ARThound

Geneva Anderson digs into art

The 13th California Artisan Cheese Festival is this weekend: cheese and all the wonders that pair with cheese

Petaluman Phaedra Achor, founder of Monarch Bitters, will be sampling her craft bitters and flavored syrups at Sunday’s Artisan Cheese Tasting and Marketplace at Grace Pavilion.  Last September, Monarch Bitters was ranked second place in a USA Today people’s choice competition for the nation’s top 10 Best Craft Mixers and in November 2018, the Press Democrat ranked it #6 of top Sonoma County businesses.   Achor’s bitters, potent extracts, are handcrafted from organic and wild harvested roots, barks, aromatic herbs and flowers which are sourced in Sonoma County and bottled by hand in Petaluma. Achor operates out of a rented space in an industrial park in Petaluma, so the Artisan Cheese Festival is an opportunity to meet her in person, learn all about bitters and taste her wondrous concoctions.  Her newest flavors include Smoked Salt & Pepper Bitters; Honey Aromatic Bitters; and Honey Lavender Bitters, which join her famous Bacon Tobacco, Citrus Basil, Cayenne Ginger, Celery Horseradish, Cherry Vanilla, California Bay Laurel, Orange, Rose Petal, and Wormwood bitters.  Photo: courtesy Monarch Bitters

Bring on the cheese and please, bring on the cocktails!  For the first time, specialty cocktails will be served at the California Artisan Cheese Festival’s Sunday Marketplace at Grace Pavilion at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds.  Of course, cheese is front and center as the California Artisan Cheese Festival kicks off this Saturday morning with eight fabulous full-day Farm and Producer tours all around Sonoma and Marin Counties (there are a few remaining spaces in five of these tours) as well as educational seminars and pairing demos in the morning and afternoon at Santa Rosa’s historic mid-century Flamingo Hotel.  Led by cheesemakers, cheese experts, bestselling authors and luminaries of wine, craft cocktails, ciders, and beers,  these seminars ($75-$85) are a convergence of expertise and passion.  Each seminar entails informed tasting, useful science and lots of ideas for inspired pairings.  This year’s Seminar #5 “Cheese & Cocktails: The Basics of Bitters, Booze and Cheese,” promises to demystify the universe of bitters and help identify the cheeses that will round out cocktails like Manhattans and Mai Tais.   Saturday evening’s new event, “Cheese, Bites & Booze!” at the Jackson Family Wines Hangar at the Sonoma Jet Center is sold out as is Sunday’s celebrity chef gourmet brunch.

Sunday’s Artisan Cheese Tasting and Marketplace, from noon to 4 p.m. at Grace Pavilion, at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds, is the event’s grand finale ($50).   If you never attended the festival before, it’s an excellent introduction.  The soirée is abuzz with energy, bringing together over 125 leading artisan cheese and food producers, winemakers, brewers, specialty spirit producers and makers for a final round of indulgence as participants chat, taste, sip, shop while meandering through a delightful epicurean maze.  Everyone brings home an Artisan Cheese Festival insulated cheese tote bag, a wine glass, and oodles of ideas for elegant home gatherings.  And most importantly, new and dear cheese friends.

 

Phaedra Achor, owner of Petaluma-based Monarch Bitters. Photo: courtesy Monarch Bitters

It was ARThound’s pleasure to speak with Phaedra Achor about Monarch Bitters, which will be featured in Saturday’s seminar, “Cheese & Cocktails,” Saturday evening’s swank “Cheese, Bites & Booze” event at the Jackson Family Wines Hangar, and Sunday’s Artisan Cheese Tasting and Marketplace.

What are bitters?

Phaedra Achor: Bitters are high ABV (alcohol by volume), mine are 40-44%, and extracts that are created by macerating alcohol with any number of botanicals and aromatics such as spices, barks, roots, fruits.  My syrups have no alcohol content, and are infusions.

What’s behind the name “Monarch Bitters”?

