Male goats are good with 12 percent protein content in their food. But the ladies — who must meet the demands of twice-daily milkings — need more like 16 percent to be at their best. A little alfalfa hay in the morning and afternoon for the fairer sex at Caprino Royale evens it all out.
Are you thinking about this when you order the watermelon salad with Caprino Royale feta cheese and Texas olive oil at lunch with friends at Fearing’s? Of course not. But, lucky for and your palate, Karen Dierolf and Eric Tippit are.
These two know their floppy-eared Nubian goats. Tippit, who grew up in Fort Worth, and Dierolf, a Dallas native, have masters degrees they never plan to use again. Well, at least not to get a job. Their Waco micro-dairy is the culmination of the couple’s marriage-long search to find what they wanted to do when they grew up.
“I grew up with goats,” Tippit says. “I hated goats. But I had no experience with dairy goats. They are a whole other world. Nubians will talk to you. They’re loud.”
Caprino Royale sits on 50 acres of family land that was “just jungle” when they started prepping it five years ago. Their day starts around 5:30 or 6 am, sterilizing the milking and cheesemaking equipment, milking, pasteurizing, cleaning up — not to mention the actual making of the cheese. It takes Tippit two hours to milk; Dierolf two and a half. (Tippit, speaking on behalf of the goats, says they prefer his faster method.)
The couple spent three years researching and visiting farms while deciding what to do with the land. They considered a berry-picking farm, bison ranch, mini-cows, produce and sheep.
“Karen kept pushing goats,” Tippit says. “I grew up with goats. I hated goats. But I had no experience with dairy goats. Dairy goats are a whole other world. They’re a bunch of divas with their attitudes and their fighting. Nubians will talk to you. They’re loud.”
That settled, Tippit quit his job as a fifth-grade math teacher, handling the business mostly on his own in the beginning. A year ago, Dierolf, generally the creative brain behind each new cheese, quit her job as an occupational therapist.
Now, they’re obsessed with all things goat — at least their 42 Nubians.
“All you have to do is taste their cheese to know they love what they do,” says Jeffery Hobbs, former executive chef at Sissy’s Southern Kitchen. “I first met Eric and Karen at Chefs for Farmers. They are warm, passionate people, and they direct that passion toward their goats and their cheesemaking.”
Recently, Hobbs used Caprino Royale feta in an end-of-summer salad — quick pickled yellow squash, yellow teardrop tomatoes, Tassione Farms field greens and sunflower sprouts — as part of his Bolsa Mercado dinner for two. In lieu of whipped cream, he used Caprino chèvre to top the dessert: a watermelon shortcake.
“Years ago, Eric came into Fearing’s, and we immediately connected,” says chef Jill Bates. “I loved the approach he and Karen were taking. They’re focused on local sustainability.”
Fearing’s was Caprino Royale’s first restaurant customer. Not a bad debut.
“Years ago, Eric came into Fearing’s, and we immediately connected,” says chef Jill Bates. “I loved the approach he and Karen were taking. They’re focused on local sustainability, and Fearing’s loves to go local with its products.”
Although Bates’ first Caprino Royale love was the chèvre, she’s now cheating with their new blue cheese. She and her staff have also had a passionate fling with the cajeta (goat milk caramel, similar to dulce de leche), which they use for the restaurant’s cajeta vanilla swirled ice cream with roasted and salted peanuts.
Jeff Harris, head chef at Bolsa and Bolsa Mercado, first met Tippit and Dierolf at the Dallas Farmers Market. “We go through a lot of Caprino Royale chèvre in salads and on our flatbread,” Harris says. And he can’t wait to start using their blue.
The goat blue, which is fairly uncommon, has been in the works at Caprino Royale for several months. Blue requires its own space to age, so Tippit had to build it one. If you put blue with other cheeses to age, the Roquefort cultures will take over everything else. It’s the bamboo of the cheese world, which just adds to the challenge.
“In all honestly, chèvre is easy to make,” Tippit says. “It’s not so much the cheesemaking as it’s the quality of the milk — and that really reflects what the animals are eating. The natural progression from there is making more difficult recipes.”
And we thank the foodie gods for that.