Cheese News February 2013

2103OregonCheeseFestEvents & Festivals  The 9th Oregon Cheese Festival is coming on March 16, 2013. The Festival takes place in Central Point, Oregon at Rogue Creamery. General admission is $15 with an additional $5 fee for wine tasting; children under 12 can attend for free. If you'd like to make it a weekend, consider the Cheesemaker's Dinner on Friday March 15, which takes place at the Ashland Springs Hotel, featuring special guest Chester Hastings, chef, cheesemonger and author of The Cheesemonger's Kitchen: Celebrating Cheese in 75 Recipes. Tickets for the dinner, which are $95/person can be purchased here. Also on the topic of festivals, California Artisan Cheese Festival will be happening in Petaluma, California the very next weekend (that's March 22-24th, 2013). For industry types, the Sonoma Valley Cheese Conference will be held in Sonoma, California from Feb. 23-25 - more here. Cheese Club, Crowdsourced  Cyril's in Portland may be among the first cheese shops to try selling cheese via social media. As cheesemonger Sasha Davies explains, a wheel of cheese can be a prohibitively expensive purchase for a small cheese shop. She proposes solving that problem by developing what is in essence a subscription service, where those interested support that month's Kickstarter Campaign, then receive a share of the cheese wheel in return. Sign up for this month's cheese, a 2 year old L'Amuse Gouda, on the Kickstarter page here.

Washington Cheesemaker Seeking Funding  Willapa Hills Cheese Co. is in the midst of raising funds via Indiegogo - a growing trend in the cheese world that I wrote about previously here. They want to raise $75,000 for a variety of facility improvements and to develop a new aged cheese, Ewe Old Cow (gotta love that name). The deadline is March 3rd....see their page here and donate if you can.

More Nutrition in Milk and Cheese  A new study by Oregon State University showed that cows which were fed flaxseed as a part of their diet gave milk that was significantly lower in saturated fat and higher in omega 3s. Dairy products made from the milk, including cheese, were more nutritious as well. Perhaps we'll be seeing more on this in the future...

Cheese Videos Starring Steve Jones  Cheesemonger Steve Jones of Cheese Bar in Portland is featured in a series of cheese education videos on I haven't yet been able to uncover an index but if you start here you can access them, on topics ranging from cheese rinds to pairing advice.

Portland's Foster & Dobbs Changing Ownership

Portland's Foster & Dobbs, a lovely shop in the Irvington neighborhood that has become well known and loved for its extensive selection of cheeses, cured meats, wine and other goodies, is changing hands. Tim Wilson and Luan Schooler, who have owned and operated the shop for the past seven years, announced on their website and in an email today that they are selling the shop to customers Kevin & Leslie Chigbrow. Luan and Tim will be holding a farewell party this Saturday Sept. 29th from 4-6pm.

Seattle's Calf and Kid Cheese Shop Celebrates its 1st Anniversary this Weekend


The Calf and Kid Artisan Cheese ShopCongratulations to Sheri LaVigne, proprietress of The Calf and Kid in Seattle! This weekend (that's April 23rd and 24th, 2011) marks the first anniversary of the shop's opening. Keeping a retail shop open is hard anywhere in any economic climate and keeping a cheese shop open has to be even harder but Sheri has managed to capture the hearts and minds of Seattleites hungry for good cheese.

Stop by and congratulate Sheri and staff....especially on Saturday April 24th at 3pm, when Sheri will crack an 80-ish pound wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano. I've talked about the experience of watching the opening of one those babies here; it's one of those revelatory food moments that you'll never forget.

----> See my prior interview with Sheri LaVigne here.

Interview: Roger Bass of Madison Market in Seattle

photo of Roger Bass courtesy Madison Market


Madison Market is one of Seattle's great food stores. Located at the crest of Capitol Hill, its shiny and well-stocked store represents a dramatic evolution from the co-op's humble beginnings on 12th and Denny (where I was once a member!). I don't recall Central Co-op having a great cheese selection back in the 1980s, but that's all changed. Today at Madison Market you'll find one of the best selections of local cheese in Seattle. Cheesemonger Roger Bass is the mastermind behind all of those lovely, carefully cared for dairy gems and in honor of Madison Market's upcoming Cascadia Cheese Festival (see below) I took some time to chat with Roger about how and why he does what he does.

