Mas Marce, in the province of Girona, Spain is a sheep dairy with a long history and commitment to natural milking and care of their flock. Six generations of shepherds have raised this unique breed of sheep which produces just half a liter of milk a day (compare to ~25 liters of milk/day from a commercial dairy cow).
To set the cheese, they use a vegetable rennet from the beautiful spiky purple cardoon flower (herbacol) which grows wild in this area. One of their cheeses is seasoned with sea water, another is wrapped in sheep's wool while aging to draw out the moisture, creating a more concentrated flavor.
When visiting the farm, I met one sheep “who is convinced she is a dog”—when we came to the pen we were ignored by all the sheep except her: she came racing over as soon as she heard us and the dairy manager, with a laugh, hauled her out of the enclosure so she could be pet, follow us around and enjoy a bottle (which I got to feed her!).
All over Costa Brava at fine restaurants in Llanca, in Cadaques, in Pals, in Roses, when I mention the name Mas Marce, chefs nod and say, yes we use their cheeses, they are excellent! Even Jordi Roca uses the cheese in a dessert at World's 50 Best Restaurant El Celler Can Roca in Girona--a now legendary destination with an 11-month waiting list led by the three charismatic Roca brothers--where I dined last night with my World's 50 Best colleagues and visiting chefs from around the world in town for our 15th anniversary celebrations.
But my favorite product from Mas Marce is the simplest: the Recuit d'ovella, a sort of soft yogurt custard set with herbacol, which is exquisitely creamy with a delicate sweetness coming only from the natural sugar of their beloved sheep's milk.