Wednesday, February 24, 2010

2010 Sonoma Valley Cheese Conference

The 8th annual Sonoma Cheese Conference took place over the last few days, and on Monday I was fortunate enough to attend. I would have loved to be there Sunday through Tuesday, but the reality of owning a small cheese shop is that it's often hard to leave the store for more than a day at a time. However I will say this, just getting to spend one day rubbing elbows with some of my most beloved "cheese idols" served to inspire and energize me in a way I haven't felt in awhile. Don't get me wrong, I love what I do and count myself as one of the luckiest girls on the planet. But some days it seems like I'm just struggling to put out one fire after another, and I think to myself "this is a grind. Where's the fun?"

Then suddenly I'm in a room full of people who love cheese as much as I do (if not more), and I'm listening to the likes of Ari Weinzweig (Zingerman's), and Mateo Kehler (Cellars at Jasper Hill) speak passionately about my chosen profession, and that "grind" I referred to just fades into the background. It's times like these when I know my little quest to bring the finest American Farmstead cheeses to the Bay Area Peninsula is the right thing to do. Challenging people to examine their beliefs about what artisan cheese should be (ie; imported), is not an easy task. But who said it would be simple? I carry the cheeses I carry in my store because I am a believer in the American Cheese Movement. I feel each cheese I have in my case (with the exception of a couple imports) is an excellent example of what can happen when traditional cheese-making techniques are combined with American ingenuity.

Thanks to all the hard-working people who put together this wonderful conference (especially Sheana Davis). It was stimulating, educational, fun, and most of all delicious!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

St. Valentine's Day: Whatever it means for you, it's a Great Excuse to Eat Cheese!

When I was growing up, Valentine's Day was usually a source of anxiety. Would anyone at school give me a card? Would the person or people I gave cards to reject me? Would my mom let me eat all the candy I got or would I have to hide it from her? These are the questions that plagued me in the week leading up to the day.

As I got older and began to date, the anxiety developed into a mixed back of nervousness and anticipation. What would my boyfriend do to mark the occasion (would he even remember)? What should I give him? What should I wear? Will he say "I love you!" or will there be awkward silence? More often than not, the immense build-up of expectations lead to a somewhat deflated, anti-climatic pseudo-romantic debacle. Fun.

Now that I'm suspended in a state of utter bliss - married to my soul-mate, business partner, and best friend (not three separate people, mind you, just one guy named Noah), I no longer suffer from even an ounce of unease over this Hallmarkiest of holidays. We just keep it simple: time together, alone, Blackberries turned off, with some really good food. What are we eating this year? Well the menu hasn't come together completely yet, but one thing's for sure - our cheese course will include the delectable little heart-shaped chevre with rose petal preserve we brought into the store this week to celebrate Valentine's Day. Imported from France, this goat's milk cheese has a lovely Geotrichum Candidum rind, and is a perfectly formed heart-shape. The combination of the tangy, lemoniness of the cheese along with the earthy, sweet, floral notes of the rose petal preserve will rocket you into another dimension. Flawless.

I hope that whatever emotions this holiday brings up for you, you'll do yourself the favor of commemorating it by eating great cheese!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Bellwether Carmody

I'm turning 40 this year (sigh), and in reviewing this last decade of my life, I realize I made several goals for my 30's that for one reason or another, I just didn't get around to. Don't get me wrong, my 30's have been great. I met and married my soul-mate, my two kids are healthy, happy, and doing well in school, and Noah and I bought our cheese shop, which is huge because it put to rest that nagging question "what do I want to do with my life?" So overall, my 30's have been a win. But, there is still this list of things I was determined to do that I just didn't do. Some of the items on the list we can just cross off right now because they no longer apply.

For example, "skydiving" was on my list for my 30's. I didn't do it, and I can tell you right now I'm not going to do it. Mainly because as I've aged, I've become less and less comfortable with flying. I like being on the ground - to the extent that I recently got hypnotized in the hopes of feeling more comfortable with the 8 or 9 trips I'm taking this year which require flying. So no, I'm NOT going to voluntarily jump out of a plane. But there is something on that list I can do (which doesn't require my feet to leave the earth): engage in more health conscious eating.

I'm guessing by now you were wondering what my little bucket list has to do with Bellwether Farms Carmody cheese, right? Well, I've decided to follow a healthy eating regimen, not a diet mind you, but just a change in my eating habits which requires that I don't eat a lot of sugary foods, but does allow me to eat 1 serving of dairy 3 times a day. This is where the Carmody comes in: I pretty much rely on those 3 servings of dairy to provide me with the bulk of enjoyment I'm going to get out of my food on a daily basis. So I'm insistent on selecting dairy which is going to taste really, really, really good. And Carmody does. Really good. This mild, creamy, table cheese boasts a fresh, but intensely buttery Jersey Cow's milk flavor, and even though it's a fairly young cheese, there is a depth and richness to it which is second to none.

The key to me successfully crossing this item off my list is that with Carmody as part of my healthy eating plan, I never have to feel deprived. Now, if only I could accomplish all the other goals on my list just by eating cheese...