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Best Homegrown Goat Cheese Phoenix 2008 - Black Mesa Ranch

Though Snowflake, the northern Arizona town nestled in the White Mountains, is outside our coverage area, we make an exception for this fabulous cheese that is available for purchase at boutique food stores around the Valley (Whole Foods is one) and at fine restaurants such as Quiessence. If you consider goat cheese to be an overpowering, overly pungent experience, think again. Black Mesa's cheeses are made exclusively from the milk of their own herd of Nubian goats, an African breed known for their adaptability to the hot summer temperatures.

The family-owned and operated company's Web site declares that Black Mesa never works on more than 14 gallons of milk at a time. That allows it to pay the closest detail to every step of the cheese-making process. The various cheeses — we especially like the goat's milk feta — are available online and at very reasonable prices. In a previous life, one of the owners was a pastry chef, and Black Mesa's commercial candy kitchen includes Goat's Milk Fudge and Butter Almond Toffees. Let's hear it for the goat!

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