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ACS 2010 Conference

The Space Needle in Cheese

So, who is ACS and what is this conference? The American Cheese Society claims membership across the U.S., Canada and parts of South America. It’s an organizing body that helps the membership stay on top of trends, studies and industry changes. The conference is an annual event that brings together retailers, cheese makers, farmers, distributors, food scientists and more. The conference has a few events and presents topics of interest to these people. On our tour from Portland to Seattle, we had a few cheese enthusiasts. As an enthusiast, the conference is not really geared towards you. However, the topics are fascinating and with my volunteering hours, I was able to make it to a few seminars. I focused on the two topics that were of interest to me most: business and science. Here’s what I attended:

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Three Washington Creameries

Baaaaa!

To kick off the 2010 American Cheese Society conference, there were three tours originating from points a few hours away from Seattle and visiting various creameries and retail stores along the way. After the Portland Wedge Cheese Festival last year, I got roped into volunteered to help lead the Portland to Seattle tour which left the morning before the festival, arriving in time for the opening keynote address that evening.

Our itinerary had us starting early in the morning in downtown Portland, visiting the Hollywood Whole Foods for snacks and then heading up to three Washington state creameries on the way to Seattle. We picked up cheese along the way and on the last leg, had a cheese tasting with wine and beer on the bus! My partner in crime, Bill Stephenson from DPI Northwest, was very adept at cutting the cheese at the front of the bus as I wandered the aisles with wine and some of the finest Oregon craft beer (graciously donated by the Oregon Brewer’s Guild).

We all had a lot of fun and only lost a little cheese when the bus braked hard and Bill’s cutting board went flying. For my part, I only spilled a little wine and beer on one poor guy who was very good-natured (and luckily wearing navy blue pants!). Here’s just a little wrap-up about the creameries we visited.

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Cheese Festival Wrap-up

Ig Vella

Ig Vella keeps an eye on the creamery!

Another year, another visit to Central Point, Oregon, for the Oregon Cheese Guild’s annual cheese festival which coincided with the 75th anniversary of the Rogue Creamery. The tent this year was much bigger and better which seemed to keep the 4,000 cheese lovers from becoming a crush. Like last year, there were all kinds of vendors in addition to cheese: a number of wineries, meats, bread makers, jams, chocolate, beer, soda and tea. There is definitely something for everyone there and I really liked the array of vendors. The festival does a great job of highlighting food purveyors in the Applegate and Rogue Valley — stuff that I don’t see up in Portland. The wine in Southern Oregon is quite good — it’s drier and sunnier down there and you can taste the difference in the kind of grapes they’re producing.

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Oregon Cheese Festival This Weekend!

Creamery Signage

This will be the second year FUCheese travels down to Central Point for the Oregon Cheese Guild Cheese Festival hosted by Rogue Creamery. This year, we’re going to try to hold back a little bit and not eat the whole thing! We’ll be staying in Ashland so if you have any “don’t miss” restaurants or things to see, please comment! I’m hoping to attend more of the workshops this year and am looking forward to meeting Gordon Edgar and getting a signed copy of his memoir, Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge. Tami Parr wrote up an excellent review of his book and I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

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Support Oregon Food Bank Today!

Here in the Northwest we are blessed to have many different sources for good, local, healthy food; it’s literally right out our front door. Though the bounty may be near, for many it is simply out of reach. Given our current terrible recession and the stress it has placed on resources, more and more people are finding it difficult to cover the necessities of life including food. Record numbers have been turning to the Oregon Food Bank and this well-run organization is doing its best to meet the demand. I know there are a lot of organizations who need funds right now but if you can spare a little, please help this local organization meet the needs in your community today.

This is the second annual Blog For Food Oregon Food Drive supported by local food bloggers to get the word out. It runs from February 15th to March 15th. To participate in this food drive, go to the Oregon Food Bank donation page and donate any amount that you are able. Please include “Blog for Food” in the “In Honor Of” section.

If you are a blogger interested in participating go to Pacific Northwest Cheese Project for more info.

Thank you!