Cascadia Cheese Festival July 24th 11am-3pm Madison Market, 16th and Madison in Seattle Free!

On July 24th from 11-4pm, Roger and the crew will welcome cheesemakers from Willapa Hills Farmstead Cheese, Larkhaven Farm, Kurtwood Farms and others as well as sample cheeses from around the region. I will be there as well signing copies of my book, Artisan Cheese of the Pacific Northwest. Come sample, meet cheesemakers and immerse yourself in local cheese! And it's all free!

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Roger, you're originally from did growing up in the Cheese Heartland of the US influence your later career choice?

I grew up in Wisconsin at a time when you were more likely to find Velveeta or government cheddar in one's refrigerator. My dad would often take us ice fishing with a big thermos filled with a soup made from Velveeta, chicken stock and cauliflower. I remember loving it as a kid; I'm not sure how I'd react to such a concoction now. Oddly enough, my first experience selling cheese was for our yearly Boy Scout fund raiser.  There were three choices; Brick, Colby or Cheddar. Colby was my favorite and best seller.

Tell us how you became a cheesemonger. You started at DeLaurenti's in Seattle, is that right?

I stumbled upon cheese when I worked at DeLaurenti's 9 years ago and I haven't looked back. I loved working at DeLaurenti's, the selection of cheese they have is amazing. Being a fledgling foodie it was a big challenge to learn all of the cheeses they carried. Learning their names, pronunciation, milk type, flavor profiles and what they would pair with was challenging. Connie Rizzo, the cheese buyer, was a wealth of information and I bugged her constantly. I filled my head with as much stuff that would fit; working at DeLaurenti's was like a cheese university.

I've been at Central Co-op's Madison Market for 6 years. Here at the Co-op I got a crash course in clean, sustainable and local foods. It's pretty cool to work for a place that lets me follow my passions. For instance when I came up with the idea for the Cascadia Cheese Festival, the Co-op got behind me to make it a reality.

With so many great local cheeses out there, how do you choose which to feature and sell? What are some of your current favorites?

Right now one of my favorites is Dinah's Cheese from Kurtwood Farms; Kurt drops off his cheese every Wednesday and it's always in perfect shape. I have a huge crush on Pat Morford from Rivers Edge Chevre, her cheeses like Sunset Bay, Astraea and Cape Foulweather are great examples of how a talented she is. Not only do they taste amazing they are also gorgeous to look at. I just got Kelli Estrella's Brewleggio the other day and it made my knees weak. At room temperature it almost melted in my mouth. We are really lucky to live in the Northwest, the cheese being made here is some of the best examples of American artisan cheeses.

What sorts of cheeses do people like to buy at Central Co-op? Do you find that their consumption tends towards certain styles or types of cheeses?

We are a grocery store so most of the time people stop in to get the basics. I try to have the best quality Parmagiano Reggiano, Pecorino Romano, Gruyere, Swiss and Feta at the lowest prices on Capitol Hill.  More and more our customers are asking for local cheeses. I have fans of anything made from raw milk or from goat or sheep milk. There are the customers that are only looking for something new. Of course there are others that have their favorites that they pick up every week. It's a mixed bag really.

Our customers shop at Central Co-op because they believe in supporting local and sustainable agriculture. I try not to disappoint them by carrying as many NW cheeses as I can find.

What are the hardest and most fun parts of being a cheesemonger? I love to sell cheese. By far the best part of my job is getting someone excited about buying cheese. Buying cheese can be intimidating so I love to sample and tell the story.  Also, it feels really good when a customer will pull me aside to thank me for helping them with a selection of cheese I had help pick out. I also love turning vegans to non-vegans, I only have two vegan co-workers left to convert.

