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Geneva Anderson digs into art

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

“She Built This City”— the founding women behind Cowgirl Creamery, Thistle Meats & Bert’s Desserts share their entrepreneurship stories at SRJC’s Mahoney Library on Tuesday, March 10th, 2015, at noon: FREE EVENT

Women History Month SRJC

Molly Best of Thistle Meats, Sue Conley of Cowgirl Creamery, Bert Smith of Bert’s Desserts are all founders of thriving local businesses and will share their stories in “She Built This City” at SRJC’s Mahoney Library on Tuesday, March 10, from noon to 1:30. This March, SRJC celebrates Women’s History Month with an exciting program of lectures, films and music focusing on the vision, leadership and creativity of women.

 

March 7, 2015 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