I was in Nashville last weekend for the Southern Artisan Cheese Fest. Combined with my trip to Raleigh, NC for the American Cheese Society Conference, it just solidified my view that the South is one of the most exciting regions for new cheese in the country right now.
I’ve mentioned some Southern cheeses before… while judging this year I gave the Sequatchie Cove Dancing Fern my vote for Best of Show, I wrote about Sweet Grass in my book… but overall there was just a tremendous amount of good cheese. Many of these are too small production to even think about trying to get in SF, but you Southerners should take heart. You can add cheese to your local food culture along with biscuits, grits and sorghum.*
Besides those cheesemakers, there were so many more: Prodigal Farm, Caromont Farms, Homestead Heritage, Nature’s Harmony, Goat Lady Dairy, Looking Glass Creamery, and Noble Springs Dairy all stood out in my mind and I know that I am forgetting half the cheeses I tasted. It was a long day and I actually didn’t even get a chance to hit the booths until everyone was packing up. Don’t be mad if I left you off, just make a comment that you were there. Is there a master list of cheesemaker attendees somewhere?
And special mention to Bonnyclabber Cheese Co. for 1. Having totally unique cheese (raw milk acid-coagulated and pasteurized yogurt-coagulated)and 2. Introducing me to Sandor Ellix Katz whose books I’ve read and who shares my publisher but whom I had never gotten a chance to meet.
I did a little reading for the makers, mongers, and VIPs the night before the Fest and then sold books and did a class during the Fest. I also acted as the unofficial greeter in my position next to the paper plates in the first bank of tables. See:
I, of course, forgot to take pictures of any of the cheeses. Duh. I am such a blogger circa 2002. Sorry.**
Anyways, I thought the Fest was great, especially for an event of this magnitude in only its second year. No lines for the beer and wine(!!!), some lines for the food, but really only for some parts of the Fest. And, bottom line, it was awesome because the cheese and the other food was great. Kathleen, of the Bloomy Rind, did an awesome job as well as all the other volunteers.
The funniest thing? The event was in a space usually used for a flea market but Kathleen had rented it for the day for the Fest. About a half hour before SACF started someone came up to us, looked around, and asked, “Where are all the poor people who are usually here?” “They’ll be back tomorrow,” someone answered. Not everyone loves a Cheese Fest.
And hey, did you guys know Nashville has a Parthenon? Yeah, no joke. They even built it, they didn’t just steal it from Greece like some other countries I could mention. Of course the only people who didn’t mock me for going to see it were the senior citizens.
*I love the sorghum options at so many of the restaurants. Mostly because Laurie is from a long line of Texas sorghum farmers and makes at least $20 a year from the one that she owns a share in. I’m all for sorghum becoming hip and expensive! Help a small (absentee) farmer out!