The hardest part of my job is selling soy "cheese," although I refuse it put it in the specialty cheese case. I still get customers asking about what soy "cheese" melts the best.

First Look: Calf & Kid in Seattle

Sheri LaVigne, Calf & Kid SeattleThis past weekend I had a chance to visit Seattle's newest cheese shop, Calf & Kid. It's located in the shiny new Melrose Market space on Capitol Hill, around the corner from Bauhaus Coffee on Pine St. Sheri LaVigne, proprietress and self described 'cheese vixen' has been open for business for just three weeks. While the road to opening a shop was not without its challenges (chronicled on her blog here), the realization of all of that hard work has been sweet. (See my prior interview with Sheri here). She's got a great selection of international and domestic cheeses that are certain to please a wide range of palates from cheese novices to experts - and the customers are already streaming in. Her collection also includes a depth chart of Northwest locals like Black Sheep Creamery, Tumalo Farms, Golden Glen Creamery and an especially impressive range of cheeses from tiny Gothberg Farms in Bow, WA. In addition to cheese, she's carrying marcona almonds, mustards, chocolates, bread from Macrina Bakery and other associated, equally tempting goodies.

Melrose Market is still in the construction phase, but look for more shops opening in the next few months. This space is exciting for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that it's an open market space where shoppers can browse and mingle amongst all of the vendor offerings (think a smaller scale Ferry Plaza in San Francisco). In addition to Calf & Kid, there's a few other shops already open, including Rain Shadow Meats and Marigold & Mint (a flower shop that's associated with an organic farm outside Seattle). Others coming soon: a wine bar, a sandwich spot and the newest incarnation of Sitka & Spruce, Matt Dillon's iconic restaurant, which will evolve here into a much bigger and splashier space than its previous spot on Eastlake.

Calf & Kid Seattle


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Calf & Kid 1531 Melrose Ave. Seattle, WA  98122


Tues - Sat  11am-7pm Sunday 12-6

Six Questions for Sheri LaVigne of The Calf & Kid in Seattle


After months and months of hard work and planning, Sheri LaVigne will be opening Seattle's newest cheese shop, The Calf and Kid, on April 23rd - that's just 10 days from now!  [update - now open!] She was kind enough to take a few minutes out of her frantically busy day to chat about her plans for the on.

So how did you get the idea to start a cheese shop -  and find the guts to actually go through with the idea?

My husband and I moved to Seattle from Brooklyn in 2005 and we really missed our neighborhood cheese shop, Bedford Cheese.  We attended the Seattle Cheese Festival in 2006 and I was astounded by all the amazing cheeses being produced in the Pacific Northwest.  I went home thinking - awesome, now we just have to find our cheese shop! - and I was pretty shocked to find that there weren't any stand alone cheese shops in the Capitol Hill area. It was later, over wine and about $100 worth of amazing cheese back in our old 'hood in Brooklyn that it really hit home how much I missed that quality of life element in our new city, Seattle, and I thought since no one else seems to be opening a cheese shop, why don't I make it happen?

I spent over a year mulling it over, researching small businesses and talking with cheesemongers around the country.  Once I made that decision the whole project started to take on a life of its own; it was clear that I had hit on something Seattle desperately needed and wanted. My investors are a true testament to this; I put out a call for funding once I finally got the big "no" from the SBA, and within two weeks I had 3 amazing people willing and ready to help me make my dream come true.

Besides cheese, what else do you plan to carry in the shop?

I'll be carrying fresh bread from Macrina Bakery and an assortment of typical cheese accompaniments like olives, gourmet crackers, jams, chocolate, etc.  I will also be selling some of my favorite books about cheese and Culture Magazine. Right next to me will be Homegrown Sandwiches (their second shop).  They will have a rotating sandwich featuring cheese from Calf & Kid.  On the other side of me will be a wine bar so I don't need to sell alcohol....It's wonderful to have these neighbors in the Marketplace because I can really concentrate on the cheese.

