What's in a festival? If a festival is a celebration in honor of something - in this case, cheese - then between the local restaurant menus, the chef demos, the cooking classes and the kids' scavenger hunt the Seattle Cheese Festival was indeed a festive event. If you went and didn't have fun then maybe you didn't try hard enough. Yes, it was crowded, but it would be sad if they threw a festival and nobody came, wouldn't it? One of the great things about this year's festival was its depth... a variety of events for all levels of interest provided myriad entry points into the world of cheese. New this year were cooking class offerings (see Culinary Fool's recap of the Harvest Vine class here) opening a window into the mind of a chef working with cheese. And for the cheese obsessed, there were the cheese celebrities - Mother Noella Marcellino foremost among them - with Laura Werlin, Mateo Kehler, Giovanni Guffanti and Daphne Zepos not far behind. Even if all you wanted was taste a few different types of cheese, there was plenty of opportunity to do so at the cheese concourse.
Overall, I think the festival hit its stride this year. . . after a couple of years of experimentation with different types of events, booth placement schemes, etc., the SCF has arrived at a formula that seems to work. But, I wonder, where will the festival go from here? This implies another question - what do organizers, sponsors and attendees want out of the event? Does long term survival mean constant navel gazing and re-invention? Only time will tell, but I'm optimistic that the Seattle Cheese Festival will continue to deliver an engaging cheese themed experience to all comers.
In the meantime, let's examine some key festival moments this year:
Most Gracious Cheese Celebrity: Mother Noella Marcellino. Stepping from the cloistered environment at the Abbey of Regina Laudis into the media spotlight just days after the death of her father and the reaggravation of a back injury couldn't have been easy, but she handled it with patience and aplomb.
Best and Most Dramatic Cheese Debut: the recently released Beecher's Flagship Reserve was rolled in the streets as part of the Rolling of the Truckles, but was also offered for sale at Beecher's Handmade Cheese (not the same wheels, I would imagine). I was really impressed by this aged version of Beecher's Flagship. More on that later.
Overheard Comments: I always seem to overhear people making interesting, funny or odd comments at the SCF. Here's a bit of what I picked up this year ::::: A group of high schoolers, upon encountering the SCF: "Oh look, they're having a cheese festival!" Gleeful giggles all around. ::::: A couple, holding hands tensely and walking down the cheese concourse - She: "I'm sorry you're not having a good time. He: "Yeah, I"m sorry too." Cheese isn't going to provide any solace for this pair, I'm afraid.
King of the Truckles?: Kurt Dammeier won the first ever Rolling of the Truckles race - a hard fought affair between Kurt, Thierry Rautureau of Rover's Restaurant and members of Seattle's Granite Curling Club. Rolling truckles with cheese paddles resembling large spatulas proved to be difficult, particularly for members of the curling club, whose 'curling' style technique (sweeping the pavement ahead of their truckle as it rolled) backfired when their truckle reversed direction at one point and a team member bit the dust. Who knew things could get so rough? General chaos ensued.
(Didn't see the Rolling of the Truckles? View the YouTube video here)
Interesting cheesemaking fact: Cheese geeks will appreciate this fun fact: Mother Noella uses no cheese cultures in her cheesemaking process; all reactive agents naturally occur in her cheese room and/or in the wooden tub she uses for cheesemaking.
Most tireless and energetic: SCF volunteers, organizers and DeLaurenti employees devoted a HUGE amount of work into making the festival a great experience for everyone. Watching them made me appreciate what it takes to orchestrate an event of this magnitude.
Have your own version of festival highlights? Tell the world about them in the comments below....note also that you can view a few photos of the festival in the photo gallery by clicking in the upper left hand corner of this page.