Tuesday, September 7, 2010

ACS...Hit the Highlights

This little diddy recapping the cheesiest week of the year is much over due, but as they say, better late than never, eh?

As expected, my week in Seattle was jam-packed with cheese enlightenment, friends new & old, and good good times. I had the privilege of staying with my friend and Seattle resident cheesemongress, Sheri. (She & her hubby Morgan were first-rate hosts!) I was beyond pumped to see her in action in her beautiful shop, Calf & Kid, in the magical Melrose Market. Attention anyone in Seattle or passing through in the future: Go here. Pikes is worth a look, but this collection of thoughtful purveyors is a must see...and taste. Sheri stocks her case with an amazing selection of cheese from around the globe with a strong representation of local Washington beauties. Some favorites that I had never tasted were by Black Sheep Creamery, Gothberg Farms, Estrella Family Creamery, & Kurtwood Farms. Scrumptious.

Speeeeaking of Kurtwood Farms, Culture Magazine (yes, this is a cheese-centric publication) & Rogue Creamery just so happened to be throwing a little shin-dig to kick off the conference at this lovely farm in Vacharon, just outside of Seattle, to which Sheri scored an invite for herself & a cheese-loving guest (lucky me)! Kurt, of Kurtwood Farms (duh) hosted a beautiful farm house eat-fest highlighting some amazing cheeses, including his own, Dinah's Cheese. Kurt, former chef & cafe owner, moved out this plot of land in 1991 & has crafted this majestic farm since (the pic above is of the farmhouse kitchen & left is the milking barn). Dinah's Cheese, named after his first Jersey cow, is made from the milk of the four cows on farm & has been in high demand since it hit the market & commandeers the cover of the latest Culture Magazine (yes...a cheese-centric mag to which I am most certainly a subscriber) & a generous feature including a centerfold (oh la la). The party was amazing & chock full of cheese greats including Sue Connely, Janet Fletcher, Willi Lehner, and you could just feel the energy & soul of the American artisan cheese movement. Loved it & the pizza from the wood-fired oven. I know...I am a brat (by that I mean spoiled brat, not a German pork-sausage...that would be weird).

The actual conference started bright & early Thursday morning with sessions ranging from Health & Mental benefits (summary: it's good for you! Hooray!) of cheese to Cheese Shop Do's & Don'ts. While I could go on for days about the amount of exciting cheese info that I sponged over 3 days of seminars, highlights go to...

  • Ari Weinzweig of Zingerman's discussing their open book finance approach to reducing stress, motivating staff, & operating profitably (it helps). For any budding small business-makers out there, may I suggest, "A Stake in the Outcome: Building a Culture of Ownership for the Long-Term Success of Your Business" by Jack Stack & Bo Burlingham & "Managing By The Numbers: A Complete Guide To Understanding & Using Your Company's Financials" by Chuck Kremer. I know...perhaps you are snoring or thinking " I would rather stab my eye with a fondue fork," but if the success of Zingerman's is any indication...this stuff works, and it can be fun. Honest!

  • Herve Mons of Mons Formagerie & perhaps the best affineur in the biz, RaefHodgson of Neal's Yard (& also son of founder Randolph Hodgson), and Doug Earb of Landaff Creamery were on a panel discussing the affinage (aging) process of cheese...always one of my favorite topics! Listening to this panel talk about the process of bringing cheese from it's infancy to adolescence & finally adulthood really brings the process to life. Herve spoke of a "hospital" portion of his caves in France that pays special attention to cheeses in need..."and as with any hospital, you either come out better, or not." Slightly starstruck by Herve & his cheese fame, this session certainly earned highlight status.
  • Last on the highlight list is a tasting, but not a cheese tasting, a charcuterie tasting (cured pork & cheese are best friends...add beer, wine, & crackers and you have quite the wily crew). The panel included Armando Batali of Salumi (& father of Mario Batali...now I know where Mario gets his notorious fiery personality from), Paul Bertolli of Fra'Mani, and Herb Eckhouse of LaQuercia. Needless to say everything we tasted was out-of-this-world, and if you ever have the chance to nab a Mole Salame from Salumi...do what it takes to make it happen. It is heaven in your mouth. Curds of thanks to these guys for bringing class A quality charcuterie to the U S of A. You guys rock!

Seems like a very brief recap of a jam packed conference, and I promise to write more later about the festival of cheese (uh huh) & this years big award winners (hooray). To be honest, I have to finish packing for a trip that I am supposed to leave for in about 45 minutes. (yikes!) Yes, in just under an hour I will embark on a road trip (Ride350) up the coast with to Astoria, OR...and then ride my bike back to Cali (almost...Gold Beach) all with 7 lovely friends in the name of climate change. I have padded spandex. Wish me luck.

STILL working on the space situation, for those that are curious. I should have news soon (translation...before Oct 1). It has been a real nail biter of a situation!

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