Given that Seattle is such a food town, why do you think there are so few cheese shops? We know people like cheese, so what's the deal?

I think it's a combination of a few things.  First off, a lot of people simply don't know what they're missing because dedicated cheese shops aren't prevalent in the city.  We know they love the cheese counters at shops like Metropolitan Market and DeLaurenti's, and those places have paved the way for me to present an experience that is similar to what they already know and love, but also so much more than what they are used to. Secondly, I think it's easy for people to be intimidated by cheese, but it's also very easy to alleviate that by offering a fun, easy-going atmosphere.  And nothing cuts the ice better than a delicious sample of good cheese!

Can you talk about your approach to selling cheese?

My approach is based entirely on my experience as a customer in my favorite cheese shops: I like shops that are friendly, casual, and very educational and I plan to give my customers that same experience.  I'm one of those kooky people who actually loves customer service - I get so jazzed when I talk about cheese, and that energy is very contagious.  Nothing makes me happier than watching someone's face light up when they taste an amazing cheese, and people love to hear the background information of where and how cheeses are made.  I want every person to walk away with cheese they are excited about and a great story to tell.

The Melrose development seems like a great location. What other shops/restaurants are going in around you?

The Melrose Market is really a group of amazing group of people.  Matt Dillon is moving Sitka & Spruce from Eastlake into a large restaurant space, and I could not be more excited about working with him.  Matt is also working with some other folks to open a raw oyster bar and wine bar, both of which will happen sometime in the summer. Marigold & Mint is currently open selling organic flowers and some fresh veggies as the season progresses.  Across from my space is Rain Shadow Meats, offering all local, sustainably raised fresh meat, and a selection of charcuterie.  The owner, Russ Flint, has built his own aging room right in the space with windows where you can look in to see the salamis and etc.  I am so happy to have him in the space.  And then there is Homegrown Sandwiches, as I mentioned earlier. We often joke that the only thing we need is a bakery and we're all set.

What are your three favorite cheeses of the moment + why?

Of course this changes pretty regularly, but right now I am in LOVE with Rivers Edge Chevre's Humbug Mountain, it is so sloppy and gooey and makes me shudder a little when I eat it. I am also loving L'ulivo, a sheep's milk cheese from Italy.  It's wrapped in olive leaves and is oddly shaped like a giant wad of gum, but it is delightfully creamy and aromatic.  And I can't get enough of Gothberg Farms fresh chevre - it's simple, light, sweet, and reminds me very much of the fresh chevre I grew up eating.

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Calf and Kid
1531 Melrose Ave.
Suite C2
Seattle, WA  98122

Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge by Gordon Edgar

Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge, Gordon EdgarFor many, the world of cheese seems an idealized place where happy dairy animals roam in perpetually verdant pastures and cheese is made, sold and eaten in lovely sunny settings that evoke European villages of yore. Or perhaps those ARE European villages of yore. And the belief seems to be that if you can find a way to get 'in' with that world, well, then you're set for life.

Fact is, for the most part the cheese industry is a subculture much like any other. Egos clash, businesses fall over one another to compete in the marketplace, cheesemongers sift their way through the good and bad cheeses of the world and customers berate workers with their infinite misguided notions. This, my friends, is the real world Gordon Edgar lets you in on in his book Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge. And I think the cheese industry is the better for his unretouched accounting....because ultimately utopia is more a state of mind than reality.

Edgar is not shy about relating how he got into cheese retail - on a bluff - but a cheesemonger's job description, a combination of serious technical knowledge along with people skills seems to suit him well. His self described punk/anarchist background lends a frank, unapologetic tone to this book, which is precisely its appeal - he's all about bringing cheese to the people. Edgar's forthrightness knocks Cheese (with a capital 'C') off of its pastoral pedestal and shows that it's actually something more complex, mysterious and messy - and thus MUCH more compelling than you may have ever thought.

