ARThound

Geneva Anderson digs into art

Petaluma’s big weekend of cheese and gourmet delights—California’s Artisan Cheese Festival is underway at the Sheraton Sonoma County

Cindy and Jon Wolfenberger enjoy a glass of port from Sonoma Portworks at Saturday's Cheese and Chocolate Pairing Seminar at California's Artisan Cheese Festival this weekend at the Sheraton Sonoma County.  The San Francisco couple have been at all nine festivals.  He lovingly surprised her with tickets to the first festival and they have made it a romantic get way ever since.  Photo: Geneva Anderson

Cindy and Jon Wolfenbarger enjoy a glass of Sonoma Portworks’ new special reserve port, “Cask 3,” at Saturday’s Cheese and Chocolate Pairing seminar at California’s Artisan Cheese Festival, all weekend at the Sheraton Sonoma County in Petaluma. The San Francisco couple have been at all nine festivals. He lovingly surprised her with tickets to the first festival and they have made it a romantic get way ever since. The festival kicked off on Friday with farm tours. Saturday is focused on seminars, pairings, hands-on cheese-making classes and a roaming feast. Sunday delivers a celebrity chef demo and brunch and the Tasting Tent with opportunities to taste and buy limited batch artisan cheeses as well as the newest gourmet delights. Photo: Geneva Anderson

California’s Artisan Cheese Festival is back for its ninth year at the Sheraton Sonoma County in Petaluma and ARThound is just back from my first event of the day, a morning Cheese and Chocolate paring seminar with James Beard award-winning author and educator, Laura Werlin, and TCHO Chocolate’s E-Commerce guru, Heather Haskell.  Cheese and chocolate are two food favorites that may not sound like a match made in heaven, but together, with the right pairings, we explored how they can be transcendent. We had the chance to mix and match 6 cheeses with 6 chocolates and sips of Lagunitas Brewing Company beers and “Cask 3,” a special new reserve port from Petaluma’s Sonoma Portworks.  I was particularly enchanted with Willapa Hills’ “Lily Pad” cow’s milk cheese—a brand new hard cheese inspired by Gruyere—when paired with TCHO’s “66%” blended semi-sweet couverture chocolate from their baking line.  I was even more wowed when the duo met the with the smoky depths of Lagunitas Brewing Company’s “Imperial Stout,” a roasted malt barley with 9.9% alcohol.  The day is still young and there’s a round of afternoon seminars to go and this evenings’ Chefs vs. Chefs — The Best Bite, a popular roaming feast that will showcase top local Bay Area chefs using artisan cheeses in a variety of applications with more than 20 top restaurants, caterers, wineries and breweries in competition for our affection.

And did I mention samples galore?  Participants sample new, limited-production, and rare artisan cheeses paired with exquisite gourmet delights that accentuate 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 available for individual events, including Sunday’s popular Grand Tasting Tent (tasting and marketplace) at www.artisancheesefestival.com.

James Beard award-winning author and educator, Laura Werlin holds up a wedge of Cypress Grove Chevre’s creamy Humboldt Fog mold-ripened goat cheese, explaining that its central line of edible white ash is named after the local fog which rolls in from the Humboldt Bay where the cheese is made.  After hours of tasting, Werlin and Heather Haskell of TCHO chocolate, decided to pair Humboldt Fog with TCHO’s “Bright,” a 67% cacao dark chocolate from Madagascar.  When pairing cheese and chocolate, taste the cheese first and then the chocolate which tends to overpower if it is first on the palate.  Photo: Geneva Anderson

James Beard award-winning author and educator, Laura Werlin holds up a wedge of Cypress Grove Chevre’s creamy Humboldt Fog mold-ripened goat cheese, explaining that its central line of edible white ash is named after the local fog which rolls in from the Humboldt Bay where the cheese is made. After hours of tasting, Werlin and Heather Haskell of TCHO chocolate, decided to pair Humboldt Fog with TCHO’s “Bright,” a 67% cacao dark chocolate from Madagascar. When pairing cheese and chocolate, taste the cheese first and then the chocolate which tends to overpower if it is first on the palate. Photo: Geneva Anderson

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March 21, 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