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Showing posts with label Vermont Cheesemakers Festival. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Vermont Cheesemakers Festival. Show all posts

Monday, July 25, 2011

Vermont Cheesemakers Festival

I love Vermont. I love Vermont cheese. I love Vermont beer. I appreciate Vermont wine.

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.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

My Brother Is Awesome

My most recent cheese journey was just last week when I went back to Vermont. I used the excuse that I wanted to go to the Vermont Cheesemaker's Festival, but in all honesty I just wanted to go "back home".

I know, I know, I've written posts about going back home to New York as well, and on some level I'll always be a girl from Queens, but Vermont is my soul. My most favorite thing to do when back in the Green Mountain State is to hang out with my brother. No, not that brother, the other one. The "good" one. The one who let's me crash on his bed while he takes the air mattress. The one who picks me up at the Boston airport just so we can go to a cheese shop and then drives me all over Vermont looking for tasty cheese. The one I haven't seen in a year. My best friend and emotional twin.

The next few posts are all dedicated to my fantastically wonderful, bad-ass, kick butt drummer, illegal-car driving, border-patrol avoiding, can't grow a full bushy beard to save his life brother. Thanks for making last week awesome!

On day one I landed at Logan airport with a GPS and an address of a cheese shop. Located only 10 minutes away from Logan on a tiny quiet little street is South End Formaggio. This shop might be small, but it is jam-packed with goodies. They have a lunch counter where you can get a huge ham and butter sandwich or even half a roasted chicken. There's a great array of cured meats and pate, craft beer, artisan wines, jams, mustards, crackers, some seasonal fresh fruit, frozen treats, tons of delicious chocolate and of course cheese. They are a cut-to-order shop with no minimum cut and let you taste just about everything. That's my favorite kind of shp to visit. I don't like being forced to buy a certain amount of cheese. I like to pick and choose, using measures such as "a smidge" and "sniglet". I forced my brother to try everything with me-even things he wasn't terribly excited about. We ended up with some Taleggio, Selles-sur-Cher and some especially fruity and nutty Comte.

Selles-sur-Cher is one of my favorite goat's milk cheeses. It's just a small disk of fresh chevre from France that has been rubbed in ash. This cheese is sublime. It has a firm texture with a bit of a sour, salty sweetness and barnyardy notes too. Unfortunately, since the AOC cheese is made from raw milk and the cheese is aged less than 60 days, in the U.S.A. we can only get pasteurized versions. The "authentic" cheese is very similar to the pasteurized version except it has a bit more goatiness to it. Although very similar to Bonne Bouche in size, this cheese is a bit more mellow, and tame. It's the "Cathy" to Bonne Bouche's "Patty" We ate it while watching Meg Ryan movies and mocking her precocious "acting skills".

The next day we took the "scenic" route (some might say we got lost) to Shelburne for a Vermont Farm Tour. Our guide was Chris and 14 of us set out to visit three artisan cheesemakers in Addison county. Doing the tour with Vermont Farm Tours was awesome. Two of the cheesemakers I'd wanted to visit on my trip to Vermont were on the tour: Twig Farm-makers of obscenely delicious cheese and Dancing Cow-cheesemakers who name all their delicious cheeses after dances. Taking the tour meant less driving for us and a more relaxed atmosphere.

Chris from Vermont Farm Tours


There were people of varying experiences there. One couple from Canada who are putting together an artisan cheese festival in June. One couple from Mexico who had a small herd of goats and were embarking upon their own cheesemaking journey-even though they don't like goat cheese. It was interesting being surrounded by so many people and having a chance to look at the cheese world through the eyes of others.

