New Bandon Cheese Factory Opens May 8th, 2013

Face Rock logoNext Wednesday, May 8, 2013 the Bandon Chamber of Commerce will host a ribbon cutting ceremony marking the official debut of Face Rock Creamery in Bandon, Oregon. This is not the first cheese factory in Bandon. Many Oregonians and travelers along Highway 101 recall the old Bandon Creamery and its cheese curds fondly. But the former creamery (which had been open since the 1930s) struggled financially throughout the 1980s and 1990s, changed hands several times and even closed at one point. In 2000, the Tillamook County Creamery Association purchased the failing factory (see an article about the sale here). In 2002, Tillamook closed the creamery entirely and the facility was later demolished -- and those latter years are still a sore subject among Bandon devotees.

Now cheese is returning to Bandon, thanks to the efforts of developer Greg Drobot, Bandon city leaders and the Port of Bandon. At the helm of Face Rock Creamery will be cheesemaker Brad Sinko, who was the cheesemaker at Beecher's Handmade Cheese for a number of years before returning to his hometown. Brad's father Joe Sinko was one of the former owners of the Bandon Creamery, so it's fitting that son Brad will be at the helm as a new chapter of cheesemaking commences in this small town on the southern Oregon coast.

In fact, Sinko has been busy these past few months - he's already been making cheese at Rogue Creamery in Central Point Oregon, 160+ miles to the east, for several months. Face Rock Creamery cheese curds made their debut at the Oregon Cheese Festival this past March. Starting next week, devotees will finally be able to stop by the creamery in Bandon to get their cheese fix, just like the days of old.

Mt. Townsend Creamery at Pike Place Market in Seattle

Mt. Townsend Pike PlaceThis is not exactly new news - but I recently stopped by the Mt. Townsend Creamery shop at Pike Place Market in Seattle (it's been there for almost a year and a half now). The installation is an outpost of Washington's Mt. Townsend Creamery, which is based in Pt. Townsend, Washington about two hours to the north and west of Seattle. The cute shop is located at the heart of the market, right near Pike Place Fish (you probably know this as home to the fish-throwing guys). It's a great spot for sales, right in the midst of all of the hustle and bustle that is the market experience. As you might expect, you can purchase all of your favorite Mt. Townsend Creamery cheeses there including Seastack, Cirrus and Off Kilter (washed in Pike Brewing's Kilt Lifter Scotch Ale) as well as selected goodies like crackers and honey. When I was there, they were also featuring cheese samplers for $5.

The Mt. Townsend shop adds to what has become quite a respectable cheese presence at the market: Beecher's Handmade Cheese operates a busy urban creamery a block to the north, and there are several other cheese shops in the market, including DeLaurenti's and Quality Cheese. Though the Seattle Cheese Festival is no more, I'm happy to report that you can still find plenty of good cheese at Pike Place Market.

U. S. Championship Cheese Contest 2013 - Northwest Winners

Results have just been announced for the U. S. Cheese Championships, held semi-annually in Wisconsin. After scrolling through the list, I'd have to say that the story in this year's competition is the performance of Wisconsin cheesemakers, who took the Championship by storm, including the coveted Best in Show prize. Northwest cheesemakers did not show as well as they have in previous years (see, for example, the 2009 results, where Oregon's Tumalo Farms took runner up to Best in Show) though results depend in part on who enters from year to year. Best in Show

Holland's Family Cheese Thorp, Wisconsin Mature Gouda

**** You can find a complete list of results here. Thanks to the organizers for making the results a little more user friendly this year!

Tillamook County Creamery Association (Oregon)

Cheddar, Sharp (aged 6 mo to one year) 1st place – Yellow Sharp Cheddar

Cheddar, Aged 2 yrs or longer White Aged Cheddar (placed 1st and 2nd)

Marbled Curd Cheese 1st place – Colby Jack

Pepper Flavored Jack 3rd Place – Jalapeno Pepper Jack

Rogue Creamery (Oregon)

Smoked Soft and Semi Soft Cheeses 3rd place – Smokey Blue

Soft & Semi-Soft Mixed Milk Cheeses 1st place – Echo Mountain Blue

Glanbia Cheese Co. (Idaho) note: Glanbia is an industrial cheese plant located in Gooding, Idaho

