Here are a few on my favorite cheese folks with Bay Area roots:
Tag Archives: acs 2010
Finally, here’s my last entry on my favorite new (to me*) cheeses at this year’s American Cheese Society Conference. This is one of the things that differentiates me from other food bloggers… I feel no need to be timely.
Out of respect for the cheese makers, I probably wouldn’t reveal what cheese I voted for as Best in Show if the cheesemaker for the actual winner hadn’t pulled me aside at the awards ceremony and asked me point blank if I voted for his cheese. The Best in Show winner: Extra-Aged, Pleasant Ridge Reserve** is an amazing cheese. Forage-based, nutty, pungent, grassy, great for cooking, even better for plain ol’ eating, this is the only cheese to win the ACS Best of Show more than once and this is the third time!
It was especially poignant that these folks won this year because the founders of the company, Mike and Carol Gingrich, announced that they were retiring from the cheese business a week after the conference. The cheese will carry on in the very capable hands of Andy Hatch, but when I found out that this was the Gingrich’s last conference, I was very glad they won. I also know I was not the only cheese person with tears in his eyes when they walked up through a standing ovation to accept their award.
The cheese I voted for Best of Show…
The Vermont Butter and Cheese Creamery Bonne Bouche. I wrote about this cheese years ago, before it was actually released actually,*** because I happened to be in Vermont when they work working on their final recipe. Since then, this cheese has been perfected. I am not hyping you when I say that the Bonne Bouche I tasted at the judging was the most technically perfect French-style, US-made, cheese I think I have ever tried. Soft-ripened goat milk cheese, covered in ash, creamy, assertive, and complex. It blew me away.
I love the Spring Brook Tarentaise**** as well. Similar to the Pleasant Ridge, it’s an Alpine-style cheese, but this one is softer but much stronger and more intense. It’s definitely too strong for some, but I love to see a US-made cheese riding that side of the line. I had the previously mentioned Caldwell Crik Chevrette in my top 3 instead of this one, but the Tarentaise was right in there. I had a plate of my final 6 cheeses and it was a very tough decision.
*well, up to now it was new to me. I know all the cheeses I’m writing about today pretty darn well
**reservations aside about the confusing near-redundancy of naming something “extra-aged” and “reserve”.
*** Here’s it is in the back of our rental car!
****Most folks in California have only tasted the organic milk Thistle Hill Tarentaise (also from Vermont) which does not have as intense a washed-rind and which is not aged as long as the Spring Brook. They have very similar recipes but are very different cheeses!
The one cheese that I voted for in the top three that didn’t place was the Estrella Family Creamery Caldwell Crik Chevrette:
Frankly, I don’t understand why more judges didn’t put this in their top 3. I love this cheese. It is everything you want in a washed-rind. A blend of raw goat and cow, this is probably in my top 5 American cheeses of any type. It’s stinky, so it announces its presence right away. It is complex. You can taste butter, tanginess, fruit, grass, and more. It has a great aftertaste. And it is just a perfect ugly/beautiful rustic cheese. Amazing cheese.
*Unfortunately this cheese is not available right now as the Estrellas are working with the FDA to create a safer environment and procedures for making young, raw milk cheeses. Tami Parr from Pacific Northwest Cheese Project has covered this the best of anyone.
Another fabulous cheese was the Sartori Reserve Pastoral Blend:
Though this company does that mid-word, corporate, internet-capitalization thing that drives me nuts (“SarVecchio” Parmesan, “BellaVitano”, etc…) they make some pretty damn good cheese. This is a big wheels of sheep/cow cheese that shows the best flavors of both milks. Nutty and sharp with a great caramel aftertaste.
I’m a big fan of River’s Edge Chevre. Their Up In Smoke and Valsetz are staples in our domestic goat section. However, I had never tried the River’s Edge Mayor of Nye Beach until the judging. I had no idea who made this cheese but I scribbled down the number (and took this picture) so that I would be sure to find out.
