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Cheese Lover? Your Ultimate Cheese weekend awaits at the 11th California Artisan Cheese Festival, Friday-Sunday, in and around Petaluma

Cheese royals Sue Conley and Peggy Smith (L & R), co-founders of Cowgirl Creamery, will join sisters Jill Giacomini Basch and Lynn Giacomini Stray of Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese to share their cheese stories in a “Cream of the Crop” seminar Saturday morning at the 11th California Artisan Cheese Festival.  Participants will savor artfully composed bites of cheese paired with local craft rums while learning about the unique terroir of the picturesque Point Reyes area. They will also receive a comp subscription to “Culture” magazine. This is just 1 of 6 exciting seminars offered at this year’s festival, which includes farm tours, curated wine and cheese evening tastings, gourmet competitions, cheese-centric dinners and a brunch prepared by celebrity chefs and Sunday’s legendary tasting tent and market. Photo: Books, Inc.

From newly-released small-batch artisan cheeses to those that have an international following, the focus of the 11th California Artisan Cheese Festival is on our region’s artisan cheese and the inside track on haute pairings and pours.  This wonderful event, which kicks off Friday, is held in and around Petaluma’s Sheraton Sonoma County and is considered one of the country’s top, if not the best, artisan cheese festivals.  Friday is always devoted to day-long farm tours which get more creative every year.  These are so popular they sell out within days of being announced in January.  The opportunity to meet the farm animals and to get the low-down on what makes our area’s cheese so special straight from the farmers who produce it always proves too good to pass up.  Each tour also includes a gourmet lunch with wine in a bucolic setting and an informative talk by a leading cheese educator.  Don’t despair, there are still two full days (Sat and Sun) of fascinating activities that are not yet sold out.

Saturday’s Seminars and Pairings Demos

A good number of spaces are still available in the seminars listed below, all which are held in or within a few steps of the hotel (click here for full descriptions and pricing).  Show up early to purchase your tickets in person at festival headquarters in the lobby of the Sheraton.

Saturday morning: 10 to 11:30 AM:

Cheese & Charcuterie (Vanessa Chang and author, educator Laura Werlin) Foolproof pairings of artisan cheese, old world meats and rosé.

Mighty Morphing Milk (author, educator Janet Fletcher, Liam Callahan (Bellwether Farms), Jennifer Bice (Redwood Hill Farm & Creamery) Explore the magical transformation of exceptional goat, sheep and cow milk into yogurt, fresh cheese and aged cheese with an emphasis on cultures, techniques and timing decisions.  Plentiful tastings.

Cream of the Crop (Sue Conley and Peggy Smith, co-founders Cowgirl Creamery and Jill Giacomini Stray and Lynn Giacomini Stray, co-founders of Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese) A lively conversation about cheese, politics and preserving family farms with tastings and cheese pairings with local craft rums.

Petaluma’s Achadinha Cheese Company (Osh-a-deen-a), renowned for its blended goat and cow milk cheese, participates regularly in the festival’s popular farm tours.  The Pachecho family’s third generation run both Achadinha Cheese Company and the Pacheco Family Dairy but will swear that it’s the animals that run everything.   Their 250 goats and 60 cows are pastured on 230 sprawling acres on Chileno Valley Road.  Achadinha is the creator of the famous mold-ripened aged goat’s milk cheese, “Capricious,” whose memorable sweetness is directly related to the farm’s terroir.  The family also produces a mean feta.  Photo: Achadinha

Saturday Afternoon: 1:30 to 3 PM:

Cheese and Chocolate (Vanessa Chang and author, educator Laura Werlin)  An indulgent exploration of two of life’s pleasures: cheese and chocolate with an emphasis on great pairings and how to heighten the pleasure even more with beer and port.

California Cheese: Past, Present, and Future (Kiri Fisher, The Cheese School) Taste your way through the history of cheese as you learn more about the special roots of our local dairy industry, the cheese-making renaissance of the 1980’s and 1990’s, the challenges the industry currently faces and what cheeses are on the horizon.

Saturday evening Cheese & Cocktails, 5 to 7 PM:

A new two hour event, event under the Big Top at the Sheraton featuring cheesemakers showcasing their favorite cheeses while local craft distilleries sample their best spirits both as straight pours and mixed cocktails.  The mood is celebratory and this is great place to meet friends for drinks.