Bandaged Cheddar, Mild to Medium 1st Place - Bandaged Cheddar

Monterey Jack 1st Place - Monterey Jack

Marbled Curd Cheese 2nd Place - Colby/Jack

Gouda, Flavored 3rd Place - Gouda, Olives and Garlic

Pepper Flavored Cheese 3rd Place - Red Habanero Gouda

Reduced Fat Hard Cheeses 1st Place - Reduced Fat Cheddar

Reduced Sodium Cheese 2nd place - Reduced Sodium Cheddar

The following regional artisans also placed in the top 10 in their class: Briar Rose Creamery (OR)  6th Place - Soft Goat's Milk Cheese (fresh chevre) and 5th Place - Semi-Soft Goat Cheese (feta); Jacobs Creamery (WA)  9th Place  Brie, Camembert and Other Surface Ripened Cheeses (Bloomy)

FDA Releases Soft-Ripened Cheese Risk Assessment

On Monday February 11th, the  FDA released its Draft Joint Quantitative Assessment of the Risk of Listeriosis From Soft Ripened Cheese Consumption in the US and Canada. (Download the full 175 page document here - scroll down to the category heading "listeria."). The document, jointly produced by the FDA and Health Canada, seeks to quantify the public health risk for listeria monocytogenes, a known bacterial pathogen that has been found to occur in a variety of food products including cheese. Listeria and soft ripened cheeses are the focus of the report, because 1) data shows listeria has been the most frequently occurring pathogen found in cheese and thus poses the most significant public health risk and 2) fresh and soft ripened cheeses are particularly susceptible to listeria contamination. According to the report, from 1986 to 2008 (a period of 22 years) there were 137 cheese recalls, 108 of which were listeria related. The incidence rate during the same period was similar in Canada.

Meanwhile, at the same time this report is being released, there is an ongoing listeriosis outbreak in Australia. At least 26 people have been sickened by eating soft-ripened cheese made by Jindi Cheese Co. Three people have died so far (more on the Australian outbreak here and here).

[update: I originally mentioned the Australia outbreak here a bit lazily, because it was/is happening at the same time as this FDA document was issued. But as Matt Briggs of Cheese Notes has since pointed out to me, the coincidence is not really the story here. Australia's raw milk laws are notoriously strict... and the cheese being blamed for the recent deaths was apparently made with pasteurized milk. It might also be worth noting that Jindi Cheese Co., the company whose cheeses have sparked the recall in Australia, is owned by France-based Lactalis. We're not talking about artisan-scale production in that particular case.]

The FDA/Health Canada Risk Assessment injects quantifiable data and statistical analysis into the ongoing broader cultural and industry discussion of the safety of raw milk cheeses. While I am far from qualified to weigh in on the value of the analysis, I think it's fair to say that overall the effort is a good thing. But the results of this risk assessment do not reflect well on raw milk soft ripened cheeses....the report estimates the risk of listeriosis from soft-ripened cheeses made with raw milk at as much as 160 times higher than that from soft-ripened cheese made with pasteurized milk.

At the end of the pre-release announcement (issued Friday Feb. 8th), the FDA offered the purpose for conducting the risk assessment exercise:

When finalized, FDA intends to use this risk assessment (which is limited to one pathogen in one type of cheese), along with other information and scientific assessments that more comprehensively consider the different pathogens that can be present in all types of cheeses made from raw milk, in its reevaluation of the existing 60-day aging requirements for cheeses made with raw milk (e.g., 21 CFR 133.182(a)).

It almost goes without saying that this document portends significant changes to the present regulatory scheme covering cheesemaking in the US. What those changes will eventually look like remains to be seen.

See the formal Federal Register announcement here, including instructions for submitting comments to the draft report. Comments must be received by April 29, 2013.

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 about.com. 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.

