I was expecting it to be the other way round.
It was a decent sized meal on it’s own, but the proper tasting round was still waiting for us. When the cheese board arrived, we gasped at the variety: our customised sampling collection consisted of 11 kinds of cheese. The flavour range was pretty impressive too, starting from mild ricotta cheese Agota, that went well with their home-made cream caramel sauce and finishing with fermented cheese Žan Žakas. We took our time sampling the cheeses and comparing the flavours while trying to decide our personal winners. My pick was blue vein Blues and cellar matured cheese Kreivonių, called according to the name of the village it originated from.
We were lucky to spend some quiet time and get personal attention in the Cheese Makers’ Home before the rush hour began: just after the lunch time when we started thinking of hitting the road again, couples and families started flocking in the house. Some of them were buying cheese to take home, while the others were coming over for cheese tasting and cheese making class.
Well fed and content, with bags full of goodies, we continued on our road trip cruising the picturesque surroundings of Dzūkija. The day flew by visiting beautiful villages, climbing up the mounds, looking around from the top of observatory tower in the middle of the forest and enjoying a cup of coffee in the house of local villagers, only confirming the notion, that people of Dzūkija are known for their generosity and hospitality.blog comments powered by Disqus