Cheese News February 2013

2103OregonCheeseFestEvents & Festivals  The 9th Oregon Cheese Festival is coming on March 16, 2013. The Festival takes place in Central Point, Oregon at Rogue Creamery. General admission is $15 with an additional $5 fee for wine tasting; children under 12 can attend for free. If you'd like to make it a weekend, consider the Cheesemaker's Dinner on Friday March 15, which takes place at the Ashland Springs Hotel, featuring special guest Chester Hastings, chef, cheesemonger and author of The Cheesemonger's Kitchen: Celebrating Cheese in 75 Recipes. Tickets for the dinner, which are $95/person can be purchased here. Also on the topic of festivals, California Artisan Cheese Festival will be happening in Petaluma, California the very next weekend (that's March 22-24th, 2013). For industry types, the Sonoma Valley Cheese Conference will be held in Sonoma, California from Feb. 23-25 - more here. Cheese Club, Crowdsourced  Cyril's in Portland may be among the first cheese shops to try selling cheese via social media. As cheesemonger Sasha Davies explains, a wheel of cheese can be a prohibitively expensive purchase for a small cheese shop. She proposes solving that problem by developing what is in essence a subscription service, where those interested support that month's Kickstarter Campaign, then receive a share of the cheese wheel in return. Sign up for this month's cheese, a 2 year old L'Amuse Gouda, on the Kickstarter page here.

Washington Cheesemaker Seeking Funding  Willapa Hills Cheese Co. is in the midst of raising funds via Indiegogo - a growing trend in the cheese world that I wrote about previously here. They want to raise $75,000 for a variety of facility improvements and to develop a new aged cheese, Ewe Old Cow (gotta love that name). The deadline is March 3rd....see their page here and donate if you can.

More Nutrition in Milk and Cheese  A new study by Oregon State University showed that cows which were fed flaxseed as a part of their diet gave milk that was significantly lower in saturated fat and higher in omega 3s. Dairy products made from the milk, including cheese, were more nutritious as well. Perhaps we'll be seeing more on this in the future...

Cheese Videos Starring Steve Jones  Cheesemonger Steve Jones of Cheese Bar in Portland is featured in a series of cheese education videos on about.com. I haven't yet been able to uncover an index but if you start here you can access them, on topics ranging from cheese rinds to pairing advice.

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]