Buying local has been part of our DNA ever since we opened in 1979. As we’ve expanded over the last forty-plus years, a growing challenge has been finding local producers who can consistently produce the quantity we need. So when we were in the market for a new supplier for Kasseri cheese, a key ingredient in our Pagliaccio Salad, we were delighted that Daniel Wavrin, the cheesemaker at Ferndale Farmstead, was up to the challenge.
“Ferndale Farmstead makes great cheese,” says Matt Galvin, Pagliacci’s co-owner. “I wasn’t worried about the quality, but our Pagliaccio Salad is so popular that we go through about 50 large wheels a week. Daniel worked with us to develop an aged cheese with the flavor profile we were looking for. The flavor and texture are perfect, our customers love it, and we’re proud to support a local cheesemaker.”
Ferndale Farmstead’s origin dates back to 1990, when Daniel’s father, Bill Wavrin, and his brother, Sid Wavrin, bought a dairy farm in Eastern Washington. For years, their Yakima County dairy farm sold milk all its milk to Darigold. The partnership was functional but anonymous. The family longed for a way to create their own product. That’s where Daniel and his interest in cheese came in.
In 2009, the Wavrins bought a farm in Ferndale, a bucolic community in Whatcom County just north of Bellingham, as a base for their cheesemaking operations. Daniel devoted himself to the art and craft of making cheese. In the Italian artisan tradition, he apprenticed with many local cheesemakers before meeting his mentor, Italian cheesemaker Raffaele Mascolo. Working side by side, Daniel and Raffaele turned the Ferndale farm into a modern cheesemaking facility, complete with a spacious cheese-aging facility, lots of imported Italian stainless-steel equipment, and large vats to hold the curds and whey made exclusively with milk from the Wavrins’ cows in Yakima County. Daniel and Raffaele also sourced heirloom cultures and enzymes from a producer near Naples, in the Campagna region of Italy.
The Wavrins operate what’s known as a closed-loop system, meaning they raise the cows whose milk they use to make cheese. From sowing the seeds for the crops they feed to their herd, to aging Kasseri until it develops the mature flavor that characterizes the semi-hard cheese, the family manages every element of production—a veritable seed-to-cheese operation.
“We’re so proud to represent Italian artisan cheeses in the PNW region and forge partnerships where local animals, local farm families, and local cheesemaking families are able to find community,” says Daniel. “Cheese is the vessel with which we enrich our local communities. Every slice you buy from Pagliacci is you making the choice with your dollars to support local.”
In addition to Kasseri, Ferndale Farmstead provides fresh mozzarella for our pizzas. We feature it on our Margherita, one of our most popular pizzas, as well as our Funghi Salsiccia, Roman Holiday, Verdura Primo, and many of our seasonal pizzas.
“We’re making our own Northwest traditions just like they have in Italy,” says Daniel. “No additives, no BS, as my Italian instructor says. This is a serious thing. It’s a tradition. I’m so glad that Pagliacci respects that, and it’s something they want to support.”