Phaedra Achor:  I’ve always been very drawn to the monarch butterfly, its beauty and place in the world, its journey and metamorphosis, all of which are very symbolic for me.  Another piece fits in with my logo—a woman wearing a crown of wild flowers.  Since this is a botanically based product, I really wanted to convey the message of a strong and purposeful woman, a monarch of the forest, who is using the power of botanicals to create.

When and how did you start Monarch Bitters?

Phaedra Achor:  I love flavor chemistry, especially working with plants and botanicals to create flavor profiles.  In 2015, I hosted a cocktail party and wanted to do something very different, so I started planning a few months early.  My idea was to create five unique cocktails.  In my research, I came across these wonderful pre and post-Prohibition cocktails, all of which called for bitters.  I remember looking into bitters and thinking ‘I can do this.’  I ended up using barks and roots and herbs and spices and I created five bitters, one for each of the cocktails I served.  It was a huge hit.  At some point during this gathering, I walked into my living room and found this woman, a guest of a guest, someone I did not know at all, sniffing my tincture bottles.  She asked where these bitters came from.  I told her I made them all and she was blown away.  She explained that she was a bartender and that my bitters were far superior to what she was using and she offered to connect me with the owner where she worked.  I never followed through on that, but she planted a seed at just the right moment.  She left and I never saw her again but she was vital.

After that party, I started researching who was making bitters in Sonoma County, no one, and the craft cocktail industry.  I learned that people were using bitters like cooks use spices in the kitchen, so I thought this was a very interesting niche.  I was surprised that no one was doing this in Sonoma County because we are such an artisanal community.  I spent all of 2016 researching and reformulating and that’s because a lot of the botanicals I had chosen to use were considered dietary herbal supplements by the FDA.  I had to decide if I wanted my business to be categorized as a medicine, a dietary herbal supplement, or if I wanted it to be food bitters.  I’m not an herbalist and wasn’t interested in making herbal medicine, so I had to make some changes.  I launched in 2017 and from there, it just taken off.  Those contests which have recognized my bitters have been such a complement and honor and really fueled my business.

How do you come up with your flavor profiles, which are so unique?

Phaedra Achor:   The ideas just come to me.  I think this comes from my culinary background.  It’s taken a long time for me to own this and to state it out loud but I have ‘flavor wisdom.’  I just know how flavors will come together and taste.  Aside from the orange, lavender and aromatics, which are quite common bitters flavors, I have very intentionally created flavor profiles that didn’t previously exist outside of my brand, such as cayenne ginger, bacon tobacco, and honey aromatics.  I recently created a smoked salt and peppercorn bitters, which is also a fantastic culinary bitters.  Bitters can be used widely and people just aren’t aware of their versatility.  Aside from alcohol, bitters can be added to sparking water, lemonade, teas, coffees and in baking and cooking to replace an extract.  I’ve added my cherry vanilla bitters to whipped cream and it creates a wonderful cherry cordial whipped cream with a gorgeous flavor.

Is there a reason why you use dropper bottles?

Phaedra Achor:  Yes, it’s for accuracy and it recalls the history of bitters, which were initially used as medicine.  When I’m using the dropper and drawing up the bitters, it feels healing and right.

What the best way to taste bitters?

Phaedra Achor:  If people want to taste bitters straight, I will have them make a fist and hold out their hand upright, like they were holding a candle.  I’ll put a little drop right into that little divot between the thumb and index finger and they can taste it with their tongue.

Your ideas for bitters and cheese.

Phaedra Achor:  I tend to like softer, creamier cheeses, like bries.  Typically, the astringency of high fruit alcohol can be challenging with foods, so for a cocktail, I tend to go with a lower AVB  (alcohol by volume) content found in sherries or brandies and add my bitters to that when I want to indulge in cheese.  I’ve also taken my Citrus Basil Bitters and mixed it with honey to create a bittered honey to use as a pairing with cheese.   Bitters, adding bitter to the palate, can create wonderful opportunities to pair with food and cheese.  When it comes to cheeses, I work more with my citrus and aromatic flavors.

