Northwest Cheese Top Stories of 2010

Recalls, Seizures Without a doubt, the biggest NW cheese story of 2010 - in fact, the biggest cheese story of the year, period - was the series of events that started in February with Estrella Family Creamery's first recall of cheese. The Estrellas continued to make headlines throughout the year, culminating in the FDA seizure in October and its ongoing aftermath. Later in December, we witnessed the e coli outbreak that was eventually traced to cheese made by Sally Jackson. But the overall food safety story is much bigger than these two producers (others were also caught up in the recall net, including Bravo Farms in California) - I think we are going to see regulatory changes in the future that will have wide reaching effect on the cheese we love to eat. Stay tuned.

Oregon State University Bequest  This news has flown largely under the radar but I think its effects will be HUGE for the cheese industry in Oregon. OSU announced in early December that it received a $860,000 donation that will be devoted to developing an OSU Dairy Center. OSU is reviving its shuttered creamery as a cheesemaking incubator for new cheesemakers and I'm looking forward to the promised Beaver Cheese coming in 2011. The state's cheesemaking community will benefit from this for years to come. Watch out Vermont!

Beecher's Expands to NYC  Seattle's favorite urban cheesemaker announced in March of 2010 that they will open a new satellite store in New York City in early 2011. This represents a significant expansion of Kurt Dammeier's cheese empire and provides a new growth model for the industry. Will other small-mid sized cheesemakers follow suit? Will New Yorkers love their new Flatiron cheese as much as Seattleites love Flagship? Only time will tell.

Artisan Cheese Renaissance Ongoing in the NW  I keep thinking that at some point the rapid increase in numbers of small cheesemakers in the Pacific NW will decline or at least slow down but that's not been the case...2010 was a banner year for the business. New cheesemakers in the region this year included Yarmuth Farms and Tieton Farm and Creamery in Washington, Cheese Louise Creamery in Oregon and two new sheep's milk dairies in Idaho, Lark's Meadow Farm and Blue Sage Farm. Another demonstration of the region's ongoing love affair with cheese was the opening of a new cheese shop in Seattle in May: Calf & Kid.

Closures/Evolutions  Despite an ongoing recession, only a few cheesemakers left the fold this year, including Siskiyou Crest Goat Dairy in Southern Oregon (which voluntarily surrended its licensed cheesemaker status in favor of selling goat shares) and Sally Jackson in Washington. The loss of industry pioneer Sally Jackson's cheeses is a blow for the entire cheesemaking community and represents, on a number of levels, the end of an era.

Awards Keep Rolling In The awards for cheeses made in the Pacific Northwest continue. At the American Cheese Society Conference held in Seattle, NW Cheesemakers took 42 awards in a wide range of categories. I was especially pleased to see tiny Mystery Bay Farm on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington pull out top honors for flavored chevre - that's among 1400+ entries! While you might be inclined to think that awards are solely about marketing (and that's true to an extent) they are also about having your products judged alongside those of your peers. These awards demonstrate that our region's cheeses are as good or better than any cheese in the nation.

In Memoriam  This year saw the passing of two bright lights in our region's cheesemaking community: Chuck Evans of Rollingstone Chevre in Idaho and Kathy Obringer of Ancient Heritage Dairy in Oregon.

Happy New Year!

** Reminisce with the Northwest Cheese Top Stories of 2009

Rivers Edge Chevre Open House Sunday August 23, 2009

Rivers Edge Chevre | Logsden OR Rivers Edge Chevre will hold its annual Open House on Sunday August 23rd from 12-5PM. If you've ever had a hankering to visit a cheesemaker, this is the one you want to go see! Pat Morford and daughters Astraea and Spring are making some of the Pacific Northwest's best goat's milk cheeses and this is your chance to sample and purchase them directly from the farm. This is also a perfect opportunity to check out their recent ACS award winning cheeses: Astraea, an aged goat's milk cheese rubbed with cinnamon and Up in Smoke, the popular smoked chevre wrapped in maple leaves. Madrone Mountain Vineyards and Daisy Creek Vineyards will be on hand pouring wine to accompany the cheeses, along with Nye Beach Gallery and Fine Wines. Local artists Harold Lofton of Glass Anvil Studio and Marylyn Del Pino will also be in attendance. Also available: produce from Liz and Paul Kevek of Kevek Farms in Logsden. I will be there too, signing books and generally enjoying myself!

For more information and directions see the Rivers Edge website. Rivers Edge is located just outside of Newport, Oregon, about 2 1/2 hours from Portland.

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Rivers Edge Chevre 6315 Logsden Rd. Logsden, Oregon 541-444-1362

Northwest Cheese On the Radio Thursday May 14th

Martha StewartGet up early because I'll be on Martha Stewart Living Radio tomorrow morning on the show called "Morning Living". The show runs from 4am-7am PDT so if by chance you West Coast readers a) are up and maybe getting ready for work and b) get Sirus Sattelite Radio - where MSL Radio runs - check it out. Martha has been a great supporter of domestic artisan cheeses for years so it's very cool to be able to spread the word on this show about all of the great cheese available out here in the Pacific Northwest. More Press: check out this recently posted interview I did with Jonathan Kaufmann for the Seattle Weekly blog Voracious.