Last week, I had the privilege of joining the California Artisan Cheese Guild at their annual trade day. It was a jam-packed day full of cheese tasting for industry folks. A lot of retailers and distributers were there to meet cheese makers, which was great. I was glad to see the cheesemakers share their stories with the people who work behind the scenes to bring consumers like you and me quality cheeses.
There was a food safety panel as well, since this is an issue that affects everyone, from the producer to the consumer. The panel provided helpful insight on what inspectors look for, what small producers can do to test their facilities for harmful bacteria, and what the industry can do to help all its members. I am a member of the regulatory affairs committee for the Guild, and am working on bringing myself up to speed on food safety regulations, so this was a great introduction. I’m going to be ramping up my participation in this field in the near future, so expect to see more on this topic later.
The tastings were copious. Here’s the rundown the cheese makers:
Shamrock Artisan Goat Cheese
Winters Cheese Co.
Délice de la Vallée
Laura Chenel’s Chèvre
Redwood Hill Farm
North Bay Curds and Whey
This was their time to shine for the industry audience, and shine they did! I am still drooling over Bohemian Creamery’s Cowabunga, a soft cow’s milk cheese inside which is nestled an incredible core of sweet, sweet cajeta. Estero Gold Reserve, a more aged version of the Asiago-influenced Estero Gold, from Valley Ford Cheese, was also excellent. Chimney Rock, a new cheese from Cowgirl Creamery featuring shiitake mushrooms, Pioppini mushrooms, black pepper, and savory, was delectable. I also couldn’t keep myself from having seconds of Red Hawk. The specimens that they brought were perfect. Délice de la Vallée, headed by Sheana Davis, offered a wonderful mixed-milk cheese aptly named Délice de la Vallée. Carol LeValley from Rustic Bakery offered some AMAZING pastries and lunch salads to the crowd. This woman really works wonders with her products. If it weren’t a cheese event, I would have gorged myself on her salads.
I think I tasted about 30 cheeses during the day, and that was without visiting a lot of my favorite makers. By the time the end-of-day tasting was revealed, featuring about 14 cheeses and six wines and beers, I was long past done.
All in all, it was a great day!
**The photo captioned with “Sacha Laurin of Winters Cheese after her tasty ricotta demo.” is courtesy of Sacha Laurin.