What’s next for Monarch Bitters?

Phaedra Achor: I am working on opening up a little apothecary in downtown Petaluma that will be a storefront for all of my products and hope to be open in June.  Right now, I am one of three bitters companies in the North Bay (King Floyd’s, Bitter Girl Bitters) and on Sunday, March 31, we will all be competing in The Bitter Brawl at Young and Yonder Spirits in Healdsburg.  This is a benefit for Compassion Without Borders.  We’ll each be paired with a bartender and will compete to create the best cocktail.

 

Details:  California’s 13th Artisan Cheese Festival is March 23-24, 2019 at various cheese country locations in Sonoma and Marin counties. Tickets for all festival events are sold separately online.  All events take place, rain or shine.

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

 

March 21, 2019 Posted by | Food, Wine | , , , , , , , , , , , | 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

The 7th Annual Artisan Cheese Festival starts next Friday, March 22, and offers a full weekend of all things cheese

“Polenta with Sottocenere al Tartufo” is just one of the tasty dishes created by Garrett McCord and Stephanie Stiavetti, co-authors of Melt: The Art of Macaroni and Cheese (2013) forthcoming who will be participating in “On-line to On-plate: Bloggers Cook with Cheese” at the 7th Annual Artisan Cheese Festival.  Sottocenere al Tartufo is an Italian is a raw cow’s milk cheese laced with bits of black truffles that translates as “under ash, with truffles.”  The outside is rubbed with a mix of ash, cinnamon, fennel, licorice, nutmeg, and other aromatic spices.  Photo: Garrett McCord

“Polenta with Sottocenere al Tartufo” is just one of the tasty dishes created by Garrett McCord and Stephanie Stiavetti, co-authors of Melt: The Art of Macaroni and Cheese (2013) forthcoming who will be participating in “On-line to On-plate: Bloggers Cook with Cheese” at the 7th Annual Artisan Cheese Festival. Sottocenere al Tartufo is an Italian is a raw cow’s milk cheese laced with bits of black truffles that translates as “under ash, with truffles.” The outside is rubbed with a mix of ash, cinnamon, fennel, licorice, nutmeg, and other aromatic spices. Photo: Garrett McCord

With “Farm to table” the mantra on the lips of most foodies, it doesn’t get much fresher than local Northern California cheeses served up fresh in Petaluma.  Finely handcrafted artisan cheeses are celebrated at the 7th Annual Artisan Cheese Festival which kicks off this Friday, March 22, in Petaluma.  There are bucolic farm tours to several small batch family farms and an inaugural “Meet the Cheesemakers” evening reception, offering a gourmet tasting warm-up for the full weekend ahead.  The festival, which runs through Sunday afternoon, culminates in Sunday’s popular Tasting and Marketplace  with over 70 artisan producers where participants can savor the very best of local cheeses, wines, beers and other specialty foods.  While the whole weekend is geared towards tasting, one of this year’s highlights is Saturday evening’s’ “Grand Tasting,” billed as a roaming feast involving more than 50 cheesemakers, restaurants, breweries and wineries from across Northern California and beyond. 

  • Hands on Cheesemaking
  • Farm Tours
  • Wine and Cheese Pairing
  • Beer and Cheese Pairing
  • Cheese-Inspired Culinary Delights
  • Cooking Demonstrations
  • Panel Discussions
  • Artisan Cheese Tasting and Marketplace

ARThound poured over the list of cheese talents speaking at the festival and food writer and culinary consultant Garrett McCord shot to the top of my list.  He’d done his master’s thesis at UC Davis on the rhetoric of the slow food movement.  About to publish his first cookbook, Melt: The Art of Macaroni and Cheese (2013) (co-authored with Stephanie Stiavetti), and helmsman of the popular food blog Vanilla Garlic, which looks at food and life intertwine, McCord, now 28, seemed like a great interview.  Stay tuned to ARThound for our chat about the language of cheese.

