Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Fancy Food Show Cheese Redux

There were so many dairy celebs at the Fancy Food Show in D.C. on Sunday, I found myself gulping for air. While everyone else was crowded around Rick Bayless, who was dousing shrimp in a new packaged sauce, I was holding my breath before one cheese luminary after another. Here are the highlights:

1. I beheld the Cashel Couple.
Here they are, Sarah Grubb and Sergio Furno, makers of Cashel Blue, a cheese so sumptuous it should be called frosting. Sarah's mother invented the recipe, and now Sarah and Sergio have become dairy olympiads; they won gold at the World Cheese Awards in 2006 and 2010. 

Big fat gossip: Cashel Blue has been picked up by Kerrygold, (the Irish butter butter magnate), and I expect there'll be a wild marketing campaign. I hope. If only all the butter lovers would learn to embrace blue cheese. Pssst...Cashel is great for shmearing on bread, on oaty biscuits, even wrists.

2. I tasted the Lord of Hundreds.
My new favorite cheese. Look at the rind. 
This ewe's milk dream is so pretty, it has a manager, the lovely Ann-Marie Dyas of The Fine Cheese Co. in Bath, England (she's also a judge at the British Cheese Awards).
You probably know the crackers made by this company. 
They seem to worship cheese through their very packaging, and Ann-Marie was no different. She had me laughing about a cheese named Rachel -- after the cheesemaker's girlfriend, now his ex. She showed me his picture, then scuttled under a table and dug out some quince caviar for an impromtpu tasting.

3. I glimpsed Paula Lambert.
But I didn't get a chance to chat. She was elbow-deep in fans, sampling her goat cheeses from Texas. Paula is a pioneer. She began making cheese back in the '80s and is known for bringing  the first real Italian mozzarella to Dallas. She simply made it herself.
Look at this spread. I still fantasize about Paula's Hoja Santa, a leaf-wrapped muffin that once appeared before me on the cheese cart at the Four Seasons.

4.  I sampled Sgt. Pepper.
Mary Keehn of Cypress Grove Dairy in California has a new line of "flashback" goat cheeses that call to mind Ben & Jerry's. Rolled in four kinds of pepper, Sgt. Pepper has a trippy look to it and tastes like just the sort of cool, fresh bite you'd want on a roadtrip. It was positioned next to four other flashbacks, including PsycheDillic and Purple Haze.

5. I met a bicycle enthusiast who makes cheese.
Alan Glustoff from Port Chester, NY makes great raw milk cheese with some interesting branding. At 5 Spoke Creamery, he brings together wheels and wheels -- think cheese, then bicycles -- to promote the simple pleasures of eating and sidewinding.
I'd never tried this rustic number (and I'm embarrassed to say, I forgot its name), but I left the booth curious to try more. Luckily, I see its available at Philadelphia's Essene Market.

6. I discovered my first Puerto Rican cheese.
Quesos Vaca Negra claims to be the first company to produce aged artisan cheese from Puerto Rico. I believe it -- I was there in January and couldn't find a single local variety at the market. 
Cheesemaker Wanda Otero studied cheesemaking in the U.S. and now produces 5 cave-aged cheeses. It will be interesting to see how her new business progresses. This is her first year.

7. I tried all of Rogue Creamery's blues. 
I've been such a fan of Rogue River Blue, and I had no idea that this Oregon company produced a whole line. Their newest, Flora Nelle, tastes like pecans. It's sharp, sweet, nutty -- just wonderful. It's also the company's first pasteurized blue. 
This surprised me. Overall, pasteurized cheeses in America seem to be gaining complexity. What's the secret?

8. I spent five hours feasting
I couldn't believe the array of cheeses, the coolers full of wheels, the generosity of so many makers. I can still taste some of my favorites. Like Kunik.
And these tiny hand-made cheeses, called Hannahbells. They look like gumdrops and taste like marshmallow morsels.
And these succulent gems, from Vermont Cheese & Butter Co., where I met the oh so lovely Adeline Durant. My photos are a bit blurry. You can tell I was hurrying to maximize every mouthful. 
I was so happy to see Saxon Creamery, too. They make one of my favorite wheels from Wisconsin, Big Eds.
And that was all I could stomach. Now the countdown begins for the American Cheese Society Conference in Montreal, Aug.3-6.


  1. I think I've only tried the one Rogue blue. We'll be in Oregon this summer. Maybe we should make a pilgrimage to Rogue Creamery. Maybe it's on the way to the Rogue Brewery.

  2. Um, you were in DC and didn't say hello? Sniff.

    As a native Oregonian, I have a soft spot for Rogue.

    @fristrom -- The actual Rogue Brewery is not particularly close to Rogue Creamery (or the river of the same name), but it's a scenic drive if you take the coastal route up. However, if you're going to Portland you can find Rogue's cheeses at the farmers markets and probably many brewpubs.

  3. I will never forget when I was fortunate enough to help open my first wheel of Rogue River Blue, after that I could never look at blue cheeses the same way again! I must admit that just reading this post is enough to spark a twinge of jealousy and a serious hunger, oh to have walked among giants!

  4. Also, is this an invite only affair or can the common cheese men and women join in. How can I make sure I don't miss it next time?

  5. Check out the Fancy Food Show web site, Tilts. I'm not sure. I don't think it's open to the public, but there may be a way to pay for admittance. And there are a number of press passes available to food bloggers who apply.

  6. More yummies, thanks! I am really intrigued by the Hannahbells. Recently tried Cypress Grove Chevre's Sgt Pepper and it has just the right amount of kick! Haven't made a decision about ACS this year...hmmm what to do?