David & Gerard Attend the Cheese Rally in Raleigh
August 10, 2012
On Saturday, August 4th, we attended the “Festival of Cheese” at the 2012 American Cheese Society’s Conference and Competition held in Raleigh, NC. This year’s festival, which is open to the public who purchased a $55 ticket for the 2.5-hour event, featured more than 1,700 cheeses from throughout North America. Vendors also presented a wide array of gourmet foods, wine, and beer.
Having attended last year’s festival in Montreal, we knew what to expect: an overwhelming collection of cheese organized into more than 100 categories from Fresh Unripened Cheese made from cow’s milk to Washed Rind Cheese aged more than 90 days.
Our plan of attack was to sample as many of the blue ribbon winners as we could, but we always end up sampling even the non-winners in categories we most love.
This year’s Best of Show winner was Flagsheep from Washington state’s Beecher’s Handmade Cheese. 2nd Place Best of Show was awarded to Crema de Blue from New Jersey’s Valley Shepherd Creamery. And 3rd Place Best of Show went to Roth Grand Cru Surchoix from Emmi Roth USA, a Wisconsin cheesemaker.
Best of Show winners are selected by judges from all categories from the 1st place winners of each category.
Flagsheep: 1st Place for Original Recipe: Open Category – made from sheep’s milk or mixed milks
Produced in 16-pound wheels, Flagsheep is a farmhouse cheddar made from a mix of cow and sheep milk. It is cloth-bound and aged about 18 months. Only 3,000 pounds of Flagsheep was made this year, but according to Kurt Dammeier, CEO and founder of Beecher’s, the company now plans to increase production to 10,000 pounds per year.
One of our personal favorites was Cumin Gouda from California’s Oakdale Cheese & Specialties, which won a 2nd place ribbon in its category (Dutch style – Flavor Added – spices, herbs, seasonings, fruits, etc. – all milks). Another flavored cheese we particularly liked was Whole Milk Ricotta with Lemon from Mystery Bay Farm in Washington, a fresh goat’s milk cheese with a wonderful lemon finish.
But our favorite cheese is still Pleasant Ridge Reserve from Wisconsin’s Uplands Cheese, which again won a 1st place ribbon in its category (Washed Rind: Cheeses aged more than 90 days with up to 44% moisture – all milks) and a 3rd place ribbon for the Extra-Aged version (Farmstead Cheese: Open Category – Hard – made from cow’s milk; Aged over 60 days – Less than 39% moisture). The flavor of Pleasant Ridge Reserve is rich, but it is buttery and nutty with a slight tanginess. The texture is firm and smooth, yet supple, with an occasional crunch from tiny protein crystals which form after 12 months of aging. This is the most decorated cheese in the ACS competition’s history, having won best of show three times in the past twelve years.
5-MINUTE VIDEO about Uplands Cheese
For the complete list of 2012 Winners go to: 2012 ACS Winners
--David & Gerard from NYC