I left the lavender farm in the highlands of Maui and listened to the dulcet tones of the lady in the GPS unit as she told me to turn left, back towards the lower elevations. I wasn’t wandering aimlessly though I was on a mission. My mission was to find the surfing goat and with it some of the best artisanal cheeses in the world.
Maui has a vibe to it different from the other Hawaiian Islands. The people who move there all seem to be looking for something, and that something is usually a healthier, more satisfying lifestyle. It’s not all nuts and granola, but there is a healthy eating undercurrent to most (not the fried spam musubi) meals on Maui, led by some amazing organic farmers. One of the most famous was the one I decided to visit that sunny afternoon, the Surfing Goat Dairy.
The dairy farm was founded by two German expats who knew nothing about the cheese business before setting up shop as one of only two goat dairies in Hawaii. After deciding on the cheesy lifestyle, they briefly returned to Europe to apprentice as dairy farmers and returned to Hawaii to apply their newfound expertise. The results have been stunning. This 42-acre farm featuring happy, surfboard-loving goats has been named the best goat cheese spread several years in a row and even had one of their creamy cheeses featured in President Obama’s inauguration festivities. Not bad for some laid back billies.
The visitor’s area at the dairy is modest, but was busy with curious tourists when I pulled up on a weekday afternoon. After scouting my options, I elected to pay for a tour of the facility. Armed with bags of hay to feed the always hungry goats, our guide led us to the nearby pastureland and goat paddocks.
As soon as the goats saw us, they ran over for feeding time. Careful that they didn’t mistake an appendage for hay, I gingerly dropped the hay into the anxious mouths of the always cute goats. The guide explained the history of the facility and after feeding time, showed us the process of producing the cheese itself. Everything is done methodically and with care and the result is truly a form of art rather than mere sustenance.
The best part of the visit though was of course the tasting. Every day the dairy makes available several of its most popular cheeses for sampling, guaranteeing an always happy visitor.
I’ve had goat cheese before, but nothing quite as good as this. The flavors were each very different from each other, but delicious in their own way. A perennial favorite for the Surfing Goat is Purple Rain, combining locally produced lavender for a truly unique Maui creation.
I walked away with a smile on my face and a bag of cheese to share with new friends on Maui. I of course loved playing with the goats, being outdoors and seeing one of the best examples of Maui natural foods, but the real star was the cheese itself and I’m already plotting a way to procure more of this creamy brilliance.