Sunday Artisan Cheese Tasting & Marketplace, 12 to 4 PM:

Say “hello” to the makers as you gather under the big top Sunday for a final cheesy soirée with over 90 artisan producers of local cheeses, wines, beers, ciders and other specialty foods.  Discover the next wave of interesting cheese accompaniments, cheesemaking products, books and the new innovative cheese vaults that let you preserve your expensive cheeses.

Sunday’s Artisan Cheese Tasting and Marketplace is the festival’s bustling grand finale. New this year is Volo Chocolate of Healdsburg—small-batch handmade chocolates with beans sourced from Mexico’s Chiapas and Oaxaca regions and stone ground and fire-roasted in traditional Mexican style. Each bar comes in an earthy expressionist wrapper, just as artful as the contents. Photo: Volo

Don’t miss the demos!  Pick up new recipes, tips and tricks from cheese twins, Charlie and Michael Kalish, winners of Season 7 of “The Great Food Truck Race” and hosts of their own Food network Show “Big Cheese,” who will give a “Grilled Cheese Two Ways” demo at 12:30 PM.

Award winning local food writer and author, Michele Anna Jordan will demonstrate Butter Making at 1:45 PM, teaching everyone how they can churn their own butter at home in just minutes. There will ample samples of organic goat, sheep and cow milk butters and attendees can take a hand at the churn.

Aside from eating well and to your heart’s content, the tasting tent is an exciting launch pad for gourmet products which are just getting their start.  This year’s “gotta have it” find is Volo Chocolate, the love child of Healdsburg chefs, Jeff and Susan Mall.  In 2015, the couple sold their beloved Zin restaurant and moved to Baja to embark on a quiet life as resort chefs.  Soon, they found themselves enamored with Mexican cacao and they embraced the traditional Mexican method of fire-roasting the cacao beans to create their own chocolate.  Now, they are back in Healdsburg creating small-batch handmade bean-to-bar chocolates with beans sourced from Mexico’s Chiapas and Oaxaca regions.  These delectable bars are available mainly through their website, so this is your chance to sample and pounce.

Other newcomers to this year’s tent include:  Chico Honey Co., Dick Taylor Chocolates, Firebrand Artisan Breads, Hensley Hard Goods, Joseph Jewel Winery, Lemonbird Preserves, Moonside Creamery, and Seismic Brewing.

Details:  California’s 11th Artisan Cheese Festival is March 24-26, 2017 at the Sheraton Sonoma County in Petaluma and various cheese country locations.  Tickets for all festival events are sold separately online until March 23 (Thursday) and then will be available at the event itself.  All events take place, rain or shine.

Click here for full information. Chick here to go to Eventbrite to purchase tickets.

March 23, 2017 Posted by | Food | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pounce! Tickets are now on sale for California’s Artisan Cheese Festival, March 21-23, in Petaluma—the Farm Tours are almost sold out

The 8th annual California's Artisan Cheese Festival welcomes back Laura Werlin who will give “MELT!,” a two-hour seminar on Saturday melted cheese.  Understanding flavor is the key to pairing cheese and wine.  Participants will taste several cheeses—melted, grilled, baked—and discover the wines that pair best with each cheesy gooey bite.  Cheese insider Werlin is the author of numerous authoritative cheese books including “Gilled Cheese, Please.”    Photo: courtesy The Oregonian

California’s Artisan Cheese Festival, March 21-23, 2014, offers over a dozen cheese seminars. Cheese insider Laura Werlin returns with “MELT!,” a two-hour seminar on melted cheese. Understanding flavor is the key to pairing cheese and wine. There are eight styles of cheese and the texture of a cheese is a window into its flavor. Participants will taste several cheeses—melted, grilled, baked—and discover the wines that pair best with each cheesy gooey bite. Werlin is the author of numerous authoritative cheese books including “Gilled Cheese, Please.” Photo: courtesy The Oregonian

California’s Artisan Cheese Festival, is back for its eighth year, March 21-23, 2014, 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 local cheesemakers and “ooh and ahh” their baby goats and watch them create their awesome cheeses, get your tickets now as the tours sell out immediately.

The popular festival brings together artisan cheesemakers, authors, chefs, brewers, wineries and enthusiastic guests for three days of cheese seminars, pairings, tastings, farm tours, hands-on cheese-making classes and cheese-focused demonstrations.  Of course, eating is key! Guests sample new, limited-production, and rare artisan cheeses (paired with gourmet delights) and learn all about the art of making cheese.  The festival has non-profit status and its proceeds support California farmers and cheesemakers in their ongoing effort to advance sustainability. Tickets are now on sale and available through www.artisancheesefestival.com.

