CheeseCon 2017: ACS Winners, News, Highlights, and, Seaweed
CheesecCon 2017 —otherwise known as the annual American Cheese Society Conference—wrapped up this Saturday night in Denver, Colorado with a bang (or, puff, for some, thanks to local, legal dispensaries). The weather was right, the people were right, and the vast amounts of cheese were oh so right.
A few common reactions I get when telling people I'm heading to a cheese conference:
"I'm sorry, I thought I heard you say 'cheese conference...'", "Did you say a peace conference?" Then... "Do you just eat cheese all day?"
Yes! And more (photos are of cheeses I loved tasting at conference events)!
Before the awards there are the educational sessions. Some of my favorite topics and titles this year were: Teaching the Trade, The Evolution of Artisan Cheese in America;I Got 99 Problems, But a Bicyclic Monoterpenoid Ain’t One; Small Ruminant Deep Dive: Sheep, and Far Out! Unconventional Cheese Pairings. Spoiler- I was part of the panel on the last one.
In between sessions you drink coffee, hit up local breweries, eat vegetables when possible, visit out-of-town friends you haven't seen since the last conference, friends that only live 10 miles away from you that you still haven't seen since the last conference, network, and, wait to hear about all the awards and winners whose names are announced Friday night. They make you wait until the end to hear the Best-in-Show.
This year all of us were smitten by the Best-in-Show winners. All farmstead, all east coast this year!
ACS 2017 Best-in-Show
1. Spring Brook Farm Tarentaise Reserve, Vermont- Enough good things could not be said about this fantastic creamery and non-profit. The Alpine style that took gold is a piece of grass-fed, sweet, crystal flecked, aged cheese heaven. This is the second year in a row it placed in the best-of-show category.
2. The Farm at Doe Run's St. Malachi Reserve, Pennsylvania- Kind of an Alpine style, kind of a gouda style, this wheel is beefy, buttery, sweet, brittle, and addicting. This is also the second year in a row it placed in the best-of-show category.
3. Cellars at Jasper Hill's Harbison, Vermont- Creamy, oozy, and made with inspired milk in Greensboro, Vermont, Harbison could be Jasper Hill's most beloved creation. The wheel is wrapped in spruce bark from the farm in the Jura style and is best consumed soft, at room temperature, spooned straight from the wheel. Again, the second year in a row Harbison placed in the best-of-show category. Seeing a theme?
Find a full list of the winners here.
The Daphne Zepos Teaching Award Winner was Vince Razionale, the Director of Cave Program and Sensory Analysis atGrafton Village Cheese, formerlly of Jasper Hill. HIs project will be on exciting cheddar graphs. Interview to come.
Cowgirls Peggy Smith & Sue Conley were awardedLifetime Achievemen Awardson behalf of the ACS. Makes sense. Not only did two cheesemakers help spearhead a much-needed project preserving farmland in Marin County, they've served as mentors and role models in the cheese world. They're great bosses, according to their employees who do tai chi with them once a week in Petaluma during the work break. They're wonderful people. And they make damn good cheese.
Other highlights & news:
Briar Rose won once again! Cheesemaker Sarah Marcus is one of the best goat's milk craftswomen in the country and I'm always smitten with what she's doing. I tasted through her line when I recently visited and considered myself very lucky.
Ruggles Hill turned heads at the awards too! They're the tiniest farm making the tiniest batches of cheeses that I will probably never get to try out of the conference unless I move to the east coast. Where it snows way..... more than it does in California, so. If you like near Hardwick, MA, you're golden. If you have a change to get your hands on their wheels, do it. As fast you can. They're blessed.
Mystic Creamery is moving from Pod to Creamery. After making cheese all over the country and in Europe, Brian launched his own creamery in a pod- aka cheese trailer. There he made oozy soft cheeses, and fresh wheels that chefs adored cooking with. Now he's moving to a permanent space also in Connecticut.
My Session- Far Out Pairings:
Alongside Tia Keenan,Leigh Friend and Rachel Perez, I presented a session on unusual cheese pairings. Par for the course, I picked the drinks. Not par for the course was the nori seaweed Rachel paired to Camembert Fermier. Amazing. Tia paired a pickled, smoked brussel sprout to Challerhocker, and one of my pairings was Egyptian licorice tea matched to the same Alpine cheese. I was proud to be part of this amazing group talking about such a fun topic. More to come.
Until ACS 2018!