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!