Of course we did the Vermont cheesemaker's Festival as well. I decided to splurge this year and buy the wine glass so I could taste and get...happy. The bro was stuc as the designated driver since it doesn't take much for me to be unable to drive. My favorite things from this year's festival were the Eden Ice Cider, Triple Cream and Cream Cheese from Champlain Valley Creamery, and this wicked awesome cheese I'd never had before from Cricket Creek Farm called Tobasi. Tobasi is a seasonally-made semi-soft raw cow's milk cheese, aged for about 3 months. It looks like tree bark, and it tastes a bit like a mild Taleggio. Full of grassy, nutty, creamy, earthy, lactic notes. No, I don't' know why a cheese from MA was at the VT Cheesemaker's Festival.

Tobasi is delicious and looks like tree bark and cheese had a baby.


They had a little pen with a sheep and two snow white little goats who like to play.


I love this t-shirt from Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery.



I love going out to breakfast. Especially when I'm in Vermont (real maple syrup on everything). If you enjoy deliciousness you have to make sure that you stop at the Penny Cluse Cafe in Burlington and get an order of gingerbread pancakes. They are light as a cloud, full of flavor, and hearty. I love them year-round, but can't wait to have them in the winter when it's really cold outside. I forced my brother to make a stop on our way to the festival. They also have fantastic juices made on premise. The grapefruit is especially divine.

If you're in Montpelier stop at Kismet Kitchen on Barre street. Fresh juice bar, local and organic foods, vegetarian and vegan options and specials that truly are special. My favorite was the fried green tomato Benedict. Oh, and thanks to the awesome server who let me go on and on about my slight obsession over duck eggs and then offered to poach some as a substitution for chicken eggs. It was the last thing I ate on this trip to Vermont, and one of the best.

Oh Vermont I miss you already, but not for long. I have decided to leave Chicago this year. When I first moved here to work at Spiagga I planned to be out here for one year and then move back to the East Coast. This summer was my sixth in the Windy City. I have had great experiences working in fantastic restaurants, and of course getting to work in a great cheese shop for the past few years, but I'm not a big city girl, and every time I go back to Vermont I'm reminded of that.

Dear reader this is where you come in. If you know of anyone looking for a cheese-passionate, slightly off-center, cheesy lass who can sing, plays the tambourine* and adores Vermont let me know. My email is cheeseisalive@gmail.com

Things that I will be addressing in upcoming posts:

My Brother Is Awesome but not as cute as goats
I am the macaroni and cheese champion
What's that smell? Oh, it's coming from my suitcase.
Farmstead cheesemakers are awesome and raw milk didn't kill me
Lazy Lady Farm and avoiding the border patrol

*Technically I don't actually play the tambourine, but it doesn't look too hard. I'll learn.

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.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A Tale of Two Tarentaise, Vermont Cheesemaker's Festival and More

Farms for City Kids Foundations' Spring Brook Farm Tarentaise won 1st place for Open Category Cow's Milk Cheeses (aged 60 days or more) in the farmstead cheese category a few weeks ago at ACS. Please go to the website and read about the program that's helping kids get in touch with the land and their food. Learning lessons that can be taught in the classroom, but stay with you longer and mean more after "doing" instead of just reading.

So second place in the same category was Thistle Hill Farm Tarentaise. Both farms use the same breed of cow. They both use copper vats. The recipe is the same. Thistle Hill Farm licensed their recipe to Spring Brook Farm to use. They are located 20 miles away from one another. They should taste the same right? Bah! The two cheeses couldn't be more different in flavor. I'm going to start by saying that they're both good. They both have a nutty acidity which is modeled after Beaufort. For me however it's the Spring Brook Farm cheese. The Spring Brook Farm Tarentaise tastes wild. It's sharp and acidic and slightly bitter, a bit nutty and green like artichoke petals. I love it.

After touring the farm and cheeseworks Tom sent me off with a seriously generous piece of cheese. 14 months old it was absolutely glorious. I brought it home with me and we had it three ways. Straight up in the mouth, whittling pieces off to put in our gobs, cheese sandwiches and topped our burgers with it as well. Sooo good.

I seriously love Vermont.


Racks and racks and racks of Tarentaise.