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2009, the Year of Festivals

What a year. What a jerk of a year. I think every year finds people sorting it into a winning year or a losing year. I have a lot to be grateful and thankful for here at the start of 2010 (Twenty-ten! The future!) but there were parts of 2009 which were terribly trying. The bright spots, for me, revolved around cheese and for that I can’t complain.

Cheese Plate

Boerenkaas from Willamette Valley Cheese Co, a 2009 favorite

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The 2009 Wedge Cheesefest in Review

Wedge Logo

Despite the grand title, this will be a short post.

I was extremely privileged to wrangle a spot on the organizing committee for the ’09 Wedge Cheese Festival — Nicole and I were co-coordinators of the volunteers and site. We had a good group of over thirty volunteers throughout the day and they were all rockstars. Seriously. Everyone worked so hard and I think it was a lot of fun, too.

We had nearly 30 vendors from all around the Pacific Northwest. There were close to 10,000 visitors to the festival and we took in four barrels of food donations for the Oregon Food Bank. From what I could tell, people were really amazed and blown away by all the wonderful cheese. Our site at the Green Dragon Pub worked out great and the bar did a huge amount of business selling beer and grub. You can see a bunch of photos from the event on the Flickr group site — if you took pictures at the event, become a member of that group and submit your Wedge ’09 photos today!

All in all, a big success and I’m so proud to have been a part of it. Looking forward to the next one!

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Claudia Lucero & Urban Cheesecraft

I was at Foster & Dobbs three times this week. I may have a problem. Last night they were having a meeting of the occasional DIY Cheesemakers group with a demonstration by Claudia from Urban Cheesecraft. She has started her own line of cheesemaking kits with products all sourced on the west coast. The whole kickoff for the FUCheese cheesemaking adventure was the Ricki Carroll mozzarella kit that Nicole got for Christmas two years ago. Ricki Carroll has great products but her supplies are in New England so you have to order and wait. It’s great to have a local option and Claudia’s kits are super adorable!

mozzarellaKit

Claudia did a mozzarella demonstration for us and she was absolutely charming and very clear. She has a great, relaxed attitude about cheesemaking — you can’t mess it up! While cheesemaking is a science it is very often an inexact science so it helps to have a cheerful can-do attitude for when things go a bit sideways. I picked up some great tips from her and look forward to sharing them when Nicole and I do our own mozzarella demo for some friends next month — eek!

Claudia is planning to be at the Wedge Festival (be there!) with her kits and may also do a ricotta demonstration on the main stage. Kits are such a great way to jump in to cheesemaking, I highly recommend picking one up. You can find out on her website which stores in Oregon are selling them or order from her etsy shop. They would make such great gifts!

Also, if you want to get notified when Foster & Dobbs do their next DIY cheesemakers meeting or to hear about any of their other many events, sign up for their mailing list!

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Portland Cheese Festival!!! Yes!

Wedge Logo

I think a cheese festival is second only to a puppy festival in terms of how awesome it would be to have one. Sadly, there is no puppy festival this year. Only a cheese festival! Hooray!

Mark your calendar for Saturday, October 3, 2009. The Wedge Cheese Festival will be held at the Green Dragon Pub on SE 9th and Belmont. The whole street will be closed and cheesemakers from around the Northwest — Oregon, Washington, Idaho & California — will be there. This is a great chance to sample and buy cheeses that are the best in the region and some that are impossible to get anywhere else!

More info can be found at the official Wedge PDX site. I cannot wait!

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Congratulations, Rogue Creamery!

Creamery Signage

Rogue Creamery just took top prize at the Amercian Cheese Society annual conference with their Rogue River Blue. Back in March, we got to sample this wild cheese at the Cheese Guild Cheese Festival. It’s a smokey, figgy cheese wrapped in grape leaves which have been soaked in pear brandy. Truly unique in the world of cheese and definitely special for Oregon.

Tom Vorhees from the Rogue Creamery and Steve Jones of Steve’s Cheese also won the cheesemongering competition. I’m not at all surprised there as Steve has one of the best cheese cases around and is so knowledgeable and approachable that they couldn’t help but win. You can read more about the competition over at the Pacific Northwest Cheese Project.

Congratulations to everyone! I think I’m going to have to start putting aside my pennies so I can attend next year. If nothing else, just to see the festival cheese room would be worth it.

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