“The festival is a much-anticipated, cheese-lover’s paradise that allows guests to see every step of the farm-to-table process of cheesemaking,” said Festival Executive Director Judy Groverman Walker, a Sonoma County native and 4-H alum who also organizes the Luther Burbank Rose Parade.  “From farm tours where people can interact with the animals and meet the cheesemakers to tastings, hands-on classes and culinary demos, there truly is something for everyone.”

The 2014 schedule includes the following events:

Friday, March 21:

morning—Farm Tours & Lunch:

Back by popular demand are five intimate farm tours where guests are guided on walking tours of various area farms to meet the cheesemakers, see how the cheeses are made and, of course, taste the fruits of their labor. The tours allow guests to observe every step of the cheesemaking process and interact with cows, sheep, water buffalo and goats in their natural environment. Each tour includes round-trip transportation from the Sheraton Sonoma County, cheese tastings and lunch. A three-course, sit-down lunch is included in Tours A and B at Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company’s The Fork with guest chef Louis Maldonado, executive chef at Spoonbar in Healdsburg and Top Chef Contestant; Tour D will stop for an adventurous farm-to-table lunch at Zazu Kitchen & Farm at The Barlow in Sebastopol; and Tour E, an exploration of Petaluma-based cheese talent, will conclude with a beer and cheese-pairing lunch on the patio of Lagunitas Brewery in Petaluma. All other tours will include a delicious box lunch to be enjoyed on site. Cheese is available for purchase on the farm tours.  (Tickets $75/$135, 8:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.)

carries on a family tradition that began in the 1950’s when Jim’s Portuguese parents founded their dairy farm near Bodega Bay

An image that surely would have inspired Vermeer. Local farm tours are the highlight of the annual California Artisan Cheese Festival. Jim and Donna Pacheco’s Achadinha (Osh-a-deen-a) Cheese Company, on Chileno Valley Road, carries on a family tradition that began in the 1950’s when Jim’s Portuguese parents founded their dairy farm near Bodega Bay. Achadinha struck gold with its delectable and award-winning “Capricious” aged goat cheese. Their “California Crazy Curd,” fresh cow and goat’s milk curds, are trending big time. Image: courtesy Achadinha Cheese Company

These are still available—

Farm Tour D – Goats, Sheep & ZaZu, Oh MY!  — Bleating Heart Cheese; Toluma Farms & Tomales Farmstead Creamery; ZaZu Kitchen & Farm; Bohemian Creamery

There is no better way to start the day than with a scenic drive through western Sonoma and northern Marin counties.  Your first stop will be to visit Seana Doughty of Bleating Heart Cheese.  In 2009 Seana bought ten pregnant ewes from a sheep dairy in Wisconsin and drove them to California as the start of her flock.  Hear about Seana’s adventures as you tour her brand new creamery built to meet the ever increasing demand for her cheeses.  Continuing through Tomales, Toluma Farms & Tomales Farmstead Cheese is next on the agenda where you’ll meet their beloved goats and sheep!  We will visit the newly opened creamery and taste their amazing farmstead goat and mixed milk cheeses.  Heading north to Sebastopol we make a lunch stop at the “new” ZaZu Kitchen & Farm at The Barlow.  Owners/chefs Duskie Estes and John Stewart are “farm-to-table” specialists and long-time supporters of the California artisan cheese movement. This dynamic duo will serve up a cheese-centric lunch in their always delightful New American-Northern Italian style. The menu will be paired with some of California’s best wines and/or beers.  For your final stop of the day we drive just one mile from Sebastopol to a hilltop overlooking the Laguna de Santa Rosa and Mayacama Mountains.  Here you’ll meet Lisa Gottreich at the Bohemian Creamery and her herd of Alpine dairy goats.  Find out why she decided to break out of her midlife mold and fill new ones with innovative and compelling curds. You’ll have the opportunity to taste a variety of Italian-style cheeses!  You won’t want to miss this tour!  $135.00 per person.

