American Cheese Society
If one needed any proof, the recent—and very well-deserved—success of American cheeses at the World Cheese Awards competition in Birmingham, UK, bears testament to the meteoric rise of artisanal cheesemaking in the United States over recent years.
The last two decades have seen a remarkable rise both in the number of people embarking on a career in cheesemaking as well as the number of cheeses produced. This fact is borne out in the crucibles of various cheese competitions with huge increases in the number of entries submitted each year. Not only that, but the quality and consistency of the cheeses is constantly improving too.
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.
Here they are, the 2012 American Cheese Society Best in Show winners, chosen from out of 1,711 entries and 122 categories:
Best in Show: Beecher’s Handmade Cheese Flagsheep, from Seattle, Washington.
3rd Place: Emmi Roth USA Grand Cru® Surchoix, produced in southern Wisconsin in the traditional manner, in large copper vats.
As I posted earlier today, the entire culture crew is in Raleigh, North Carolina, cheesing at the 29th annual ACS conference. In addition to Day Three highlights, we'll have an exclusive on the Best in Show winners (out of 1,711 entries, and 122 categories), just minutes after they’ve been announced, so stay tuned!
Today’s been another whirlwind of seminars interspersed with networking and socializing with friends old and new (and lots of cheese nibbles in between). My favorite seminar thus far was a panel on “Romance & Reality: Translating Cheese Info. For Consumers.” The next time a cheesemonger shoves a sample in your mouth before answering your questions, bear this in mind: sometimes a cheese is so amazing, it defies description. Tasting is often more effective than mere words.
Here's a very encouraging fact; the number of cheese festivals is on the increase. How do I know this? Simple. Because my calendar, which in previous years resembled a cheese "social desert", is now chocka-full of cheese-related events - especially during the summer months.
Cheese Festivals come in many shapes and sizes, ranging from the most traditional, centuries-old institutions, to newly formed events launched for the first time in 2011. Either way, each are more than worthy of your support and you're guaranteed to come away richer (and fuller) for the experience.
Here, in no order of preference, is a personal round-up of those certain to make it onto my calendar. I have divided them geographically into North American and overseas.
You may all know this already, but Best of Show at 2011 ACS in Montreal went to Oregon’s Rogue Creamery for Rogue River Blue (www.roguecreamery.com) the 2nd time they’ve taken the blue ribbon home! Second place was shared by Ontario’s Finica Food for their Lindsay Bandaged Cheddar (www.mariposadairy.ca), and perennial winner from Wisconsin, Carr Valley, for Cave Aged Marisa (www.carvalleycheese.com). Third place was Quebec’s Fromagerie du Presbytère for Louis d’Or (www.fromageriedupresbytere.com/. These are all seriously delicious cheeses. It rare to sample Canadian cheeses we, sadly, cannot get here in the US…and to get my hands on limited production cheeses too.