It isn't mass-produced in foil-wrapped blocks but made in small batches with only gently pasteurized, vat-cultured milk, cream and sea salt. That's the way Sierra Nevada Cheese Co. of Willows, Calif., makes it, with none of the gums or stabilizers that are added to commercial cream cheese. The curds are ladled into muslin bags and hand-rotated for three days to create a light, smooth texture with a fresh, clean, milky flavor. I first spotted it at the Cheese Board co-op in Berkeley, but the company is increasing its distribution efforts in Southern California. It's worth grabbing some if you come across it. You wouldn't want anything less for your bagel, would you?
Sierra Nevada Farmhouse Cream Cheese, about $5. Available at Joan's on Third, 8350 W. 3rd St., Los Angeles, (310) 665-2285. Andrew's Cheese Shop, 728 Montana Ave., Santa Monica, (310) 393-3308.
-- Betty Hallock