In the craziness of last year, I just realized that I never wrote about judging for the Sonoma County Harvest Fair. Despite the fact that Sonoma County is a dairy hub, thanks to Sheana Davis this was the first year in a long time that they included a cheese category in their yearly, local awards.
They have an interesting way of judging at the Sonoma Harvest Fair. Since I put off writing this entry for 4 months, I now can’t remember what is was called…
Swedish judging? Scandinavian judging? It’s called Danish Judging and it’s the staple of 4-H contests. Thanks Sarah Shevett!* Anyways, the judges sample the cheese — then before talking to each other — provisionally rank the cheese gold, silver, Bronze or no award. If there is disagreement, you take a couple of minutes to re-taste and try to convince the other judges to raise or lower their scores. Finally, judges give their final rank. With three judges, two votes out of three carried the award. In the case where all three judges award gold, the cheese gets awarded ”Double Gold”. From there we chose the best of show.
I was skeptical of this method because I had never used it before. At most cheese contests, a point system for different attributes is used, judges are not encouraged to lobby each other, and the total points carry the award. First, second, and third are usually limited to three cheeses (except in the case of ties).
By the end though, I kind of liked this system. Generally we agreed right off the bat and only once did we have a gold/silver/bronze split. Of course, we did have over 50 years of professional cheese experience among the three judges.
Amusingly enough, the Best in Show is a cheese that is no longer available. It is the Petaluma Creamery Dry Goat Jack with Peppercorns
We actually carried this cheese for a couple of years, but I guess they lost their goat milk supply and this, including the winner, was cheese made awhile back and aged a long time.
I screwed up my picture of one of the runners up, Cameo, a soft-ripened goat cheese from Redwood Hill Farm, but I’ve written about it previously. I will just substitute the video by Cameo instead because I really can’t listen to this song enough:
The other runner up was from the Valley Ford Cheese Company for their Highway One.
Highway One is a very nice Fontina-style cheese from a farmstead family dairy that is only getting better and better.
Of course, I am really excited for my next judging gig. Yep, I am judging Mac and Cheese for SF Food Wars in a couple of weeks. This event sold out in about thirty seconds. I am not exaggerating.
*Anybody know? Help me out here, my googling didn’t yield any results.
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