Farm Tour E – Petaluma Passionate and Perfect  –  Achadinha Cheese Company; Marin French Cheese Company; Weirauch Farm & Creamery; Lagunitas Brewing Company

This culinary adventure proves that perfection exists in our own “back pasture.” Your first stop on this delightful tour will be at Jim and Donna Pacheco’s ranch and family run Achadinha Cheese Company. We will taste their goat and mixed milk cheeses that have received extensive media attention. Next stop, the award winning  Marin French Cheese Company to meet the cheese makers who will walk us through the cheese making process and give us a special presentation of their recently renovated creamery followed by a tasting of their landmark cheeses. Our last farmstead visit will be at the beautiful Weirauch Farm & Creamery. Joel and Carleen Weirauch have been slowly developing their flock of dairy sheep since 2004. Their recognized expertise in making artisan organic cow and farmstead sheep cheese is matched by their commitment to sustainable agriculture, expressed on every level of farming  – rotational pasture management, green building, water re-use from the creamery for irrigation, and integrative solar. Lunch will be at the always fun, always delicious Lagunitas Brewing Company. Tour the brewery, taste some of their world renown beers and enjoy a wonderful cheese focused lunch, served on the patio and matched with those amazing, award winning Lagunitas microbrews!  $135.00 per person

Seanna Doughty of Bleating Heart Cheese wears silver farm boots and produces cheeses with the coolest names—“Ewelicious Blue,” “Fat Bottom Girl,”and “Shepherdista”—a play on the words 'shepherd' and 'fashionista.'  In 2013, Doughty fulfilled her dream of owning her own micro-creamery, which is based at the Thornton Ranch in the little town of Tamales.  Farm tour participants can meet Doughty and her beloved flock of ewes in person.  Photo: courtesy Bleating Heart Cheese

Seanna Doughty of Bleating Heart Cheese wears silver farm boots and produces cheeses with the coolest names—“Ewelicious Blue,” “Fat Bottom Girl,”and “Shepherdista”—a play on the words ‘shepherd’ and ‘fashionista.’ In 2013, Doughty fulfilled her dream of owning her own micro-creamery, which is based at the Thornton Ranch in the little town of Tamales. Farm tour participants can meet Doughty and her beloved flock of bleating heart ewes in person. Photo: courtesy Bleating Heart Cheese

Friday evening—Meet the Cheesemakers Reception

Guests meet the cheesemakers in person at this evening reception and cheese tasting. More than 20 participating cheesemakers will offer samples of their products, along with artisan wineries and breweries at this informal walk-around reception to kick off the weekend. There is also a “Fantasy Cheese Table” featuring a spectacular cheese display for guests to sample as much as they like. (Tickets $35, Sheraton Sonoma County, 5 – 7 p.m.)

More than 20 participating cheesemakers will offer samples of their products at Friday’s popular “Meet the Cheesemakers Reception,” an informal walk-around reception that kicks off the weekend of cheese.  Participants can also sample pairings offered by artisan wineries and breweries and cracker makers.  Photo: courtesy Artisan Cheese Festival

More than 20 participating cheesemakers will offer samples of their products at Friday’s popular “Meet the Cheesemakers Reception,” an informal walk-around reception that kicks off the weekend of cheese. Participants can also sample pairings offered by artisan wineries and breweries and cracker makers. Photo: courtesy Artisan Cheese Festival

Saturday, March 22:

morning and afternoon—Seminars, Cooking and Pairing Demonstrations

The 2014 event presents a variety of seminars from which to choose, giving guests the opportunity to learn from industry experts as they discover new cheeses, learn how to make cheese, cook with different cheeses, experience diverse wine, cider and beer pairings and much, much more. Confirmed instructors include Judy Creighton, an American Cheese Society Certified Cheese Professional (CCP); Janet Fletcher of the San Francisco Chronicle; author and cheese expert Laura Werlin; training and merchandising manager of Atlanta Foods International and American Cheese Society CCP Michael Landis; Mission Cheese owner Sarah Dvorak; Master Cicerone Rich Higgins; and the San Francisco Milk Maid, Louella Hill. The seminars include a catered lunch by Petaluma Market. 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.)

“Terroir” will became a key term in your cheese vocabulary after attending a fun and informative seminar led by master cicerones Rich Higgins and Certified Cheese Professional Michael Landis as they delve into delicious beer and cheese pairings that illustrate the concept of terroir.  Higgins was the third person in the world to earn the master cicerone title for his beer expertise (there are now seven), an accreditation which certifies him as an excellent interpreter of palate and the ways in which beer develops and heightens a meaningful dining experience.  Higgins brewed professionally for eight years and owns the consulting company, Consultant à la Bière.  Naturally, the seminar will offer exquisite beer and cheese pairings.  Here, Rich Higgins eyes a snifter of Thirsty Bear Brewing Company’s Irish Coffee, a bourbon-barrel aged espresso imperial stout. Photo: Bart Nagel

