American Cheese Society Competition 2012 :: Northwest Winners

Beecher's Handmade Cheese of Seattle took the top prize in this years American Cheese Society Competition with its lovely Flagsheep cheese! (note: that's not Flagship, the other cheese Beecher's is known for). Flagsheep - photo on the left - is a mixed milk cheese made from cow and sheep's milk and has a lovely, rich buttery flavor. Congratulations to Kurt Dammeier and the crew at Beecher's on the win! It's also worth noting that this is the 3rd time in four years that a cheese from the Pacific Northwest has taken Best in Show at the competition - Rogue Creamery won in both 2009 and 2011 for its Rogue River Blue. Find the complete list of winners here.

Best in Show:   Beecher's Handmade Cheese - Flagsheep (WA)

2nd runner up - Valley Shepherd Crema de Blue  (NJ)

3rd runner up -  Emmi Roth Grand Cru Surchoix (WI)

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Beecher's Handmade Cheese (WA)

1st Place - Cheddar Flavored with Peppers - Marco Polo Reserve 1st Place - Original Recipe (sheep's milk or mixed milk) - Flagsheep 3rd Place - Cheddar with Sweet Flavorings - Yule Kase

Black Sheep Creamery (WA)

1st place - Open Category Aged Over 60 days (w/ sheep's milk) - St. Helens

Briar Rose Creamery (OR)

3rd Place - Fresh Goat's Milk Cheese (flavor added) - Chocolate Chèvre Truffles

Mt. Townsend Creamery (WA)

1st Place - Monterey Jack (cow's milk) - New Moon

Mystery Bay Farm (WA)

2nd Place - Fresh Goat Cheese - Fresh chèvre

Ochoa's Queseria (OR)

3rd place - Fresh Cheeses (all milks) - Don Froylan Queso Oaxaca

Rivers Edge Chévre (OR)

3rd Place - Original Recipe (goat's milk) - Beltane 3rd Place - Farmstead Category/Soft (all milks) - Siltcoos

Rogue Creamery (OR)

2nd Place - Blue Veined Cheese with External Rind (cow's milk) - Flora Nelle 1st Place - Rindless Blue Veined (cow's milk) - Oregon Blue

Tillamook County Creamery Association (OR)

1st Place - Colby (cow's milk) 3rd Place - Mature Cheddar Aged Between 24-48 mo. 3rd Place - Flavored Montery Jacks - Hot Habanero Jack 2nd Place - Unsalted Butter (cow's milk)

Willamette Valley Cheese Co. (OR)

3rd Place - Dutch Style (all milks) - Farmstead Gouda 3rd Place - Open Category Aged Over 60 days (with sheep's milk) - Perrydale

Willapa Hills Farmstead Cheese (WA)

1st Place - Blue Veined Cheese with External Rind (cow's milk) - Big Boy Blue

[photo courtesy Beecher's Handmade Cheese]

ACS Public Cheese Sale Sunday 11am-2pm Palace Ballroom Seattle

OK, so you've coveted the cheeses, now purchase them. CHEAP!

If you've wondered what they do with all of the thousands of pounds of cheese that's floating around during the American Cheese Society Conference - well, here's your answer. The American Cheese Society will hold its annual Public Cheese Sale this Sunday from 11am-2pm at the Palace Ballroom in Seattle.

This is a killer sale and a fabulous opportunity to purchase cheese from small producers that you will never see again in the Northwest. For cheap - $5/piece - and that is a total steal for rare gems from all parts of the country that are normally $20-30/lb. I'm serious, this is like the cheese flea market of your dreams, the "Running of the Brides" of the cheese industry. All I can say is - get there early and come with $$. Cash is preferred.

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ACS Public Cheese Sale
Palace Ballroom
11am-2pm  August 29th, 2010

Upcoming Cheese Events July/August 2010

Portland Oregon Cheese Events Tonight (July 20th):

Rogue Ales in Portland welcomes esteemed beer writer Fred Eckhardt for his 19th Annual Beer and Cheese pairing and tasting event. Starts at 5:00pm at the Flanders pub; tickets are $30 in advance, $35 at the door. Call ahead to reserve: 503-222-5910.

Two great events this Saturday July 24th:

Cascadia Cheese Festival at Madison Market in Seattle. From 11-3pm, stop by and visit cheesemakers from Kurtwood Farms, Larkhaven Farm, Willapa Hills Farmstead Cheese and more! Try lots of new and different cheeses and enter to win two tickets to the American Cheese Society's signature event - the Festival of Cheese on August 28th (a $70 value!).

Also this Saturday, Tumalo Farms in Bend, OR will be holding an open house. From 11am-4pm, you can visit the farm, take farm tours and taste a range of great cheeses including the brand new Jewel, a bloomy rinded cheese. Sign up on the website for a $10 guided tasting including small plates using the farm's cheeses, paired with local wines and beers.

