British travel series films in Exeter, Lindsay

By Reggie Ellis

Exeter is no stranger to England, being named after a city there, but it was still a little surprising to find a British film crew in Exeter last week.

The crew, led by producer Simon Kane, is shooting a series of 13 half-hour episodes for the European Travel Channel called "Taste of California."

Kane said the primary focus of the series is on the diversity of California from beaches to mountains, wine and cheese country, nearly every type of plant, crop and food and all of the fun things to do on the way.

Kane was contracted by Black Diamond Films - known for its extreme sports videos such as Warren Miller videos of extreme skiing, snowboarding and crashes - to produce the series along with cameraman Steven Cassidy, sound recordist Steve Peekover and assistant producer Rachel Curran. In 2003, Kane's crew shot a similar 13-part series "California Golf," which listed 13 regions of the best cluster of courses for golfers. The series also included nearby lodging and attractions for the whole family to complement the courses.

In order to get the lay of the land, Black Diamond contacted the California Travel and Tourism Commission to find 13 counties to focus on. The commission contacted Tulare County about purchasing 23 minutes of a 30-minute segment. Tulare County Economic Development Corporation along with the Sequoia Regional Visitors Council sold the company on the restaurants of Visalia, the rural atmosphere of Springville, the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, farmstead cheese in Lindsay and the hearth of Exeter - Sierra Forge and Fire. Thanks to the Exeter Chamber of Commerce, about three minutes of the film will be focused on Exeter's small town charm, murals and its unique school.

"If this is one of two schools in the world that does [bladesmithing] then we will start with that," Kane told Chris Dery, founder of Sierra Forge and Fire. "That is what makes this unique."

Since opening its doors in October 2004, the school offers beginner, intermediate and advanced classes in bladesmithing, blacksmithing and glass blowing. The school brings in world-renowned and certified masters of their trades to teach the three-week courses.

People from all over the world have taken classes at the school and next year it will help Exeter play host to the annual California Blacksmith Association Conference, previously held in Petaluma, Calif.

Dery's voice will be heard narrating the segment on Sierra Forge & Fire.

The crew also filmed at Three Sisters Farmstead Cheese at Hilarides Dairy north west of Lindsay. Named after owner Rob Hilarides three daughters, Three Sisters' award winning farmstead cheese is the perfect by-product of the No. 1 dairy producing county in the nation.

Three Sisters Farmstead Cheese Company produces Serena, a large-wheeled cow’s-milk cheese. It is a cross between Parmesan and Gouda. From the dairy's herd of Jersey cows, Serena is hand pressed into 20-pound wheels, wrapped in cheesecloth and aged for 10-12 months. During the aging process, Serena develops a rich, nutty flavor and dry texture. When aged longer, the cheese develops the granular qualities of grana-style cheeses.

In 2001, the cheese won the silver medal at the World Cheese Awards in Somerset, England, took third place at the American Cheese Society’s (ACS) conference in Petaluma, Calif. and took second place at the Tulare County Fair. In 2001, the cheese again won third place at the ACS conference and first place at the Tulare County Fair. Their Serena cheese won at the ACS again in 2002 and in 2003. Three Sisters Farmstead Cheese was also recently listed in a travel guide and map titled "Real California Cheese Country" produced by the California Milk Advisory Board.

Their website,, includes recipes for their award winning Serena cheese such as pita crisps, artichoke dip and Panzanella with Serena cheese. The site also explains the process of cheesemaking illustrated with photos.

The series will be shown in Europe, then Asia and finally in the United States Travel Channel during a three-year loop. Exeter Chamber of Commerce CEO Delora Buckman-Merritt is hoping the episode will be another way for Exeter to promote itself all over the world. Tulare County is the only county in the Central Valley to be featured in the film. Other locations the crew filmed were the Springville Inn, River Island Country Club, Cafe 225 and The Depot restaurants in Visalia, the Sequoia National Forest and Monument, General Sherman, the Giant Forest Museum and the Wuksachi Lodge.

Total spending in California from visitors was $82.5 billion in 2004, an increase of 7.4% from 2003 and the largest since 2000. The California Travel and Tourism Commission expects spring travel to increase 2.9% and summer travel to 3.5%. In 2003, travel and tourism generated $94 million in Tulare County, which represents about 1.6% of the county's total generated earnings. Since 1992, the travel industry has generated an average of 4,700 jobs a year in Tulare County. In 2003, visitors spent $295 million in Tulare County. For every $100 of travel spending in 2004, $32.17 was generated in earnings with $2.33 in local taxes.

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