Showing posts with label ACS Conference. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ACS Conference. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

ACS in Montreal part 1

Last month I went up to Montreal for the ACS Conference.  Before I go any further I have to give a great big thank you to Christine Hyatt for the generous offer of sharing her hotel suite.  If you don't know, Christine is the current President of ACS, and the awesomeness behind the website Cheese-Chick.   I shared a room with Kirsten and Kathleen and really enjoyed meeting those cheese-loving gals in person.

The ACS was formed in 1983 and held it's first competition in 1985 where a total of 89 cheeses were entered.  This year there were almost 1700 different entries.  What really made this year different was that it was the first time that the ACS has been held out of the U.S.A. Even though I've been a member since 2008, this was only my second time attending a full conference and it was a blast!

The seminars were educational, provocative (the debate between raw milk and pasteurized is never-ending) and fun; seeing and chatting with people I haven't seen in months or years was great; but of course I spent a lot of my time

Since the conference was held in Canada it was a great opportunity to try cheeses that you can't find in the States-including the world famous Oka cheese.  While tasting cheese is fantastic there are two events people I get most excited about: the awards ceremony and the festival of cheese.

The awards ceremony is when a cheesemaker gets to find out how well their entry fared.  Unlike many cheese competitions, there is no guarantee of a first place winner in a category.  The ACS grades cheese on a "must have" point value.  If it take 95 points to be a contender for 1st place and none of the cheeses in that category gets 95 points, there's no first place winner.  With this point system in place it means that sometimes there are ties for second or third place, and still no blue ribbon handed out.  Rogue Creamery won Best of Show (for the second time) this year, making that the second cheese to ever win Best of Show twice (Pleasant Ridge Reserve is the other, having won three times)

The festival of cheese is an overwhelming night of cheese, wine and beer.  Every single product that was entered in the competition (from kefir and yogurt to farmstead bandaged cheddar) is available to taste.  With almost 1700 entries this year you had to plan my tasting strategically-I usually start with the yogurt and feta and work my way to the strong, peppery blues and funky, stinky washed rind cheeses. Walking into the room where the festival is held is always a bit of an olfactory overload, but I love it.

This year I volunteered at the conference and was one of many who helped to set up the cheese displays for that nights' festival.  This was my first year volunteering and I wasn't sure what to expect, but I'm a quick learner, listened to what some seasoned volunteers told me, and have some tips to help you all should you decide to volunteer.

1. Try not to get the cheddar table.  When cheesemakers submit their cheeses they have to submit it in the original form.  Many cheesemakers make 40# block cheddars.  Cheddar (generally) is white or orange.  Creating an asthetically appealing table from huge block of white and orange is a substantial challenge.

2.  The soft-ripened table is awesome!  Bloomy rinds as far as the eye can see.  Since these cheeses don't do as well sitting out for hours before consumed, you've got to have some fast hands and team coordination in order to make the display.

3. The table of blues is by far the messiest.  You'll be picking blue cheese crumbles out of your pants, shirt and bra.

4. Unless you want to attract all the dogs in the neighborhood with your new scent, try to stay away from the smoked table.  The table I worked on was right next to the smoked table and it just made me want kielbasa all day long.

I was on the flavored cheese table.  A lot of flavored cheeses are things you would expect like pepperjack and cumin studded goudas.  We tried a lot of different cheeses while setting up.  Some were good, and some were bad, but there's one that stood out in my mind and mouth as one of the weirdest things that's happened to my taste buds in years.


It was bad.  Really bad.  Now to be fair, it DID taste like its name would have you believe.  The first bite was mild, and I didn't get much pineapple or coconut flavor.  Then it hit me.  Since I'm used to pineapple and coconut being put together in a large glass with an excessive amount of rum this was a shock.  It's solid form made my mouth unhappy and confused my brain.  I have been trying to think of how one could use this cheese, or even if one should.  I've come up with no answers.  I won't tell you to never eat it, but I will caution you to think twice.  If anyone has had this cheese, and knows a few tasty ways it can be applied in a recipe please let me know.

Stay tuned, part two will have photos, new and tasty cheeses and the most overwhelming plate of poutine that I could find.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Blogging and ACS Update

Hey there fellow turophiles. If you're at all like me you've been following the ACS conference by stalking those fortunate conference attendees who tweet, blog and do regular Facebook updates about it. My boss just texted me the winners and here they are:

Best of Show:
1st Place Pleasant Ridge Reserve
2nd Place Bonne Bouche pt 2 can be found here
3rd Place Spring Brook Farm Tarentaise

I'm going to have to change my tune at work. No I'm going to have to start saying

"Pleasant Ridge Reserve is the only cheese to have won 'Best of Show' three times at the ACS conference."

