When Jared Veldhuizen picked up his future wife, Erica, for their first date, he arrived in the family farm’s “cheese wagon.”
“It was an old Suburban we used to haul cheese,” Jared said recently.
“And it smelled like cheese,” Erica added, with a grin. “It was OK. We were only 17, and I would sneak out to go to the farm and help Jared milk cows and make cheese. That was 10 years ago.”
The two were recounting their history recently at their new business, Veldy’s Artisan Cheese & Wine, which opened June 2.
Jared spent all of his formative years working on the farm, Veldhuizen Texas Farmstead, outside the central Texas community of Dublin, population about 3,600. It specializes in raw milk artisan cheeses from a herd of cows and flock of sheep.
The animals are raised from babies and fed on chemical-and pesticide-free crops grown especially for them.
“I had to get up at 5 a.m. to milk cows every day,” he said. “Christmas, Thanksgiving, freezing cold, driving rain, it didn’t matter. And I spent most of my life helping make cheese.”
He and Erica came to Tulsa in 2013 to go to college. They soon married and purchased a home in 2015.
“We love Tulsa,” Jared said. “I wanted to be part of the family business, but we didn’t want to go back to Texas. We thought of selling cheese; that’s all we do on the farm is sell cheese by the pound, but we didn’t know if that would be enough.
“We thought about what goes with cheese, and, of course, we thought wine. Then we thought Tulsa has great local beers, and Erica wanted to do charcuterie boards. It was a mix of ideas coming together.”
While looking for a location, Jared also was battling cancer.
“He’s been through a lot, but he’s kicked it,” Erica said.
Near the first of the year, they made a deal to take over the old Fuel 66 food truck court on 11th Street and spent the next five months renovating the space.
“Jared poured the counter, and I did the tiles,” Erica said. “We put in a new bathroom, a deli case for the cheeses, added wood floors and enclosed the patio to make a larger dining room.
“My brother-in-law, Jesse Veldhuizen, made the tabletops and is on the staff now. A friend of ours made the 11-foot communal table. We still have picnic tables outside, and we still are dog-friendly and kid-friendly. We wanted it to be comfortable and homey.”
Customers also might note the 1907 computing cheese cutter behind the counter. These cutters were revolutionary because they measured the amount of cheese in a round wheel computed by rotating the handle.
We recently visited this cool charmer on a steamy afternoon. A few customers were dining far apart in the two dining areas.
Veldy’s offers seven charcuterie boards and three grilled cheese sandwiches. We ordered the hummus board ($16) and added three Veldhuizen cheeses ($3 each), in addition to the avocado bacon grilled cheese sandwich ($12).
We received five slices of each cheese. My wife chose a mild, creamy Gouda and the Paragon, described as a mix between Swiss and cheddar. I selected what I thought to be an obvious choice, Redneck Cheddar, a cheese brined in dark beer.
My wife was skeptical of the Redneck Cheddar, but it turned out to be her favorite. It did not taste like beer. It had a distinctive, slightly nutty flavor that paired well with our wines, a riesling and a white blend made from southern Italian grapes at Delinquente Wine Co. in South Australia.
The board included a garlicky hummus topped with olive oil and paprika, six cucumber slices, six carrot slices, about eight julienned slices of red pepper, pita bread points and some seasoned crackers.
In addition to the cheeses, the star turned out to be the delicious bacon avocado grilled cheese sandwich. It was a thin-looking sandwich with minimal amounts of bacon, avocado spread and a mixed cheese blend on large slices of toasted sourdough. It came sliced in half and served with potato chips, enough for two people to share for a light lunch.
Among the other charcuterie boards, I would like to return for the Bekky Board, a breakfast board offered only Friday-Sunday that includes Paragon and Gouda cheeses, bagels, berries, walnuts, chocolate coffee beans and spreads.
Veldy’s offers 18 wines selected to pair with cheeses and 18 local beers. All of the food and drinks are available for takeout.
“We are just getting started, but the word is getting out,” Jared said. “And it is really cool how the community is pulling together during the pandemic.”