Yup, it's a zebra. Nope, I'm not at a zoo. On our way to Spring Brook Farm we passed a still-in-construction plot of land with a barn and pen with a zebra in it. In a blatant act of trespassing we went over the private covered bridge and onto the land so we could take a look at the zebra. You just don't anticipate the Vermont zebra. Or the Spanish inquisition. Come on you were all thinking it.


Happy little goat at Fat Toad Farm yes, they have lovely cream cheese, but that's not why I went. They have goat milk caramel sauce. My folks are sending me the 3 jars I bought up there. I just didn't have room for all the cheese, caramel sauce and ice cider. CURSES! Now I really want caramel sauce. Badly.


One of the things I was most looking forward to was going to see the Water Buffalo people. Cool right? I mean they make mozzarella and yogurt and have water buffalo. I called them for weeks and kept getting different answers. Yes they would give me a tour, no they couldn't. They aren't making mozzarella anymore. They have no yogurt. I was frustrated but then I heard that they're moving. To Canada. CURSES! Well, that didn't deter me. I'd never seen a water buffalo before so we went. They're super cute. Almost cuter than cows.

Little buffalo


Big buffalo


Why look! It's Tom doling out samples of Tarentaise. Both cheeses were together at the stand so you got to do a side by side comparison. Awesome!


Oh look, it's my tasty friend Tarentaise. Along with other tasty treats. mmm...Vermont Shepherd. I bought one of the Sarrabande, and she made it to Chicago okay. I can't wait to eat her tomorrow!


I have no idea what the top cheese is, but the Vermont Ayr is delicious and I think I've mentioned my hardcore love for the Ascutney Mountain before.


Twig Farm makes ridiculously tasty cheese. One of my favorites is the Square. Unfortunately we don't get it out here in Chicago, so I only get it when I go back East.

Now, part of the festivals goal was to get cheesemaker's to meet their customers and for the customers to see the face behind the fromage. I really really really wanted to chat with the cheesemaker and ask him about the experimental cheese. Unfortunately it was too crowded.*



Shelburne Farms is sitting on some gorgeous land right alongside Lake Champlain.


Happy and hungry cows at Shelburne Farms.


Yesterday I spent a whole bunch of time at Jasper Hill Farm listening to Mateo talk about cheese, and show me cheese, and have me taste cheese and it was so frickin' rad. That post will probably be coming in the next few days.

*Update on 8/26 @8:57pm: Some of you may have noticed that I changed this post slightly. I never change the post. Usually after writing something I check for spelling errors and once it's posted I don't look at it again except for reference. This post, and my super cranky paragraph bothered me all day today. In the interest of being a happy wench instead of an angry prickly one, I have deleted the rant.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Bonne Bouche part 2

So, after the sd memory card debacle, I only had 1/2 of the Bonne Bouche left. Not a lot to photograph, but still yummy. This is an ash-ripened goat milk cheese. Phenomenal cheese. I know I often say that something is one of my favorites, but this cheese is always in my top 5. Always. Even when I haven't had it for over a year and I feel as though my heart might break.

I did share with some of my co-workers. The responses ranged from "OhmyGod what is that?" to general lip smacking sounds while eyes rolled in the back of their heads. I also heard some moaning. Yes, this cheese is that good. If this cheese were a rock star it would be the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show, and I would be one of the screaming throng.


I want this gooey, creamy, salty, grassy, green veggie, goaty, milky, lactic, nutty, acidic dream of a cheese. I'm so sad that I have no more, but super excited that I'll be picking up at least a dozen of them at the VT cheesemaker's festival.

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!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Vermont Cheese and Festival

Today is all about Vermont, my adopted home. I moved to Vermont one summer for a job at a ski lodge. 9 years later I left the Green Mountain State. There is something magical about that state. Something that calls to my very soul. Yes I did leave, but I am going to go back one day.

I think that in a blind taste test I would be able to tell a Vermont cheese from any other cheese in the union. Vermont has got some great terroir. What is terroir? It's hard to explain. The short version is that it's the soil, sun, shade, water and minerals that go into making the land. It's the reason why some wines have a mineral or chalky quality to them, and some do not. It is the primary reason I love Vermont cheese.

