Say “Cheese” and then pounce! Tickets are on sale now for California’s Artisan Cheese Festival, March 20-22, 2015, in Petaluma
California’s Artisan Cheese Festival, is back for its ninth year, March 20-22, 2015, at the Sheraton Sonoma County in Petaluma. Tickets just went on sale. If you are interested in a farm tour, where you get to meet innovative local cheesemakers and “ooh and ahh” their baby goats and watch them create awesome cheeses in bucolic abodes, buy your tickets now as these tours sell out within a few hours of being listed. These intimate tours give visitors a glimpse into the important role of the farmer, the individual farm’s unique community and how an animal’s diet and the local terroir influence the taste of the cheese. Six tours kick off this year’s festival on Friday morning and they all include an upscale lunch. Back in town, at the Sheraton Sonoma County, the festival proper begins on Friday evening and kicks off with a new event in the famed grand tasting tent, the“Cheesemonger’s Duel – The Best Bite” reception, which promises to pit 24 cheesemongers in competition to create the best cheesy bite. The long weekend of cheese brings together leading artisan cheesemakers, authors, chefs, dozens of specialty food, beer, wine and spirit producers for cheese seminars, pairings, hands-on cheese-making classes and cheese-focused demonstrations. And did I mention samples galore? Participants sample new, limited-production, and rare artisan cheeses (paired with gourmet delights) and learn all about the art and science of making and pairing cheese. Also new this year is an additional off-site seminar at the new Cowgirl Creamery location in Petaluma. The festival has non-profit status and its proceeds support California farmers and cheesemakers in their ongoing effort to advance sustainability. Tickets are available online at www.artisancheesefestival.com.
“California’s Artisan Cheese Festival has become a beloved yearly tradition for local foodies and cheese lovers,” said Festival Executive Director Judy Groverman Walker. “Over the course of the last nine years the Festival’s offerings have gotten better and better. From farm tours where guests can interact with the animals and hands-on cheese-making classes, to educational seminars led by world-class cheese experts, there truly is something for everyone.”
Friday, March 20, 2015:
morning—Behind-the-Scenes Farm Tours & Lunch:
One of the most popular and coveted of events, these intimate Farm Tours are held at various local farms and creameries, giving visitors a glimpse into the important role of the farmer and where cheese gets its start. A gourmet lunch, each with a special emphasis, is included and transportation will be provided to and from the Sheraton Hotel by Pure Luxury Transportation. **Pack your boots and ice chest! Tours are rain or shine; no refunds will be given.
These are still available—
Farm Tour A – Marin County Milk Magic Nicasio Valley Cheese Company; Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co. and lunch at The Fork with guest chef; Heidrun Meadery; Fiscalini Farmstead Cheese Don’t miss this special cheese lover’s culinary expedition winding through the beautiful rolling hills of Petaluma, western Marin County and Pt. Reyes. Your day starts with a tour and tasting at Nicasio Valley Cheese Company and LaFranchi Ranch, the 1,150 acre organically certified dairy farm continuously operated for 90 years, now run by the third generation of the LaFranchi Family. Experience the exquisite, award winning soft ripened cheeses that have put the LaFranchis on the “must taste” list of California artisan cheeses. Next it’s back on the bus for the short drive to Point Reyes Station where we will meet the Giacomini Family of Pt. Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company. You will tour their dairy farm and learn how they made the transition from contract dairy to award winning farmstead cheese producer. Lunch at The Fork, the Farmstead’s state-of-the-art event space, begins with a cheese tasting of the Pt. Reyes award winning cheeses followed with a multi-course cheese focused lunch prepared by a celebrity guest chef. During the lunch, your hosts will provide commentary on the pairings and field questions about cheesemaking and product development. As you head back to the Sheraton, enjoy a final stop at Heidrun Meadery where they produce naturally sparkling varietal meads (yes, made from honey) using the traditional French Méthode Champenoise. Their trademark Champagne-style mead is light, dry, delicate and refreshing, and will be paired with cheeses from Fiscalini Farmstead Cheese out of Modesto. This tour will undoubtedly be a special day for any cheese lover! $135.00 per person.
