Seattle Cheese Festival May 14-15th 2011

It's that time of the year again - time to head down to Seattle's Pike Place Market this coming Saturday and Sunday May 14 & 15th, 2011 for the Seattle Cheese Festival. This is the seventh year (can you believe it?!) that DeLaurenti's has put on this big cheese event and I've no doubt that this year it will be bigger and better than ever.

What you can expect: great seminars (sign up now, before they're sold out!), lots and lots of cheese, a chef's stage where you can pick up some tips for cooking with cheese, a wine tent where you can sample lots of great local wine - with a mind to pairing with cheese, of course. There will also be a mozzarella making demo stage and it's happening basically every hour and a half on both days (schedule here). This is a big, enthusiastic festival brimming over with lots and lots of people with whom you can share your passion for all things cheese.

For the full rundown of events, schedules and/or to volunteer, see the website here.

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.

Recap: 2010 Canadian Cheese Rolling Festival

The Dairy Farmers of Canada have released this video recap of the 3rd annual Canadian Cheese Rolling Festival, held just yesterday (for future reference, that's Saturday, August 14th) in Whistler, BC. Looks like it was a lot of fun! If you were there - let us know how it went in the comments!

Canadian Cheese Rolling Festival :: Whistler, BC August 14th, 2010

Canadian Cheese Rolling Festival

The 2009 race winners show off their prizes

You're  familiar with the Cheese Rolling Festival at Coooper's Hill in Gloucestershire, England, right? The one where they throw wheels of cheese down the hill and people chase after them?

Well, the Dairy Farmers of Canada, inspired by that bit of wackiness, have developed their own version of this emerging sport. The Canadian Cheese Rolling Festival will be held in Whistler, BC at Whistler Blackcombe - on hills which double as ski slopes during the winter - this coming Saturday, August 14th, 2010. Festivities begin at noon.

In order to participate in the big race/roll, you must show up starting at 11am to register for the various men's and women's events (note that you must be over 19 years of age to enter). And there will be lots of other stuff going on during the day as well - an uphill race for the kids, cheese bowling through an obstacle course, seminars and cheese sampling at the Farmer's Market, which will feature several Canadian cheesemakers including Natural Pastures Cheese Co. and Little Qualicum Cheeseworks. So really, it's a big party - and who doesn't want to witness the development of a worldwide cheese themed contact sport?

And what of the actual cheese being rolled?  It's a specially developed 11lb wheel of Cracked Pepper Verdelait from Natural Pastures Cheese Co. in Courtenay, BC. Worth chasing after, for sure. So damn the risk, damn the liability, get yourself out there!


American Cheese Society Conference in Seattle August 25-28th, 2010

American Cheese Society Conference

American Cheese Society Conference August 25-28, 2010 Seattle, WA click here for more conference and registration info


The American Cheese Society Conference is coming to Seattle next month! Cheese people from all over the country (and the world) will be converging in Seattle at the end of August to talk cheese, eat cheese, distribute cheese awards and generally have a big cheese party. If you are at all interested in cheese, if you're thinking about starting your own cheesemaking operation or if you are just kind of curious about the whole cheese world - this is a fantastic opportunity to meet people, ask questions and learn about the business.

There are several aspects to an ACS event. First, there's the conference itself. For registered ACS members, there are several days of seminars and other education events designed to disseminate information about topics like safety, cheesemaking techniques and so on. What's really great about this year's event is that the organizers have put together some superb speakers, including fromager  Roland Barthelemy and Michael Pollan, who will be giving the closing address.

There's also the competition. This starts several days before the conference actually begins; cheese judges meet to sample and rate this years crop of competitors....over 1,400 cheeses are in the running this year so it should be a great race. Who will win Best in Show? Winners are announced on Saturday night....see below.

Then, there's the infamous Festival of Cheese. Held on Saturday night, this event is open to the public (click here for event and ticket info). Here, all of the cheese from the competition - remember, that's 1,400+ cheeses - is set out for attendees to sample and enjoy. I promise you, you've never seen more cheese in one place in your life. EVER. This year's Festival of Cheese promises to be especially grand because it will be held at Seattle's Benaroya Hall, a symphony and performance space that's a huge step up from the stuffy hotel conference rooms of the past. The competition awards ceremony will be held, then attendees will be released to mingle and sample and get drunk. Did I say that? And great restaurants from around the city will be on hand providing small bites for guests to mix things up a bit.

The biggest cheese party of 2010 in the Pacific Northwest is in Seattle in August folks, and even if you can't do the full conference you can definitely do the Festival of register soon before it sells out!!! See you there.


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.

Rogue River Blue Best In Show at American Cheese Society 2009

BREAKING NEWS: Rogue Creamery's flagship cheese, the lovely and  amazing Rogue River Blue has taken Best in Show honors at the 2009 American Cheese Society Competition, held this week in Austin, Texas.  That's first place among 1,327 cheeses that were entered in the competition this year!!! More results in all categories as they become available.

In other ACS news today, Team Oregon took top honors in the ACS merchandising competition. Ace cheesemongers Steve Jones and Tom Van Voorhees of Rogue Creamery won for outstanding mongering in this first ever competition between retailers. A big day for Oregon cheese, deep in the heart of Texas!