Vermont cheeses always taste like Vermont. Even the mass marketed Cheddar has a Vermontatude to it. Today's cheese is no different. Today's lunch was a little round of Hartwell an organic cow milk cheese from Ploughgate Creamery in Craftsbury Common, VT. If I was to compare it to anything, I'd say it has a profile similar to that of a Brie. Big mushroom flavors. Wild mushrooms. It has some mushroom aromas as well and a bit of that yummy slightly bitter, almost bordering on ammonia mold smell that you get with a bloomy rind cheese.

If I'm going to be honest, I'll tell you that I find the rind to be just a bit too thick and cut a tiny bit off of the bottom as I ate it.*, and then there's the green veggie. My friend C says that VT cheeses always taste a bit like vegetables to him, and I agree. This cheese in particular has a slight skunkiness like cabbage, and a hint of onion like ramps right after you take a knife to them. So good. I didn't know what to pair with this. I wanted to turn it into a sandwich, or maybe a small chunk on the side of a rockit salad. Or quiche. I just don't know. Too many options. Eventually I just cut up a wheel, and ate it with a few co-workers.

One of the unfortunate parts of living in Chicago is we don't get a lot of VT cheese. A lot of the artisan cheesemakers won't ship their product that far, or they only do an express overnight which makes that $9 piece of cheese that I'm craving turn into $71. I'm not kidding I checked one of the makers of a favorite cheese of mine. The other deterrent is, I live in the Midwest. In a state that borders Wisconsin. In addition, I try to eat locally. I really do. I know where my meats come from, my veggies, eggs and dairy. But cheese. My lovely cheese. I can't just stay local when it comes to cheese.

Yummy funky little cheese.

Isn't she pretty?


There are two things that make me happy thinking about VT cheese. The first one is Saxelby Cheesemongers. When I go to NY (which is much more often than getting back north) if I go to that shop I know they're going to have some great VT cheeses. The other is the Vermont Cheesemaker's Festival that's going on this August 23.

Fifty Vermont cheesemakers will be on hand. In addition there are cooking demonstrations, and tasting seminars. There is a cheesemaking 101 seminar, Cheddar and beer pairings, and oodles of fun!

The chesemaker's festival is awesome, but in order to get an even better experience, participate in Vermont Artisan Food Open Studio Day the day before on August 22. Go up and down the state tasting artisan products like the lovely pastries at La Brioche in Montpelier** or visit the Magic Hat brewery. There's also a cheese trail. Thirty farmstead creameries are open to the public for demos and visits.

I have put in my time off request at work and sincerely hope I can get that weekend off. It's going to be tricky since the ACS conference is earlier in the month, but I'm going to do whatever I can to make it happen.

In other Vermont news it's almost the end of the Winnimere season. If you haven't had an opportunity to try this cheese, do so now or suffer a Winnie sized emptiness in your tummy until next January.

*Yes, I did take off the bottom rind from the pieces I was eating. This does not give you the excuse to not eat the rind. As I have told you, try the cheese with and without the rind and see what you prefer. I thought that 2/3 of the rind was the right amount of rind to paste ratio for my palate.

**I went to culinary school at the New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier, VT. La Brioche is the school bakery. My breads and pastries class started at 2am. My cakes, tarts, and pies were at 6am. The bars close at 2am in VT. It was very odd going to class in a starched, pressed uniform as people were stumbling home from the bars. Very odd indeed.

On the first day of breads class my instructor said that if we were tired he would help us wake up. He then took a volunteer never trust a bread man, they're crazy brought him over to the dough starter and punched it down. The gasses trapped in the dough poofed out, smacked my mod-mate in the face and knocked him on his bum. There is a special place in my heart for this building, and my instructors. The food is good, the coffee is too and there's a Ben & Jerry's right next door for all of your emergency ice cream needs.