More Book Signings and Events - 2014 Edition

Happy New Year! The cheese book blitz, such as it is, continues with dates listed below. I will update this as needed so once again, keep checking back for new information. In the meantime, there's been a few reviews and some press about the book - I'll list some of that below:

Whey Ahead: The History of Pacific Northwest Cheese by Rebekah Denn posted on the Seattle Times All You Can Eat blog

Book Review: Pacific Northwest Cheese: A History by Matt Spiegler of the blog Cheese Notes

Pacific Northwest Cheese: A History by Kirstin Jackson of the blog It's Not You, It's Brie (and incidentally, author of a book by the same name)

Also, the Seattle Times did a Q&A with me that was published recently, you can find it here.

And lastly, I've recently set up an author website, so check out when you get a chance!


Tuesday January 14th :: 7pm  University of Washington Bookstore  Seattle, Washington (U-District location)

Satuday February 15th :: 2pm   Powell's event at Pastaworks on SE Hawthorne Portland, Oregon in conjunction with Shannon Borg, author of The Green Vine: A Guide to West Coast Organic, Biodynamic and Sustainable Wine

Thursday February 27th :: 7pm  Auntie's Bookstore Spokane, Washington

Saturday March 8th :: 4pm   Village Books Bellingham, Washington

Saturday April 12th :: 2pm   Cannon Beach Library Cannon Beach, Oregon

Saturday April 19th :: 7pm  Rediscovered Books  Boise, Idaho

Sunday August 10th :: 2pm  Oregon Historical Society Second Sunday Series Portland Oregon

Wednesday November 12th :: Noon  Second Wednesday Lecture Series at the Washington State Historical Society  Tacoma, WA

Cheese & Beer by Janet Fletcher




Cheese & Beer by Janet Fletcher Andrews McNeel Publishers 128 pages $24.99 hardcover



Could there be a more perfect cheese book for summer? Just as we're busily contemplating which craft beer(s) to bring to our next outdoor party, along comes cheese expert Janet Fletcher with a new book, Cheese & Beer, that plants the seed of an intriguing idea: you might consider bringing some cheese along with your beer.

Some will ask -- cheese and beer? Really?  People often wonder why we bother with pairing cheese. Yes, cheese is fantastic just on its own, let's just get that out there. But something happens when you pair cheese with other things, particularly beverages like beer or wine. All three are products of the fermentation process and that affinity makes them particularly good partners. Here's how Fletcher describes what you'll get out of the pairing process:

When you serve a toasty Marzen that echoes the toffee aroma in aged Gouda, or find a triple-cream cheese that mellows the bitter, roasted notes of a stout, you treat yourselves and your guests to the experience. You also give the craft brewer and the artisanal cheesemaker their due by putting their wares in the best possible light.

Pairings take both cheese and beer to the next level, showing off subtleties and highlighting flavors that may not have been noticeable before. It's a bit of an art but not that hard, and ultimately the journey is the reward. And this book is a superb way to get yourself started.

In Cheese & Beer, Fletcher guides readers through the complex worlds of, you guessed it, both cheese and beer, outlining the finer points of ales vs. lagers and providing all sorts of information and suggestions for storing and serving beer and cheese. Fletcher's wealth of knowledge and experience shines throughout. A former chef and author or co-author of more than twenty cookbooks, she is perhaps best known in the cheese world as the force behind the San Francisco Chronicle's Cheese Course column. Her deep knowledge of food and flavor informs this book and the pairings; readers are in good hands here.

As you might expect, the heart of this book is in the pairing descriptions. Fletcher has put together a wide ranging guide to beer styles from pilsner to amber ales to stouts and everything inbetween. Each section offers a discussion of the beer style, some favorite brands made in that style, along with a list of cheeses she's selected as having a particular affinity for that beer. So for example ESBs, Fletcher says, pair best with fairly easygoing cheeses such as Cowgirl Creamery's Wagon Wheel or Montgomery's Cheddar from England. On the other hand, stronger and heartier stouts with malty flavors do well with nutty cheeses that complement the malt like Comté. With 23 beer categories covered (and various styles within categories), this book will keep you busy pairing beer and cheese for a very long time.

One more thing: if you find yourself really getting into the idea of pairing beer & cheese, think about expanding your repetoire to include cheeses made with beer - kind of the ultimate pairing, really. In the Pacific Northwest, that includes Pondhopper from Tumalo Farms washed in Deschutes Mirror Pond Ale and Chocolate Stout Cheddar from Rogue Creamery, a cheddar cheese made with Chocolate Stout from Rogue Ales. Then there's cheeses washed in beer -- Briar Rose Creamery's Lorelei comes to mind, a goat's milk cheese washed in Laurelwood IPA, as does Naughty Nellie, a cow's milk cheese from River Valley Ranch near Seattle and washed in Pike Brewing's ale of the same name. Really, there's no end to this whole beer and cheese thing once you get started. Is that bad?

Urban Cheesecraft Seeks Your DIY Videos

kit_deluxe_05-e1330111129754            Portland-based Urban Cheesecraft, purveyor of fabulous cheese making kits, needs your help! They're seeking your home produced instructional videos, which they'll use to help other aspiring cheese crafters to understand the ins and outs of the process. If your video is selected, Claudia Lucero will post your video in a tutorial section on her website and your wit and wisdom will help others learn to make cheese! As further incentive (beyond the fame and glory, that is), if your video is chosen, you will win a $20 credit in Urban Cheesecraft's Etsy shop.