Farm Tour D – Family Farms, World Class Dairies and Magnificent Cheese! McClelland’s Dairy; Two Rock Valley Goat Cheese; Petaluma TAPS Restaurant; and Nicasio Valley Cheese Company Start your day at McClelland Dairy where you will tour the family dairy and learn all about the history and day-to-day operations of this state of the art farm. Visit the nursery; pet the baby calves; watch the cows being milked in the parlor. You’ll even have a chance to milk one of the beloved McClelland cows by hand! The tour finishes with a tasting of McClellands’ award winning European Style Organic Butter made in small batch, tumble churned artisan style. Then it is off to the Two Rock Valley Goat Cheese Company where you will meet Dairyman Don DeBernardi and his wife Bonnie, along with the newborn “kids” at their family run dairy and farmstead creamery. You’ll taste their award winning aged goat tommes that are typical of Don’s ancestral region in Switzerland. To quench your thirst and ease your appetite, we are off to Petaluma TAPS where you will meet owner Eric LaFranchi, (yes, part of the LaFranchi Ranch family). Eric will guide you through a tasting of local brews and a three course cheese-inspired lunch. Next on your itinerary is a tour and tasting at Nicasio Valley Cheese Company and LaFranchi Ranch, the 1,150 acre organically certified dairy farm continuously operated for 90 years, now run by the third generation of the LaFranchi Family. Experience the exquisite, award winning soft ripened cheeses that have put the LaFranchis on the “must taste” list of California artisan cheeses. $135.00 per person.
Farm Tour E– European Heritage Shines in California’s Artisan Dairy Products Valley Ford Cheese Co.; Achadinha Cheese Company; Scoggins Wines at the former Denman Creamery; Bruno’s on Fourth; and McClelland’s Dairy First stop on today’s itinerary is the Valley Ford Cheese Company, a 640 acre Jersey dairy farm continuously milking since 1918. Overlooking the unique waters and wetlands of the Estero Americano in Valley Ford, its lush, rolling pastures have been home to five generations of the Bianchi/Grossi families, practicing sustainable agriculture just as their ancestors did in the Ticino district on the Swiss-Italian border. Meet the Bianchi Family and taste their award-winning farmstead Italian style cheeses. Then you are off to meet the Pacheco Family whose Portuguese roots show in the rich complex flavors of their cheese. Visit Jim and Donna Pacheco’s ranch and family run Achadinha Cheese Company and visit their herd of dairy goats. The “girls”, as the goats are called, are able to graze pasture all year long on 290 acres. Coincidentally, their diet is supplemented with alfalfa and brewer’s grain from the local breweries which gives their cheeses their distinct flavor. Your lunch stop is Scoggins Winery in Penngrove at the historic Denman Creamery. Meet winemaker PW Scoggins who will take you on a tour of the Creamery turned winery, then sample some of his Pinot Noir and Zinfandel wine as you enjoy a three course cheese-inspired lunch specially prepared for you by Chef Rick of Bruno’s on Fourth. Your bus then rolls on to McClelland’s Dairy where you’ll tour their state- of- the art dairy, learn about the history and the day to day operations on the family farm. Visit the nursery, where you can pet the baby calves; watch the cows being milked in the parlor; you’ll even have a chance to milk one of the much loved McClelland cows by hand! The tour finishes with a tasting of McClellands’ award winning European Style Organic Butter made in small batch, tumble churned artisan style. A perfect finish to a perfectly delicious day! $135.00 per person
Farm Tour F – Petaluma Perfect Pastures Barinaga Ranch; Marin French Cheese Company; McEvoy Ranch; and Petaluma Creamery This culinary adventure proves that perfection exists in our own “back pasture”! Your experience begins at Barinaga Ranch where owner and cheesemaker Marcia Barinaga is continuing the ancient shepherding and cheesemaking traditions of her Basque family and ancestors in Euskadi, the Basque region of Spain. Meet her small flock of dairy sheep and lambs who graze year-round on nearly 100 acres of hilly, organically managed pastures. Next stop, the award-winning Marin French Cheese Company – celebrating its 150 year anniversary. Meet the cheesemakers as you take a walk through the recently renovated creamery learning about the cheesemaking process and changes that have occurred over the last 150 years. Complete your visit with a tasting of their landmark cheeses. Next is a rare treat – a visit to McEvoy Ranch. Take a short tour and learn how Nan McEvoy’s vision and her spirit of adventure took her from Chairwoman of the Board of The San Francisco Chronicle to a sprawling 550 acre ranch in Petaluma producing artisan olive oil and olive oil based products and wine. Enjoy a delicious box lunch as you relax and take in the beauty of McEvoy Ranch. Your final stop is the historic Petaluma Creamery. Started in 1913, since its founding the “Creamery” has been an integral part of the farming tradition in Sonoma County. Dairyman and creamery owner Larry Peter makes certified organic Spring Hill Jersey Cheese, specialty cheeses, butter and ice cream. $85.00 per person.
