Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Consider the Cheese Mite, Or What I Learned at ACS

Sister Noella, the Cheese Nun, showing a rind up close

The life of every cheese blogger is full of nibbles and pursuit. Pursuit of knowledge. Pursuit of the next delicious bite. Camping out in Montreal amid scores of cheesemakers and cheesemongers as part of last week’s American Cheese Society conference filled the belly and the brain. I hardly know where to start in describing the myriad delicacies and factoid tidbits.

In a sentence: I am still full.

Here are the unforgettable insights from a 4-day binge on North American cheeses and the men and women who make, sell, coddle, and sniff them.

Cheese Mites
Most aging rooms house cheese mites – tiny, near-miniscule creatures that feast on the rinds of hard cheeses especially. In a presentation by the cheese nun, we saw them munching like calves on grass, under a microscope.  If you have a cheese mite problem, consider getting an ozone machine. One gentleman who shall remain unnamed found that this sterilized the mites and prevented them from reproducing.

This is the French way of pronouncing what cheese curds do when you eat them.

Naming Cheese
Following hipster trends, popular cheese names are derived from fowl. Gray Owl. Birdville Reserve. Hummingbird.

The Blue Cheese Revival
More blue cheese is made in America than in France, the birthplace of Roquefort. So says Will Studd, a man who held a public funeral for Roquefort in Australia when the country banned raw-milk cheese.

Beecher’s Secret
The reason Beecher’s clothbound cheddar tastes so freaking good, my luvs? The wheels are rubbed down with melted better. I also learned why Beecher’s never uses the word “cheddar” in their packaging: the recipe contains cultures also used in Gruyere and Ementaler. It’s a beautiful, butter-lathered hybrid.

Quebec Cheese
No surprise, this French-speaking region produces 350 varieties of cheese and is the original home to the first dairy school in North America (founded in 1889). I sampled a gorgeous cheese plate at Accords Wine Bar in Old Montreal where the cheeses were served so beautifully. Voila! My favorite was Riopelle.

The Life of the Tongue
Did you know that you are born with 10,000 tastebuds? By old age, you only have 4,000 left. I learned this at a flavor session with Christine Chénard, a taste specialist from Cintech

Trigeminal Sensations
Flavor is a combination of taste and aroma, but taste itself relates to touch and temperature. Trigeminal sensations are broken down into the following categories:
            Astringency (think green bananas)
            Piquancy (radishes, chilis)
            Metallic (canned pineapple juice)
            Cooling (mint, anise)

Raw Milk Reactions
Will Studd predicts a raw-milk ban for the U.S. similar to the one Australia and New Zealand adopted in 1996 (N.Z. reversed it eventually). Ann Colonna, a researcher from Oregon State University, who has been studying the issue shared evidence that 95% of Americans are not in favor the ban, and 60% said they wanted to see the 60-day rule relaxed.  

Rogue River Lovin’
Judges at the American Cheese Society tasted over 1600 cheeses to select a North American grand champion. I’m happy to report it’s one of my faves, too: Rogue River Blue. Got get a wedge before it's gone. It's great with barley wine (try Blithering Idiot from Weyerbacher).

To check out my post about ACS for Di Bruno Bros., please click here


  1. I'll have to show you a wheel of Shepherd's Basket the next time you're at FF

  2. Thanks for such great coverage! I just keep sighing over and over.