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Best Dairy Products: Happy organic cows make tasty cheese and butter 

Spring Hill Cheese Co. & Petaluma Creamery

Few things are sweeter than the Berkeley Farmers' Market for stress-free, organic, and environmentally sound shopping. And one stand in particular is often surrounded by a crowd of customers — that's the Cheese Lady, lovely Elia Gilbert of Spring Hill Creamery, who sells handmade organic cheeses every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. The 91-year-old creamery was certified organic last April, and Gilbert peddles butter along with a rotating selection from more than 25 cheese varieties, among them Raw Cheddar, Sun-Dried Tomato Jack, and three varieties of Quark, a low-fat cheese made from strained yogurt. Favorites include Dry Jack, a hard cheese encased in a rind of olive oil, black pepper, and cocoa powder; and Old World Portuguese, an award-winning cheese on the Cheddar/Gouda continuum. Made using vegetable hardeners, the cheeses also are vegetarian friendly. They typically run six to seven bucks a block, depending on variety and size. And best of all, Gilbert will provide samples of any you covet.

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(Sorry, no information is currently available for other years in this same award category.)

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