Friday evening – 6 to 9 pm –Cheeeemongers’ Duel — The Best Bite
Warm up your taste buds for the weekend’s events as you meet rock star cheesemongers in a light hearted competition. More than two dozen cheesemongers will take center stage as they are provided with a block of cheese from one of our local artisan cheesemakers and asked to create The Best Bite! Audience participation is a must! Chef Ryan Scott will join us as a judge and emcee. Artisan wines, beers and cider will also be available for sampling. ($50 per person, Sheraton Sonoma County)
Saturday, March 21, 2015:
morning and afternoon—Seminars, Cooking and Pairing Demonstrations
The 2015 event presents a whopping 13 seminars from which to choose, giving guests the hand-on opportunity to learn from industry experts as they discover new cheeses, learn how to make cheese, how to cook with different cheeses, and experience diverse wine, cider and beer pairings and much, much more. Confirmed instructors include Amina Harris, Director of Honey and Pollination Center at the Robert Mondavi Institute of Wine and Food Science, UC Davis; Lynne Devereux, Director of Marketing and Public Relations of Laura Chenel’s Chevre and Marin French Cheese Company; Stephanie Skinner, Co-owner and publisher of Culture: The Word on Cheese; Thalassa (Lassa) Skinner, Co-owner and Independent Sales Manager, Culture: The Word on Cheese; Soyoung Scanlan, Owner and Cheesemaker at Andante Dairy; Laura Werlin, author and educator; Louella Hill, aka The Milk Maid, educator; Sacha Laurin, Assistant Cheesemaker at Winters Cheese Company; Peggy Smith and Sue Conley, co-founders of Cowgirl Creamery; Janet Fletcher, author and educator; Stephanie Soleil, educator. The seminars include a catered lunch. During the lunch break and after the afternoon seminars authors will be available for book signings. (Tickets $65-95, Sheraton Sonoma County, Seminars 9:30 -11:30 a.m. and 1:30 – 3:30 p.m., with lunch provided at 12 – 1 p.m.)
Saturday evening: Chefs vs Chefs — The Best Bite:
This popular roaming feast showcases top local Bay Area chefs using artisan cheeses in a variety of dishes from sweet to savory. More than 20 top restaurants, caterers, wineries and breweries will vie for your affection, and your vote, at this lighthearted competition of all things cheese. From soufflés to sandwiches, guests can expect to experience artisan cheese in ways they’ve never had before at this gastronomic showdown. (Tickets $75, Sheraton Sonoma County, 6-9 p.m.)
Sunday, March 22, 2015:
morning—Sunday Bubbles and Brunch with Surprise Celebrity Chef:
Early risers get an amazing brunch, some light hearted entertainment and advance entry into the Artisan Cheese Tasting and Marketplace. Enjoy a Sunday brunch celebrating cheese at every course while being entertained with a live cooking demonstration. Tickets include brunch, sparkling wine and coveted early entry into the Artisan Cheese Tasting & Marketplace at 11:00 am before it opens to the public at 12:00 noon. (9:30 to 11 a.m.; tickets $115, Sheraton Sonoma County)
Gather under the big top for an afternoon like no other! Meet 90 artisan producers and experience the best of local cheese, wine, beer, ciders and other specialty foods. Discover the next wave of interesting cheese accompaniments, cheesemaking products and books. Pick up new recipes, tips and tricks at chef demos scheduled throughout the day. There will be an opportunity to purchase your favorite cheeses and artisan products. Ticket includes admission, access to chef demos and book signings, the coveted Artisan Cheese Festival insulated cheese tote bag and a festival wine glass. ($45 per person, $20 for 12 and under.)
Those interested can also follow updates by “liking” the Artisan Cheese Festival on Facebook and following the event on Twitter. All events are priced separately and the Sheraton Sonoma County – Petaluma is offering special discounted rates on rooms for festival-goers
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