Cheesemonger is part memoir, part day in the life, and part cheese primer. For geeks, there's plenty of in-depth discussions about cheese and dairy issues like raw milk and rGBH....but for the adventure-inclined, Edgar's also got juicy stories about maggoty brie, slimy distributors and customers using him as a facilitator of romance (among other things). I think the best part of this book, for me, is that Gordon Edgar clearly loves what he's doing and, in turn, loves to talk about it. That's the recipe for a riveting 'life on the wedge.'

Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge by Gordon Edgar Chelsea Green Publishing; 256 pages $17.95 paperback

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upcoming local signing events:

Gordon Edgar will be signing books at the Oregon Cheese Festival in Central Point, OR on March 20th and appearing at Reading Frenzy in Portland on Sunday March 21st at 7pm (free beer!). Also look for him at the Seattle Cheese Festival May 15-16th.

First Look: Cheese Bar

Cheese Bar Portland ORSteve Jones' latest venture, Cheese Bar, is open for business! After closing his well loved NW Portland shop, Steve's Cheese, just a few weeks ago, Steve is back at it in new and improved fashion. Cheese Bar is located at SE 61st and Belmont (map here) and still has all of the great cheese and food goodies you've come to expect from with the added plus of a cafe, including a selection of small plates such as sandwiches, soups and salads, charcuterie from Olympic Provisions and, perhaps most importantly, wine and beer (liquor license secured as of yesterday). The space is friendly and inviting and looks like it will be a great spot to enjoy small bites, cheese plates and beer in an unassuming, relaxing environment.

Cheese Bar Portland OR

update: Here's a review on new Portland blog Beer + Cheese -More on the concept behind Cheese Bar from The Oregonian here -review by Portland food blogger extramsg here

Cheese Bar 6031 SE Belmont Portland, Oregon 503-222-6014 open 10am - 11pm

Local Cheese in Port Angeles, WA at Renaissance

Renaissance Cheese Store Port Angeles WAWhether you're a resident of lovely Port Angeles, WA or traveling there sometime soon...maybe making a Twilight pilgrimage to Forks?....perhaps taking the ferry to Victoria?....whatever it is you're doing, take some time to stop at Renaissance, a multi-purpose center for massage and healing, tea and coffee, and most recently - artisan cheese. Proprietor Lynn Keenan and her staff have recently expanded their repertoire of cafe offerings at this intimate space to include a focused selection of artisan cheeses, all of which are produced within 100 miles of Port Angeles. And they couldn't have picked a better time, because the Olympic Peninsula is one of the fastest growing niches of artisan cheesemaking in the Pacific Northwest, sporting 5 artisan cheesemakers (see full list below).

"As the staff worked to grow the already existing tea bar into a 100-Mile Cafe (sourcing everything possible from within a 100-mile radius around Port Angeles) they looked for offerings that were tied to our rural environment," says Keenan.  "Cheese was a natural! And as it turned out, we are located right smack dab in the middle of a 100-mile cheese heaven." From the Olympic Peninsula to Seattle to the Skagit Valley, Renaissance is indeed in very good cheese company, and they're doing a great job bringing that cheese to you.

* * * * * * * Renaissance 401 Front St. Port Angeles, WA  98362 360-565-1199

Washington Cheesemakers on the Olympic Peninsula:

Mt. Townsend Creamery (Port Townsend), Wild Harvest Creamery (Chimacum), Whiskey Hill Farm (Port Townsend), Mystery Bay Farm (Nordland) and Fairaview Farm (Sequim)


Portland's Steve's Cheese to Evolve into Cheese Bar

Cheese Bar Portland ORSteve Jones has announced the the imminent opening of his new combination cheese shop, cafe and wine/beer hub. Cheese Bar represents the evolution of Steve's well known and loved NW Portland operation, Steve's Cheese, which will close next month. Look for an expanded selection of cheese, charcuterie and other goodies at the new place, along with a menu of small plates, sandwiches and salads of all types. In addition to his vast and wide cheese experience, Steve was a chef back in the day so you can expect his cafe to reflect the goodness we've come to expect from his shop.

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Cheese Bar - opening March 2010 6031 SE Belmont Portland, OR