And a little foreshadowing of things to come in August:

Don't miss the third Canadian Cheese Rolling Festival in Whistler, BC on August 14th....also coming up soon is the American Cheese Society Conference August 25th-28th in Seattle!

New Year's Resolutions 2010

New Year's Resolutions about Cheese Feeling chagrined that you're still a little bit of a cheese novice? So it's your New Year's resolution to learn more about cheese? Here are a few suggestions to jump start the new decade:

1. Read Cheese Books While you are, of course, welcome to peruse my book about Pacific Northwest cheese, I'd suggest that you first take a look at a couple of really great, comprehensive books about cheese: Mastering Cheese by Max McCalman and Laura Werlin's Cheese Essentials by Laura Werlin. Both books are exceptional guides to cheese basics, covering all sorts of facts about styles of cheese, cheese producers and such. Armed with the information in either of these books, you will be well on your way to becoming a cheese knowledgeable person. Never again will you feel overwhelmed when approaching a cheese counter, never again will you just pick up the pasty French Brie from the refrigerated case because you are too afraid to ask about the luscious looking blue cheese behind the counter. It's time to move onward and upward!

2. Buy/Eat Cheese The cheese world is wide and huge and the sheer numbers of cheeses and volumes of information written about them can be a little bit daunting. But really, learning about and understanding cheese is just a matter of starting somewhere. Start eating cheese and keeping notes about your impressions on your iphone or in a notebook so you can remember which types and styles you liked and didn't like. Try cheese at different times of the year and note the differences. Try styles you're unfamiliar with or feel squeamish about. Talk to cheesemongers about what they like and why. Engage yourself and your palate....seriously, it's not going to happen any other way.

3. Keep Up With the Cheese World Many farmers and creameries have web sites - be they local, national or international producers - on which you can find out all sorts of information about the farm, the people and the cheese. Add yourself to the mailing lists of farmers, cheesemakers, local cheese shops, wineries and restaurants that are friends of cheese and pay attention to upcoming events, open houses and the like. Many cheese shops and retailers offer classes, which you will learn about because you are on their mailing lists. Go go go!

4. Cheese Events! In the Pacific Northwest, we are fortunate to be hosting the American Cheese Society conference in Seattle on August 25-28th. If ever there was a time to immerse yourself in all things cheese, this is it! Producers and retailers will be coming from all over the country to this event so look for lots going on all around Seattle and environs. Also coming up in 2010 is the Oregon Cheese Festival in Central Point, Oregon (March 20th) and the Seattle Cheese Festival (May 15-16th).

Follow these simple steps and at this time next year, you will have earned the right to be self satisfied about your newfound cheese knowledge. Better yet, you will be well on your way to becoming a cheese aficionado. Now -- go!

Team Oregon Takes Top Cheesemonger Award

Cheese Merchandising Contest, American Cheese Society Steve Jones (left) and Tom Van Voorhees

Chefs have Top Chef and Iron Chef. Fashion designers have Project Runway. This event was something like those competitions, but for cheesemongers - those skilled, knowledgeable folks behind the counter at your favorite cheese shop. At the first annual Cheese Merchandising contest at last week's American Cheese Society conference in Austin, Texas, Team Oregon prevailed over three other teams with accomplished cheesemongers Steve Jones of the venerable Steve's Cheese in Portland and Tom Van Voorhees of Rogue Creamery (and a veteran of Murray's in New York) leading the way.

Modeled after Caseus (held annually in Italy with teams from all over the world competing), the match consisted of several segments. First, competing teams were asked to set up a cheese case from scratch. Judges reviewed and scored each display based on several criteria, including aesthetic appeal. Next, one team member was judged on cutting and wrapping technique while the other was judged on sales technique, with judges posing demanding real world hypotheticals like, "What cheese should I get for my dinner party?" and "I'm double parked, I"m double parked!" - a heckling that required the cheesemonger to keep his/her cool in addition to showing an impressive depth and breadth of cheese knowledge. No mean feat.

Finally, teams were asked to represent a specific cheese to the judging panel. Team Oregon riffed on Rivers Edge Sunset Bay to a world class group of judges including cheese professionals Ray Bair, proprietor of Cheese Plus in San Francisco, food and cheese writer Janet Fletcher and French affineur Herve Mons.

Now back to reality and his own shop, Steve Jones is still a little giddy from the adventure. While he's thrilled to have won, he says the experience was tough. "The only other time I've ever been that nervous was when my wife gave birth," he says. Though it was a demanding test of skill and perseverance, Steve and Tom prevailed to the end, showing the cheesemaking world that Oregon should not be underestimated.

[photo courtesy Sebbie Buhler - Rogue Ales]