CheeseCon 2013- American Cheese Society ♥s Madison

by kirstin on August 6, 2013

Sassy Cow curds in a Hopilcious beer batter.

Sassy Cow curds in a Hopilcious beer batter.

After six days of hanging out with some of my favorite cheese makers and people in the biz, dining around Madison, and eating more fermented dairy than one might have thought possible (but not me, I knew what was possible, I knew), I have one word that describes the way I am feeling after the experience. Inspired. And then a phrase. In need of vegetables.

What exactly do you do at a CheeseCon? Because it’s called CheeseCon (a title that is not yet officially endorsed by the American Cheese Society), some might think we put on capes, tights, and cheese hats. Some of us do. But we also do somewhat grown up things like attend educational sessions and shake hands in a business like fashion. Then there’s also a lot of what’s in the below photo that goes on.

Cocktails at the awesome Nostrano restaurant.

Cocktails at the awesome Nostrano restaurant.

I arrived a night early to attend a pig roast at Pleasant Ridge Reserve. We ate pigs fed with Pleasant Ridge Reserve whey and drank Wisconsin beer while listening to a live bluegrass band. You know- it was a little tasty and fun. I debating skipping this and coming the next day instead to get more work done back in Oakland, then figured that missing this for that reason would be as punishing as taking a child to an ice cream sundae shop and making them order sorbet. So I went and had a hell of a time.

The second day I went on a “Classics” tour of Wisconsin cheesemakers.

Blue Mont Cave

Blue Mont Cave

One of my favorites was Blue Mont. A winner of an ACS award this year, Blue Mont is run by cheesemaker and yodeler Willi Leher. He makes the cheese at Cedar Grove, then transports it to his underground cave underneath a hill outside his home. The inside of the cave looks like the photo above. Then, like any good washed-rind cave, the inside smells like ammonia (washed-rind by product) and cheese. Like any good cave built under a hill and covered with grass, it also looks like a fine hobbit home.

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Hook’s piercer

We also hit up Hook’s, tried their old cheddars and new blues, and were told if we didn’t behave they would head lock us in the device above. Just kidding. That’s a blue piercer. After  a blue cheese’s milk is inoculated with Penicillium roqueforti and the wheels are formed, the wheels are individually pierced with tines like these to form holes, or veins. When air circulates through these holes, it interacts with Penicillium roqueforti and turns the veins blue. By the way, Hooks has a new mixed milk cheese called Ewe Have to be Kidding. Guess how many milks.

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Roelli’s Red Rock

And this is Roelli’s Red Rock from our visit to Roelli. Very similar to Dunbarton Blue in theme, Red Rock is an American cheddar style cheese that’s been inoculated with Penicillium roqueforti. It’s made by fifth generation cheese maker Chris Roelli, whose skills at drinking beer until 11pm then waking up at 3:30 am to make his cheese during ACS conferences two days in a row are just as impressive at his cheesemaking. For further reading, Dunbarton Blue is in my book.

What else do you do at CheeseCon?

Well you buy treats.

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Curds, Limburger and hat.

Then you eat more cheese curds.

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Cheese curds with Hopilicious batter at Gather.

Here and there (six days, people), you take a probiotic or two to stay strong.

Then you attend classes, and the Festival of Cheese and try to pick which of the 1,600 samples you should taste. I tend to pick the blue table pretty clean.

Blue Ledge Farms Middlebury Blue

And, always, always shoot for the Best in Show. You may or may not get to it in time.

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Jasper Hill’s Winnimere 

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Jill August 6, 2013 at 7:35 AM

You were born to rock that hat.

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Marta @ What Should I eat for breakfast today August 6, 2013 at 8:45 AM

This is a lot of good cheese :D

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NoodleHeiress August 6, 2013 at 10:24 AM

Next year, NEXT YEAR, ACS and I are gonna dance.

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Mike August 6, 2013 at 11:04 AM

Great post. Great photos. SUPER GREAT re-meeting you over and over in Madison!

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It's Not You, it's Brie August 6, 2013 at 11:20 AM

Jill- It’s actually Julliana’s from the photo shop, but she let me wear it. Lucky!
Marta- Mmm hmmm.
NoodleHeiress – Dance in a CheeseCon cape.
Mike- you too! Let’s re-meet again next year.

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Ruthy @ Omeletta August 6, 2013 at 3:38 PM

Heck yes. This CheeseCon looks like all my daydreams in one big, fat festival! I would totally rock a cheese cape, too.

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Wendy Crispell August 6, 2013 at 6:00 PM

Great post on CheeseCon! I have wanted to attend for a few years and it never seems to fit into my schedule. Will have to make it next year!

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molly stevens August 7, 2013 at 4:37 AM

Great post and great to meet you, Kirstin. See you in Sacramento…if not before. Cheers!

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Kirstin August 9, 2013 at 2:26 PM

Ruthy & Wendy- thanks! Capes are not included in ticket purchase, just so you know.
Molly- So wonderful to meet you too!

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S. August 10, 2013 at 10:38 AM

The only thing that got me down about the ACS was the fact that you weren’t doing a book signing… and I brought mine from Maine! :)

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kirstin August 13, 2013 at 8:52 AM

S. – Aww, darn! I would have been happy to sign your book whether I was behind a table or not.
A signing would have been lovely, I was just too zonked out from the prior month to do all the arranging by the ACS came. Note to self- pre-plan!

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Laura S. August 13, 2013 at 12:57 PM

So, not to nit-pick (long time fan, first time commenter and all that) I think that maybe you had those Sassy Cow curds at GRAZE not “Gather”. Chef Tori Miller – I love to follow his farmers’ market scroungers around and buy whatever they buy.

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Jasmine Smith August 18, 2013 at 4:49 PM

It was my first ACS and I was actually sort of disappointed in the lack of cape and funny hat wearing :) I’m more used to science fiction cons. However, I did get to go to an entire cheese curd tasting session, which would have absolutely been on my bucket list if I had such a thing.

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