Washed with a local ale, this cheese has a BIG flavor, pungent, sweet, fruity and tangy. Awesome job.
Another cheese that surprised me was the Saxon Creamery Greenfields:
The batch at the show seemed to finally reach the bigger flavor and pungency that I’ve always wanted from this cheese. This is true family-farmed cheese from Wisconsin and the price is great for what you get. This is an Oka-style cheese for all you Canadian immigrants out there. Buttery and pungent.
During Best of Show voting I seriously considered this as one of my top 3 cheeses.
Alright, the ACS conference feels like years ago and I’m still not finished mentioning my favorite cheeses. I need to get a move-on, eh?
A cheese that surprised me with how much better it has gotten was the Meadow Creek Dairy Appalachian which took first place in the American Originals (original recipe made form cow milk) category:
I have always loved their Grayson, a raw milk Taleggio-style cheese, and I love that they are a pasture-based dairy from Virginia, but while I always thought the Appalaichian was good, this batch I tasted at the conference was fabulous. I always kind of lumped this in with the other American-made Alpine-style cheeses, but the Appalaichan proved itself to have some very unique flavors. Nutty, grassy, sweet, a little pungent. This is a big success!
How about some blues? I’ve written about a lot of the good ones in this category over the years so here are two that surprised me.
North Hendren Cooperative Dairy Black River Caraway Blue. All I can say is, I never thought of putting caraway in blue cheese but it was surprisingly good.
This was the biggest surprise though. My cheese buddy and fellow cheese judge Emi was judging the blues as I walked by and he said you have to try this. I looked at it and thought to myself, “Wow, that looks like the Blue cheese that Bravo Farms used to make years ago.” When I tasted it, I thought, “It tastes a lot like that cheese, but much creamier and with a much bigger blue flavor. Oh, how we need a high fat/high moisture blue in California… I wonder who makes this.”
During the awards ceremony, I couldn’t wait for the winner of the “Blue-veined made from cow’s milk with a rind or external coating” category to be announced, because whatever it was already on my list of cheeses to seek out after the conference.
What a shock when I found out it was the Bravo Bl’u!* Evidently they started making it again, although in such small quantities that it is not in distribution. Pretty!
*no, I don’t understand the apostrophe either
Ok, it’s been a couple of weeks and I’m still reviewing the ACS. It’s all good, right? I mean, what else do we have to write about in cheese land?
I’m going to first review a bunch of cheeses that I liked a lot but did not vote for in the Best of Show. Then I’ll discuss which ones I voted for and which ones won. You with me?
Ok, in the soft-ripened categories I had two favorites. I’m always so happy when I’m into a cheese that I’ve never tasted or seen before. It makes it so obvious that there are so many good cheeses in the country (and world) that I still have yet to try. It kinda gives you hope about everything, ya know? I had tasted neither of these before last month.
The first was in my judging category of “flavor-added, soft-ripened”.
Here’s the Appleton Creamery Camella from Maine:
Isn’t it pretty? I wish I had known about them when I visited Maine a few years ago, I would have loved to visit.
The other soft-ripened cheese I’d like to mention was the Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser Soeur Angele which won for “sheep and mixed milk”:
The Soeur Angele is a mix of goat and cow with added cream. Not a strong cheese, but a perfectly ripened and tasty wheel. Makes me hope I can go to Montreal for next year’s ACS and try all those Canadian cheeses we never get here.
Ok, Last of the non-cheeses…Another local winner was Jana McClelland who took 3rd for her salted butter. This is actually the butter I have in my fridge right now. The McClellands are a long-time North Bay dairy family and it’s exciting to seem them producing products under their own name. And the butter is awesome!
I have mentioned Sheana Davis’s Delice de la Vallee here many times, but this was the first time It was eligible to be in the ACS competition and, to no one’s surprise, it won its category (Fresh unripened mixed milk). Congrats Sheana!