Monday, March 29, 2010

4th Annual CA Artisan Cheese Festival

I'm basically one of the luckiest people on the planet, and here's why: I worked this weekend (as I do every weekend), but "work" consisted of eating some of the best cheese in the world while rubbing elbows with some of the biggest names in the cheese business. On Saturday morning I headed up to Petaluma for the 4th Annual California Artisan Cheese Festival. Seriously, a festival dedicated entirely to cheese exists and it's practically in my backyard! This, folks, is why I say I'm one of the luckiest people on earth.

Saturday, seminar day, opened with a general session followed by 3 seminars of our choice and a delicious lunch. My morning seminar was "California Cheese & their European Ancestors" led by Juliana Uruburu. The panel members included a fairly new Cheesemaker, Marcia Barinaga of Barinaga Ranch who makes a beautiful Basque style sheep's milk cheese inspired by her ancestors (pictured above). Marcia delighted us with a slide show chronicling her excursion through the Basque region on a trip she and her husband took just prior to launching their own cheese-making journey. The panel discussion was followed by a tasting of each of the panel member's cheese along side its European counter-part. Lovely.

After lunch, I had two seminars back to back. First up was a session led by Sue Conley & Peggy Smith of Cowgirl Creamery where we learned a little about their history, ate some of their fabulous cheese (I'm actually eating some Red Hawk as I write, you know, for inspiration and to keep my energy levels up), and they talked quite a bit about their process when developing a new cheese. Not only was this class fascinating, educational, and delicious, but Peggy and Sue are like rock-stars to me so I was in heaven (fortunately I avoided rushing the stage or throwing under-garments at them as people often do to actual rock-stars)!

My last seminar of the day was "Traveling the Washington Cheese Trail" where we lucky enough to try several small production farmstead cheeses from the Pacific Northwest - and by small production I mean tiny - some of these Cheesemakers have a "herd" of like 2 or 3 cows! The course was led by Laura Werlin (another one of my idols), and Kurt Dammeier of Beecher's Handmade Cheese. Not only did we get to try Beecher's Flagship Reserve, an award-winning mature clothbound cheddar, but we got to try a new cheese they're developing called "Flagsheep" which is a cow-sheep milk blend, and I have to say one of my favorite cheeses of the day! Although Flagsheep isn't currently in distribution, Kurt assures me I can get some for my counter by calling him directly (which I plan to do ASAP). I'll let you know when it arrives...

Life Is Good!

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