Slow Food Cheese
A picture perfect moment: new world cheese in very much an old world setting. When Ihsan and I first visited Bra, the show was very much for Italian and European cheeses. How times have changed! We are so proud to see our friends from the United States showing off how far we have come as cheese makers and how much we have learned from traditional cheesemaking, and have reinvented tradition to create delicious handmade cheese with an American twist. An example of this that is close to the heart of the Formaggio Kitchen Family- in the early 2000s when Michael Lee of Twig Farm was our cheese buyer, we sent him to Bra. There, he took advantage of the cheesemaking classes- and look at what he makes now!
The first time that we visited the Fort Saint Antoine and tasted Comte was in 1999. Jason Hinds introduced Ihsan and I to Claude and Phillipe- who we have worked with since, via another friend Pascal Trotte from Paris. Tasting with Claude and Phillipe was a very intimidating first experience, and we certainly had to be approved- we had to show we knew what we were talking about and were serious about representing and selling the cheese. Shortly after getting this approval, we began to import Marcel Petite Comte.
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.