You can submit videos and/or links to the Urban Cheesecraft contact page here. For more about Urban Cheesecraft, see my prior profile of owner and mastermind Claudia Lucero here.

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)

Interview: Kirstin Jackson, Author of It's Not You, It's Brie

refdp_image_0For several years, Kirstin Jackson has been captivating cheese interested readers with her witty and informative blog, It's Not You, It's Brie. Now she's unleashed her considerable talents in a longer format, and we have It's Not You, It's Brie: Unwrapping America's Unique Culture of Cheese- the book. Part travelogue, part tasting guide and part cheese encyclopedia, the book is a fabulous romp through the world of domestic cheese, with recipes for good measure. Like her blog, Jackson's book is smart, funny and irreverent all at once- in other words, totally absorbing. I'm thrilled to see an author stray from the worshipful, remote prose so common in books about cheese.... in It's Not You, It's Brie, Jackson brings the world of cheese and cheesemakers to to life, in all of their stinky, funky glory. Kirstin Jackson was kind enough to take a few minutes to chat about the book, how she got into cheese, and her take of the cheeses of the Pacific Northwest.

* * * * * * *

Right away in the introduction, it's clear that this is going to be a different kind of cheese book. What did you have in mind when you were writing? 

Well, thank you! I wanted to write a book that explored why domestic artisan cheese is the way it is -i.e. awesome- through exploring its styles, flavors, and cultural and historical influences in-depth, but also keep it lighthearted. It was important to me to avoid writing a book that was too serious or exclusive, because enjoying and learning more about our artisan cheese is within everyone's grasp. That said, another aim in writing this book was to thoroughly appease my inner cheese geek by asking TONS of questions of the 48 different cheesemakers profiled in the book, and to travel around the country eating pounds of cheese in the name of research. I also went with a publishing house and editor that let me have a lot of fun writing- I could be a little... less traditional with my descriptions.

Tell us a little about your background. You went to UC Berkeley (majoring in anthropology, I believe?) and culinary school. How did that evolution into food come about? And then how did you arrive at cheese?

Immediately after graduating high school I went to culinary school, cooked for three years in restaurant kitchens, and then decided that I wanted to return to school to to write about food. That inspiration struck when I picked up my first Saveur magazine in the late nineties, but working in kitchens didn't provide me with the time to do actually write. A couple years later I transferred to UC Berkeley, and yes, studied cultural anthropology and worked as an interviewer and transcriptionist in the Regional Oral History Food Program. After Cal, I worked in a cheese shop and started managing a wine bar and directing their cheese program. I went on to teach- at Solano Cellars, the Cheese School of 18 Reasons, Murray's and beyond.

My love of cheese likely spawned from two things- first, a firm foundation in artisanal fermented milk. My parents used to drive me around Northern California cheese country as a child and teenager, and I quickly realized that cheese was a very, very good thing (and an excellent way to get a fifteen year-old to sit for hours in a car with their parents with "minimal" complaints). Second, as a student of anthropology, I'm enamored with the stories- cultural, geographical, political, everything- behind cheese.

There are some killer recipes in this book - I mean, crisped rice treats with Mayor of Nye Beach cheese from Rivers Edge Chèvre? Awesome. (That's on page 175 if you're following along at home.) Would it be fair to say that cooking with cheese requires a different kind of understanding of cheese?

Glad you like them! And, does cooking require a different understanding cheese?Sometimes. It can be fantastic to consider a cheese's flavors, textures and nuances so one can arrive at a stunning final dish that highlights the cheese like in a sheep's milk ricotta-pine nut cheesecake, or those crisped rice treats. But sometimes it's just as lovely to simply grate or crumble a cheese into a bechamel sauce, bake it with noodles, and top it with breadcrumbs and call it a delicious day. It depends how involved you want to get.

Based on your cheese related travels and tasting experiences over the past few years, what's your take on the cheeses of the Pacific Northwest?

I love them! We get some like Mt. Townsend, Beecher's, and Rivers Edge in the Bay Area, but oh how I wish we could get more of the Dinah I wrote about in the book, or the tasty little numbers that never leave your farmer's markets. The land the animals get to hang out on isn't bad either. In other words, if it wasn't so rainy, I'd move there.

What do you think the future of domestic artisan cheese looks like? Or, to put it a different way, what will we be eating in 10 years? 

Hopefully more buffalo milk cheeses. Hopefully more funky, washed rind, stinky, adventurous cheeses and blues. Many more blues. But more importantly, I hope that in ten more years, we'll be eating much more artisan cheese, period, not just more of a certain style, that we'll embrace artisan cheese's breadth.

Obligatory question - what's next?

I'm not sure! I might make a brief trip out of the U.S. to refresh my look at domestic cheese. Play around. Sometimes it's hard to really see what's in your own backyard when your head and tummy is so saturated. It would be hard to leave our good stuff for a long time, but I might take a couple weeks and go eat raw milk cheese and pet foreign animals elsewhere.

Thank you for hosting me on your blog, Tami. I'm very flattered to be here!


It's Not You, It's Brie: Unwrapping America's Unique Culture of Cheese By Kirstin Jackson Illustrations by Summer Pierre Perigee Books   240 pages  $19.00  hardcover

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.