“Terroir” will became a key term in your cheese vocabulary after attending a fun and informative seminar led by master cicerone Rich Higgins and Certified Cheese Professional Michael Landis as they delve into delicious beer and cheese pairings that illustrate the concept of terroir. Higgins was the third person in the world to earn the master cicerone title for his beer expertise (there are now seven), an accreditation which certifies him as an excellent interpreter of palate and the ways in which beer develops and heightens a meaningful dining experience. Higgins brewed professionally for eight years and owns the consulting company, Consultant à la Bière. Naturally, the seminar will offer exquisite beer and cheese pairings. Here, Rich Higgins eyes a snifter of Thirsty Bear Brewing Company’s “Irish Coffee,” a bourbon-barrel aged espresso imperial stout. Photo: Bart Nagel

This looked great to me—

Seminar No. 3:  Terroir de Sonoma: Exploring the Unique Flavors and Attitudes of Sonoma Beer and Cheese
Presenters:  Rich Higgins, Master Cicerone, Brewmaster and Consultant a la Biere; Michael Landis, American Cheese Society Certified Cheese Professional, Training & Merchandising Manager at  Gourmet Foods International
Terroir is the French term for how a food or beverage expresses a sense of place. Often used in reference to wine, terroir can be expressed by craft beer as well. Sonoma County is rich in agriculture, micro climates, and character, and its breweries and dairies embrace Sonoma’s local flavors, ingredients, and attitudes. Join Master Cicerone Rich Higgins and Certified Cheese Professional Michael Landis as they delve into delicious beer and cheese pairings that illustrate the concept of terroir. Together you will taste and celebrate the flavors and uniqueness of Sonoma County.  $65.00 per person.

Saturday evening—Grand Cheese Tasting and Best in Cheese Competition

In the ultimate culinary challenge, guests taste their way around this event, sampling dishes from 25 of the Bay Area’s best chefs and caterers, each incorporating their favorite locally made cheese into a dish for attendees.  Guests cast their vote for their favorite “cheesiest” dish and the winner is announced on-site during this lighthearted and festive competition. Artisan wineries and breweries will be on hand to provide beverages to complement each dish.  (Tickets $75, Sheraton Sonoma County, 6 – 9 p.m.)

Sunday, March 23:

morning—Sunday Bubbles and Brunch with Surprise Celebrity Chef

Join a surprise celebrity guest chef for Sunday brunch celebrating cheese at every course along with a live cooking demonstration.  Tickets include brunch, sparkling wine and coveted early entry into the Artisan Cheese Tasting & Marketplace at 11 a.m. before it opens to the public at 12 p.m.  (Tickets $115, Sheraton Sonoma County, 9:30 – 11 a.m.)

afternoon—Artisan Cheese Tasting & Marketplace

The grand finale of the Festival, the Marketplace brings together more than 75 artisan cheesemakers, winemakers, brewers and chefs to sample and sell their products directly to attendees in this feast for the senses. Guests can discover the next wave of local, hand-crafted cheeses, boutique wines and artisan-brewed beers as well as interesting cheese products, books and recipes.  Each ticket includes entry to the Marketplace, an insulated cheese tote bag and a signature wine glass. (Tickets $45 for adults; $20 for children 12 and under, Sheraton Sonoma County, 12 – 4 p.m.)

Complimentary Cooking Demonstrations

In between tasting and buying cheeses at the Marketplace, guests are invited to watch several cooking demonstrations conducted by local chefs and cheese experts. (Admission is free with a Marketplace ticket; Sheraton Sonoma County; demonstrations are at 1 – 2 p.m.; 2:15 – 3:15 p.m.; and 3:30 – 4:30 p.m.)

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.

More about California’s Artisan Cheese Festival: A 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization, California’s Artisan Cheese Festival strives to increase cheese appreciation, educate consumers about artisan cheeses, support the cheesemaking community and its sustainability and celebrate the creations of California’s many farmers and cheesemakers. The festival began in March 2007 as the first-ever, weekend-long celebration and exploration of handcrafted cheeses, foods, wines and beers from California and beyond.  In keeping with its dedication to the community, the Artisan Cheese Festival donates 10% of all ticket proceeds to Sonoma Land Trust, Marin Agricultural Land Trust, Petaluma Future Farmers of America, California Artisan Cheese Guild and Redwood Empire Food Bank. To date the Artisan Cheese Festival has contributed more than $55,000 to these non-profit organizations that work to support the artisan cheesemaking community and its infrastructure in California.  For more information, visit http://www.artisancheesefestival.com.

January 8, 2014 Posted by | Food | , , , , , , | Leave a comment