For years, an ongoing wish was for good cheese in Honduras. Finally it is no longer a dream. It is here! And has been for a few years. I just now had the opportunity to sample it myself in Copan Ruinas. I had heard of the cheese guy but did not have time to follow up on it. When I entered Cafe San Rafael, I realized this was it. CHEESE. I situated myself at one of the garden tables and was promptly served by a bilingual server with a menu in hand.
As I perused the menu, he delivered ice-cold water in a recycled wine bottle. I decided to stick with a basic cheese plate sampler of 3 different cheeses (changes daily), crackers, veg and fruit. Surprise me.
The restaurant is in the front garden enclosed by heliconias and other colorful plants and cool greenery. A large and varied wine selection is available, of course what goes better with cheese than wine?
Shortly my cheese plate arrived complete with a Camembert, sun-dried tomato and basil Mozzarella, and a Blue Cheese. Served with homemade bread and crackers. A few slices of colorful peppers and avocado complete the plate. Plenty to eat for a snack or light lunch. All for under $5. I decided to return the following morning for breakfast. Toasted bagel with brie, apple, bacon, and marmalade. Perfect.
While paying I asked who made the cheese. An unassuming young man squeezing limes for lemonade spoke up and said “I do”. Turns out Carlos Guerra is the owner of the business along with his padres. He runs the restaurant out of the family home and makes his cheese out back. So I asked for a tour. We walked around the house to a building where the cheese is produced to check out cheese making process.
Where did he learn to make cheese? Indiana. What? After graduating from agriculture school in Honduras, he landed a job with Capriole Farmstead, a working farm in Southern Indiana that produces some of the finest goat cheese on the planet. Returning to his hometown of Copan Ruinas in 2009, Carlos began experimenting with cow’s milk from the family farm and after months of hard work was able to begin selling cheese.
There was one problem. No one knew about The Cheese. Opening a restaurant helped bring exposure to the movement. Three years later, Carlos not only runs a successful restaurant but also exports his cheeses all over Honduras. (I am still waiting to see it in the Bay Islands-soon I hope!). What makes the cheese so great? According to Carlos, you must start with quality milk. Milk his family’s farm has been producing for years. There are currently over 40 cows grazing the farm. One gallon of milk yields one pound of cheese and it is enough- for now.
Visit http://www.cafesanrafael.com/ for more information on the San Rafael products or simply go in person to the Cafe. I should probably mention here they also produce, package, and market their own coffee. This was the origins of Cafe San Rafael. Before The Cheese. So double up on the tasting and order a shot of espresso while you are there. Next story-The Coffee.
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