Last week was the American Cheese Society’s 31st annual conference and competition, held this year in Sacramento, California. We, along with what seemed like every other member of the cheese world, were there to witness the trials and triumphs of competition. Nearly 250 dairies entered 1,700 products to be tasted by 38 judges; check out the full list of winners, and see the surprising student-made Best in Show first-place winner here. Though a Vermont-based cheesemaker claimed the top spot, Wisconsin reigned supreme in other categories, claiming 97 ribbons by the end of the competition.
The event was open to the public on Friday’s Festival of Cheese, featuring cheese, beer, and wine samples, and on Saturday’s Cheese Sale, where curd-lovers could buy high-quality cheeses at steep discounts. The theme of this year’s fest was “Celebrating the American Cheese Plate,” which local restaurants showcased in full force.
Culture‘s very own co-founder, Stephanie Skinner, added her two cents about the American theme. In an interview with The Sacramento Bee, she said, “The American palate is getting more interested, more sophisticated about cheese. The cheese counter has become the darling of retail (sales in supermarkets).” It seems the general public would agree: reportedly, the artisan cheese community has blossomed to a 4.5 billion industry in the US.
Photo by Lezlie Sterling for The Sacramento Bee