If anyone even slightly cheesy wasn’t as present on twitter as normal, behind their normal cheese case at the correct hour last week, or had a glazed over look on their face from consuming high quantities of fermented dairy or salted meats, blame either or all of the following: The Cheesemonger Invitational, The Good Awards, and The Fancy Food Show. And perhaps the beer and wine that tends to go along with it. It was, my friends, a big week, for which people came to San Francisco from as close as Los Angeles from as far away as England and Switzerland (or…. I’m guessing Swiss becasuse of the suspenders, shorts, yodeling, and large Alpine wheels he was carrying, but- could have been wrong).
The Thursday of last week was the Good Food Awards Gala, an awards event honoring organic, sustainable, food artisans. Sunday was the Invitational, which is one huge, strobe-light filled cheese party (ask my parents who stayed until the wee hours of eight pm, it’s true). Then Monday and Tuesday was the Fancy Food Show, packed with new cheeses, classic cheeses, anything and everything gluten-free or sprinkled with fleur de sel, and massive amounts of chocolate, also covered with fleur de sel.
These were some of my favorite parts of the tasty madness:
1. The Cheesemongers Competing at The Cheesemonger Invitational
Not only did I get to meet the reigning champ of NYC’s CMI 2014, Emily Acosta, who is as charming and lovely as she is skilled at cutting with a cheese wire while someone wearing a cow costume yells at her, I got to talk to some of the other competitors too. They’re awesome. To compete, one has to take two days worth of tests, slice and wrap cheese in front of a thousand or so people, charm a crowd, and make “perfect bites” for more than a hundred people. And there’s more, my head is just too clouded with richness to remember it.
I also got to yell loudly when San Francisco’s competitors Eric Miller of Mission Cheese and Liz Cutler-Rubin from Bi-Rite represented! And there were folks from Cheese Plus, and The Pasta Shop, and… the Bay Area is skilled, ya’ll. The top photo is of Eric Miller’s “Perfect Bite,” which is a pairing a monger makes with one of their favorite cheeses. Miller’s bite was a fried egg breakfast sandwich created with Cowgirl Creamery’s Devil’s Gulch. Really. He fried all 120 mini eggs (quail?) himself for the samples.
2. The Cheesemakers
Mr. Andy Hatch of Uplands brought guests of the CMI a rare batch of Rush Creek Reserve. And up, it was the original recipe made with milk the way the cheese was intended -raw style! Had to chance to talk to him while digging into Rush with a spoon. Neal’s Yard Dairy brought Stacey Hedges out from Hampshire, England of Tunworth (if you haven’t already noticed my recent two-month trip to the Isles -more news, pics, writing forthcoming- I’m smitten by English cheesemakers, guys!). I ate about a quarter of a wheel of her cheese at a sitting. Also present was the super nice Keith Adams of Alemar cheese, who just moved out to California to make cheddar. I could keep on adding fantastic cheesemakers to this list who made time to put up with my questions or whose goods I just ogled from afar, but I’ll stop here with the note: Blessed be the cheesemakers.
3. Delicious New Cheeses
These events mean trying new delicious things! Here are a few that stuck out to me:
- Tunworth, Neal’s Yard Dairy- buttery camembert with notes of meaty roasted cauliflower that oozes with the best of them. Now importing through NYD.
- La Clare’s Martone, Wisconsin- goat and cow’s milk cheese dusted with ash and covered in a lightly wrinkled rind. Just hitting the market in full force, lively, sweet, and pictured above.
- Von Trapp’s Mad River Blue, Vermont & Sequatchie Cove’s Shakerag Blue- The first- sweet, nutty, subtle, crumbly. The second- sweet, spicy, and wrapped in fig leaves soaked in Chattanooga Whiskey. Both different and both worth seeking out.
If you made it to the show, what did you try? What were your favorite bites and times?