Seattle Cheese Festival Calls it Quits

Seattle Cheese FestivalThe Seattle Cheese Festival is no more. In an announcement posted on the festival website, Pat McCarthy of DeLaurenti's said "Over the last couple of years the Festival has become kind of like Yogi Berra’s quote 'Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded.' Attendance by cheese makers and distributors has fallen off sharply." Ironically, the Seattle Cheese Festival was in many ways a victim of its own success. While I can't think of any better place to hold a festival of any kind than at the Pike Place Market, the very popularity and accessibility of the Market proved to be the Festival's undoing. Literally thousands of people flocked to the Seattle Cheese Festival, turning the experience of attending into a harrowing experience of battling crowds rather than enjoying and/or learning about cheese. Few small local cheesemakers would even consider going to the festival . . . can you imagine sampling out your products for free to 35,000 people? In the end, even the big distributors like Peterson's and DPI that had come to dominate the festival started backing out.

I'm sorry to see the Seattle Cheese Festival go, but Washington's cheese enthusiasts still have something to look forward to:  the Washington Artisan Cheesemakers Festival, which is slated to hold its second annual event in October of 2013.

Cheese News November 2012

@@  Nancy Leson of the Seattle Times wrote a glowing piece recently about Meghan McKenna, cheesemaker at Washington's Mountain Lodge Farm. I recently visited the farm, tucked into the foothills of Mt. Rainier east of Tacoma, and I have to agree, this cheesemaker is one to watch! @@  Christine Hyatt has produced a series of outstanding videos about a number of Oregon's cheesemakers. Her latest covers Liz Alvis of Portland Creamery (see here).

@@ Now open in Portland - Clay Pigeon Winery and its associated wine bar, Cyril's at Clay Pigeon. This project is the brainchild of Sasha Davies and Michael Claypool; Sasha is well known in cheese circles as an expert cheesemonger and author of The Guide to West Coast Cheese and the new The Cheesemaker's Apprentice: An Insider's Guide to the Art and Craft of Homemade Artisan Cheese, among many other things. Michael and Sasha's Cheese by Hand project chronicled their 2006 trip across the country visiting dozens of artisan cheese makers.

@@  Bandon, Oregon used to be famous for its cheese factory. The factory struggled financially though, and in 2002 the Tillamook County Creamery Association purchased the factory, later closing it. Now plans are underway to revive the legacy of cheesemaking on the southern Oregon coast - Face Rock Creamery hopes to be open by Summer 2013.

@@  It's what they call "Cyber Monday," and don't forget that you can also order cheese online as well as iPads and Xboxes... A number of the Pacific Northwest's cheesemakers offer online ordering, including Rogue Creamery, Mt. Townsend CreameryBeecher's Handmade Cheese, Tumalo Farms, and Willapa Hills Farmstead Cheese. You can also order cheese online from Oregon State University (the new Beaver Classic) and Washington State University (Cougar Gold plus several other styles). Other cheesemakers, including Little Brown Farm on Whidbey Island in Washington and Briar Rose Creamery in Oregon's wine country, host on-farm stores if you're in their area. Don't forget local cheese for the holidays!

@@  Speaking of Beecher's Handmade Cheese, word is that they're producing a new cow's milk cheese at the New York plant called Dutch Hollow Dulcet. I guess we can't really consider this a new Northwest cheese, since it's made from New York milk in a New York facility...can we?

Registration Open for 2013 WSU Cheesemaking Short Courses

I've said this before but it's worth saying again - If you’re interested in learning more about the ins and outs of how cheese is made – and especially if you have an idea that you’d like to start making and selling cheese – Washington State University is the place to go. I especially recommend the Basic Cheesemaking Short Course for beginners…more than just an average how-to, this course demonstrates the intricate complexities of the cheesemaking process. Many, many current professional artisan cheesemakers in the Pacific Northwest have taken a WSU courses at one point in their cheese careers.

Basic Plus Cheesemaking  February 19-21, 2013 in Chehalis, WA

Intended as a beginning course for those interested in making and selling cheese; serious hobbyists are welcome as well. Includes lots of hands-on activities as well as tours of local cheese plants. Cost is $529, additional charge if you register after Feb. 5th.

Advanced Cheesemaking  March 5-7, 2013 in Pullman, WA

Designed for experienced cheesemakers, managers and/or plant supervisors. Instruction provided by leaders in cheesemaking and dairy community. Includes hands-on cheesemaking at WSU Creamery. Cost is $739, additional charge if you register after Feb. 5th.