Congratulations Vermont!

On an unrelated note, I am in the process of moving my blog to Wordpress. The url will stay the same, but the overall design, and gadgets I get to play with will be 100% more rad. Stay tuned!

Friday, May 7, 2010

My (upcoming) Summer Vacation

So what are you doing for your summer vacation? My time off this summer is centered around cheese. Shocking isn't it?!

I'm getting ready for my summer starting this weekend with a trip to the Madison, WI farmers market. Goal: 3 yr bandaged cheddar from Bleu Mont Dairy. Yes, I am renting a car and driving 2 1/2 hours each way to Madison to get cheese. It's a sickness.

The rest of May I spend my time busting my hump and saving money. What do I need money for? Plane tickets and hotel rooms.

June- Besides "busting out all over" that one is for you ma June is also time for the Fancy Food Show in New York City. The Fancy Food Show is a wonderful opportunity to see new products and taste taste taste! A list of some of the exhibitors can be found if you look here. Now yes, it's true I haven't officially gotten my time off approved yet, I'm just hopeful.

July-It's time for the 2nd annual Vermont Cheesemaker's Festival! This gives me the opportunity to go back to my favorite state, visit some farms and gorge myself on fantastic, delicious, soul-pleasing cheese. My goals for this visit to Vermont is to go and visit Laini at Lazy Lady Farm and to get my goat cheese on at Blue Ledge Farm. It sold out early last year, so you're going to want to get your tickets straight away!

August-I'm Seattle bound. You should be too. Why? It's time for the ACS conference! I am super excited about this one for two reasons.
  1. I get to go to the conference, meet new people, try new cheeses, go to educational seminars, taste cheese, and taste cheese
  2. I've never been to the Pacific NorthWest. I am so excited! Of course a stop at Beecher's is going to be necessary, but there's so much to do out there. Cheeses to eat, farms to visit!
So what are you doing for summer? Are you going to a festival? Cheese eating competition? Cheese art sculpture contest? I'd love to hear what's going on in your neck of the woods.

Monday, August 10, 2009

I'm Exhausted

Yesterday I got to the airport in Texas at 11:30 am. I got home to Chicago at 1:40am. Then I went to work today. I was going to give you part one of the ACS conference but find that I have no energy for cognitive thought. Brain bad. Brain hurty. Here are a few teaser highlights from the conference.

If you would like to see a list of the winners, go here and click.

At the Meet the Cheesemaker part of the day I started at Beehive and ended up at Zingerman's. I didn't go near VT Butter & Cheese because I knew I would be a Bonne Bouche hog. Not a lot of pictures from this session. I spent a lot of time eating cheese, or asking cheesemaker's questions. Since I make it a point to not post any pictures of people, unless they are at their best, I have no pictures of Judy to show you. All you need to know is that she makes great cheese, and that the picture I have of her looks like I was shaking and using Barbara Streisand lighting.* I was not going to post a crappy photo just to say "hey look, it's Judy".

Julianna from Capriole.

Sofia and Piper's Pyramid from Capriole.

One of my favorite new cheeses. This is SeaHive from the Beehive Cheese Company. Milky, and sweet, flowery, grassy salty and gooood.

Topics coming this week (probably starting Wednesday since that's my day off):
  • Why is it so damn hot in Austin when it's 9:30pm?
  • Artisan, Farmstead, Organic, what do those words really mean?
  • Cheese Spreads and cheeses like Lancaster Duet, should they both be in the competition together?
  • Seriously, why is it so hot?
  • You're the most ribboned cheesemaker in America, what does that mean, and are you still an artisan cheesemaker? Based on the amounts of cheese you produce are you tipping the scale in your favor as far as competition is concerned?
  • Is there such a thing as too big when it comes to a cheesemakers production?
  • Why is VT Butter & Cheese Co. still artisan, but other big companies aren't?
These are just some of the topics that I'm going to be mouthing off about. Of course there will be talk about cheese as well. Especially some of the cheeses I met at the Festival of Cheese. Now I have got to go to bed. My pillow is calling me.

*Barbara Streisand lighting (known as Barbara Walters lighting in some circles) is when the the subject looks fluffy soft like cotton balls. It is supposed to make the subject look younger, but they just look awful and bleached out.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Mini Update

Okay so the results are in.