Details: The 7th Annual Artisan Cheese Festival is March 22-24, 2013, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., at Petaluma’s Sheraton, 745 Baywood Drive, Petaluma.  Tickets $35 to $135.  Many events are already sold-out, so purchase tickets for all events now.  www.artisancheesefestival.com.

March 17, 2013 Posted by | Food | , , , , | Leave a comment

last call: this weekend’s 5th Annual Artisan Cheese Festival is sold-out except for Sunday’s all day marketplace

For a growing number of fine cheese lovers who are traveling to cheese gatherings across the country, this weekend’s 5th Annual California Artisan Cheese Festival (March 25-28, 2011), in Petaluma, holds the promise of glorious immersion in cheese.  From new small-batch cheeses to those that have already garnered international recognition, the spotlight is on the vibrant hues, bold aromas, and surprising flavors that make our region’s cheeses so unique, the local farmers who produce them and the industry that has emerged to promote them.  But unless you’ve already registered, this 3 day extravaganza Friday through Sunday (March 25-28, 2011) at Petaluma’s Sheraton Hotel is completely sold out, except for the Sunday’s big tent Artisan Cheese Marketplace from 11 AM to 4 PM. 

This year’s festival is going to be both enlightening and entertaining. (Full Schedule)  Friday’s day-long farm tours to Strauss Family Creamery, Toluma Farms, The Fork at Point Reyes, and Bellweather Farms sold out almost as soon as they were posted.  The opportunity to get the low-down on what makes our area’s cheese so special right from the farmers who produce it was too good to pass up, even at $145.  A number of Saturday’s 14 seminars covering all topics cheese by leading experts in the field sold out well over a month ago too.   Subjects range from making cheese (what does it actually take to become a cheese maker? a primer on essential molds, a lesson in curd stretching) to the politics of cheese (the transhumance movement, proposed legislation that seeks to regulate raw milk cheeses) to the nuances of evaluating cheese.  There are fabulous opportunities to eat some revamped classics too, like mac and cheese, and to try some new “hidden cheeses of California.”   You’ll learn that most of California’s elite cheeses don’t venture far from home and we in Petaluma are smack dab in cheese paradise for both producing and consuming.  

Capricious–its name evokes play and its taste sweet perfection. A very ungoaty goat cheese, Capricious is aged and then hand-rolled in old European style and its memorable sweetness is attributed to the very high quality goat’s milk that our region is known for. Jim and Donna Pacheco, Pacheco Family Dairy, Petaluma. Best in Show, American Cheese Society 2002 and named one of Saveur magazine’s 50 favorite cheeses in the U.S. 2005. Photo: Geneva Anderson

On Sunday, you can still meet over 73 artisan producers and try the finest local cheese, gourmet accompaniments, and wine and beer.  Throughout the day, acclaimed chefs Mary Karlin, Kristine Kidd, Boris Portnoy and Jacquelyn Buchanan will each be demonstrating an original recipe with artisan cheese and Clark Wolf will be both mc’ing and signing his own best-seller American Cheeses.  

$45 ticket includes Sunday admission, all sampling, access to chef demos and author book signings, a festival wine glass and an insulated cheese tote bag to hold your precious purchases. Tickets will be sold online through Friday evening and then 100 will be made available on a first come-first served basis at the door on Sunday, starting at 11AM.  There is no wait list for any of the sold-out events.  All events on Friday and Saturday are already sold out.