Pasteurization Workshop  April 3-4th, 2013 in Pullman, WA

Covers vat and basic HTST pasteurization systems, with additional discussion on other types of systems. Designed for plant operators, suppliers and those who supply milk to the industry; includes hands-on instruction at WSU Creamery. Cost is $289, additional charge if you register after March 3rd.

For more information and to register online see the website here, or contact Cathy Blood at blood@wsu.edu.

Oregon State University Debuts Beaver Classic Cheese

The Oregon State University Creamery is up and running again, and making cheese! After an over forty year hiatus, Oregon State University released a new cheese in September. Dubbed Beaver Classic, the cheese is a rich, nutty, alpine style cheese resembling Comte or Gruyere. Best of all, Beaver Classic is now available for purchase. If you're in the Corvallis area, you can stop by Weigand Hall on Fridays from 11am to 1pm and purchase the cheese. Beaver Classic is also available at home football games (see schedule here) and word is that fresh cheese curds are available at games as well. Those of us outside the area can also buy Beaver Classic online here. Stay tuned for additional styles and flavors of cheese from the creamery.

Oregon State University is the second regional university currently making cheese - you may already be familiar with Washington State University Creamery in Pullman, Washington, famous for its Cougar Gold cheese packaged in cans. OSU Creamery operated on the Corvallis campus for many decades but closed in 1969. Food Science Professor Lisbeth Goddik has revived the creamery in recent years and it now serves as a teaching facility for Food Science Program students as well as an incubator for prospective cheesemakers looking for space to test recipes and techniques. Marc Bates, industry consultant and former creamery manager at Washington State University, is also part of the new OSU creamery management team.

Kickstarting Artisan Cheese

Now trending in the world of artisan cheese: Kickstarter. That is, the social media funding platform that allows entrepreneurs of all kinds to fundraise by tapping into the wallets of essentially anyone on the internet. There are actually a number of these funding websites (Indiegogo, etc) but the premise is simple - they allow you to raise money by tapping into the power of social networking. Dozens, even hundreds or thousands of people give amounts as small as $10 or $20 and it all adds up to funding for your project. This method has risen to prominence in recent years as independent people without easy access to venture capital or other big pots of money look for ways to fund their ideas. And for many, it has worked: the creators of the Pebble E-Paper Watch raised an astounding $10,000,000 on Kickstarter to support the development of their product. In the food world, a number of cheese-based businesses have successfully attracted funds using this method, for example, Portland's Cheese and Crack Food Cart and Mission Cheese in San Francisco.

Artisan cheesemakers are just starting to take advantage of this trend. Vicky Brown of Little Brown Farm on Whidbey Island in Washington recently raised over $20,000 to add a cheese cave and a space where she can hold classes. Hawaii's Naked Cow Dairy successfully raised $18,000 to start a cheesemaking operation on their dairy farm on the island of Oahu. Others, it must be said, have tried and failed (see here and here).

Cheesemakers who choose to attempt raising money this way seem to be doing it a little differently than your average tech entrepreneur. Most of the time the cheesemakers using Kickstarter, et. al. already have a customer base and are known on some level in their communities or regions. Thus, they presumably have a ready source of supporters who are already interested in supporting local farmers. Rather than dazzling you with a shiny new toy like the tech guys, they are essentially sending a message that says - support local food, local farms and help us grow.

This type of social media funding holds great potential for entrepreneurs of all kinds, including cheesemakers as well as cheesemongers and other types of food purveyors and chefs. Still, there can be pitfalls. The latest buzz about social media funding (see, for example, this article) asks the question - what happens when a recipient of Kickstarter funds doesn't do what they said they were going to do with their money, or despite their efforts, the idea fails? Those who use the platform to tap into a pool of supporters can easily alienate those supporters. This could create a difficult situation for a cheesemaker that relies on community support to sell their products.

It will be interesting to see how -and if - this trend continues to develop within the artisan cheese world in the next year or so. Stay tuned!

Feeling in the mood? Here are two cheesemakers on Kickstarter RIGHT NOW who could use your help!

Bonnyclabber Cheese Co.  Pine Top, VA  (update: did not succeed in raising desired funds) Marfa Maid Dairy   Marfa, TX  (update: success!)