  • Best of Show is Rogue Creamery of Oregan for their Rogue River Blue.
  • Second Place is Cowgirl Creamery of California for Red Hawk
  • Third Place is Consider Bardwell Farm in Vermont for Rupert
  • Third Place is also Carr Valley Cheese Co., in Wisconsin for Cave Aged Mellage
Tying at the ACS is not an uncommon thing. It happens quite often.

Congratulations to all of the people who placed, and to every single one of the hard working cheesemakers who pour their heart and soul into their animals, milk, standards, and cheese.

Tomorrow is Town Meeting and the festival of cheese. Subjects including if ACS should have more regulation over the words organic, artisan, farmstead and the like. Unfortunately I know I'm going to have a hard time keeping my mouth shut. Hopefully I'll be more composed.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

ACS Conference Update aka Austin is the hottest place on earth!

So, really quickly here's what been going on in Austin, TX in huge run-on sentences. After taking 10hrs to get here (via NYC)-don't ask I met up with my co-workers, went out for Vietnamese, had some drinks went to bed, woke up went to seminars remembered that the ACS coffee is just as bad as it was last year, had lunch, had 3 PBR at a bar and the bartender Brian only charged me $4 so now I love Brian.

I met Jeremy Spring Brook Farm (have I spoken about Tarentaise? If not, I will) Met Mateo, the Don of VT Cheese, also met Allison Hooper who I refer to as the Frank Sinatra of the ACS, but in person I told her that meeting her was like meeting Elvis. I hope she knows that I meant because she's so awesome and not because I think she's a drug addict slob who's going to die on the toilet eating a ham sandwich. I respect her intelligence and think she probably knew what I meant. Although the next time I see her maybe I'll call her Paul McCartney-pre Wings obviously!

Went to more seminars, had dinner, drank, had my boss pay for both (Woo Hoo!) Now off to the new people seminar where, shockingly they will be plying us with cheese and booze. Cheese people love cheese, but they REALLY love booze. Oh well, it's 102 here, I could use a cold beer. TTFN

Forgot to tell you guys, next year's conference is going to be in Seattle from 8/25-8/28. I've already put my time off request in.

Also, to the person who was looking for volunteer opportunities, I spoke to the woman at the desk and she said that they already have everyone that they need, but to maybe come by in person one day as there is always a cheesemergency that comes up.

Friday, June 26, 2009

My Summer Vacation

If you are in the NYC area this weekend there are a few cheesy things you MUST do. The Fancy Food show is going on! In addition to a bunch of stuff we don't care about because it's not cheese, there are tons of cheesemakers too. I think I'd heard a number like 65 or so. And it's free. And there's cheese. Go so I can eat vicariously through you.

The second thing you have to do is go to the cheese eating contest. Stinky Brooklyn is hosting a cheese eating contest at Smith & Vine. I don't know if it's a stinky cheese eating contest I really hope it is but it's a cheese eating contest and you have to go. Why am I not going to either of these events? Why am I going to be here in Chicago instead of at a cheese eating contest? I'm taking too much time off this summer, and I had to be selective for which events were most important to me.

I know that I'm supposed to talk about my summer "vacation" at the end of the summer, but I'm a rebel and am breaking the rules.

On Tuesday I went to a seminar on Parmigiano-Reggiano held at Kendall College here in Chicago. Sponsored by Zuercher. The guest speakers were Daphne Zepos, cheese Goddess extraordinaire and owner of Essex St. Cheese in NYC and Giorgio Cravero 5th generation selector, affineur, and all around expert in the field. Thursday Daphne and Giorgio did a demo at the store, it was crazy busy and awesome. I'm working on a post. Next month some folks from Neal's Yard Dairy are coming out to do something similar.

Then comes August, or as I like to call it, I'm traveling a lot this month and putting the poor kitty in a kennel and eating so much cheese and going to be so broke after this month kicks my wallets' butt. It's not as succinct as just saying August, but it conveys so much more.

First off we have the ACS Conference Facebook link here going on from August 5-8 with the festival of cheese on August 9th. Then on August 22nd I'm doing the cheese trail in Vermont followed by the Vermont Cheesemaker's Festival on August 23rd. You can also find more info here. I'm still waiting to see if I'm going to get the time off for the Cheese Tour in Washington County, NY. This summer I am going to be eating a ridiculous amount of cheese. Yipee!