Book Signings on Sunday:

11:30 a.m. Gordon Edgar & Sasha Davies : Gordon Edgar Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge (2010) Sasha Davies West Coast Cheeses (2010)

12:30 p.m. Laura Werlin  (launching her fifth book at the festival Grilled Cheese, Please! 50 Scrumptiously Cheesy Recipes (2011) , and author of The New American Cheese Profiles of America’s Great Cheesemakers and Recipes for Cooking with Cheese, The All American Cheese and Wine Book: Pairings, Profiles and Recipe, Great Grilled Cheese 50 Recipes for Stovetop, Grill, and Sandwich Maker, Laura Werlin’s Cheese Essentials An Insider’s Guide to Buying and Serving Cheese

Point Reyes Cheese Company’s TOMA is an all-natural, semi hard, farmstead cheese made from pasteurized cows’ milk produced by the Giacomini family on their 3rd generation West Marin dairy farm. Introduced in 2010 as an alternative to their rockstar, Point Reyes Original Blue, TOMA became an instant hit too. Once you try a slice of TOMA, with its creamy texture, buttery flavor and unforgettable grassy-tangy finish, there’s no turning back…it’s a staple you won’t want to do without. Photo: Geneva Anderson

1:00 p.m. Maggie Foard   Goat Cheese (2008)

1:30 p.m. Mary Karlin Artisan Cheese Making at Home: Techniques & Recipes for Mastering World-Class Cheeses (2011), Wood-Fired Cooking: Techniques and Recipes for the Grill, Backyard Oven, Fireplace, and Campfire (2009)

2:00 p.m. Lenny Rice & Clark Wolf  Lenny Rice: Fondue (2007),  Clark Wolf: American Cheeses: The Best Regional, Artisan, and Farmhouse Cheeses, Who Makes Them, and Where to Find Them (2008)

2:30 p.m. Kristine Kidd, Weeknight Fresh + Fast (2011) Kristine Kidd has written a number of books for Williams Sonoma Kitchen Library.

3:00 p.m. Andrea Mugnaini The Art of Wood-Fired Cooking(2010)  Anna Mugnaini and the Mugnaini crew will be baking wood fired pizzas in a portable pizza oven on working the Pizza Patio on Sunday too. Enjoy artisan cheese and fresh wood fired pizza?

Cheese Wiz: in researching the various symposiums associated with the conference, I learned

  • The first cheese was made over 4000 years ago by nomadic peoples. It is believed that someone tried to store or transport fresh milk in a water bag made from an animal stomach. Later, when the milk was needed, the first cheese was discovered (the rennet in the lining of the bag would have caused the milk to separate into curds and whey).
  • Asian travelers likely brought cheese production to Europe where cheesemaking flourished among monks during the Middle Ages.
  • In 1620, cheese was on the Mayflower when the Pilgrims journeyed to America.
  • Spanish priests first made cheese from the milk of mission livestock in the early 1800s.  Later, during the Gold Rush, European immigrants built dairies on the Point Reyes peninsula to supply butter and cheese to gold miners in San Francisco.
  • Sonoma and Marin counties—the Normandy of Northern California—are home to the largest concentration of artisan cheesemakers in California, if not the country.  Our unique foggy, grassy terrain has roughly 22,000 acres of land dedicated to making cheese and fermented milk products. To celebrate this and educate, the Marin Economic Forum (MEF) just introduced the Sonoma Marin Cheese Trail map [PDF], the first-ever map to local artisan cheesemakers.

 21 Artisan Cheese Producers will participate Sunday:

Achadinha Cheese Co.
Beehive Cheese Co.
Bellwether Farms
Bohemian Creamery
Central Coast Creamery
Cowgirl Creamery
Cypress Grove Chevre
Epicurean Connection
Fiscalini Farmstead Cheese
Laura Chenel’s Chevre
Mt. Townsend Creamery

Marin French Cheese
Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co.
Redwood Hill Farm & Creamery
Nicasio Valley Cheese Co.
Shamrock Artisan Cheese
Sierra Nevada Cheese Co.
Tumalo Farms, Bend, OR
Valley Ford Cheese Co.
Willapa Hills Farmstead Cheese
Winchester Cheese

March 24, 2011 Posted by | Food | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment