Yesterday was the 3rd annual Vermont Cheesemakers Festival up at Shelburne Farms. I've gone for all three years, but I don't think I'll be going next year.
Here are the problems I had and possible ways to solve them. I am going to mention ways that the festival could improve, and also things I could have done to make the experience better (hindsight is 20/20).
Problem: Too many people + Too small a space = neurotic Cheesewench on the verge of a full-blown panic attack all day long.
Solution: Have the festival go for two days. Space it out. Don't try to cram 1700+ people into a really small space for 6 hours.
Cheesewench solution: Go towards the end of the day when less people are typically at events like this. This year I had to go early because I was doing a cheese course at a benefit dinner.
Problem: Too much beer and wine ( I can't believe I'm saying that) It's a Cheesemakers Festival and I allow for some leniency. Beer and wine are delicious with cheese. The problem was that there were so many breweries and wineries there. That made for a lot of long lines, which cut off the flow of the rooms. I was pushed, shoved, and had beer spilled on my shirt. People thought it was a bar, and more than a few people had "sampled" too much.
Solution: less beer and wine vendors
Cheesewench solution: start a fight with someone who has been drinking. Tell them Budweiser is the best beer in the States, goad them until a fight breaks out and the cops are called. Be the only person sober and avoid prosecution and jail time.*
Problem: Value for money. This year I felt that people were purchasing tickets to go to a very large cheese and booze based farmers market.
Solution: more seminars and to include more of them in the price of your ticket
Cheesewench solution: Don't spend more money on buying cheese than you did on your ticket. I acknowledge that this is virtually impossible.
The festival is a good opportunity to taste some new cheeses, show off Vermont goodies to tourists and perhaps get to meet and chat with a cheesemaker. Overall it's a good showcase for Vermont cheese, wine and beer, I just don't think it's for me anymore.
That being said, there were a few cheeses that I hadn't had before that stood out for me.
Fat Toad Farm-makers of ridiculously tasty caramel and goat cheese- had a cheese I'd never tried before. Ginger cilantro sesame. I was a bit nervous about trying it, but it was/is fantastic! I wanted to stuff eggplant with it, or do an Asian inspired version of stuffed peppers.
Grafton Cheese Company came out with four new and non-cheddar cheeses. I tried all four of them and the one that I found to be best was the Vermont Barn Dance. It's a washed curd, sheep-cow blend cheese that has a rich round mouthfeel along with a slight tang. Grafton has also changed some of their packaging. You may start seeing the Grafton Tavern label on your cheese. Don't worry though, it's still the tasty cheddar you know and love.
|I waited in line for about 3 days just to try this cheese|
|Crowded room of people getting their cheese and booze on|
*Clearly this is not a viable solution, and I don't recommend it. PBR is obviously the superior beer.