Updated: Aug 1
Thank you for following the QR trail! Glad to have you here! Third edition
I can't believe they let me back on the show, how cool is this!! Well, Mike and I are back from The American Cheese Society's Annual Conference. Lovingly referred to as "Cheese Camp". Every year, makers from around the Americas submit their cheeses for judging by the American Cheese Society. Interestingly enough, they have recently moved the judging and competition portion of the conference permanently to June at Huntington Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. It used to be at the conference which is held in the heat of July.
Two great reasons:
When shipping their cheese to the judging, makers cross their fingers hoping it arrives in proper condition. If it does not, it will be disqualified from competition. Extremely disappointing for the maker!
Supposedly, it is cooler here in June
The conference in July is held at a different city each year. Having the judging prior to the conference at the same location each year allows for a great core group of volunteers (and experts!) to expedite the process. Trust me, the cheese community is awesome! Mike and I tried to volunteer again this year, but 2 days after sign up started, every spot was full! And we are only 45 minutes away from the stadium. Many, many folks came from across the country TO VOLUNTEER!
Below is the information on the cheeses and cooking directions I presented. Some cheeses may not have made it into the segment (I tend to over do it!), but I wanted to give you all of the information on them regardless.
Please keep in mind that once a cheese wins, it becomes extremely hard to find....all we can do is ask your monger, right?
Let's go by producer:
Alemar------> ABSOULUTELY SWEPT IT'S CATEGORY!!! Winning both 1st and 2nd with Apricity and Blue Earth
Alemar is an urban creamery, located in The Food Building in Minneapolis. The Alemar Cheese story begins with founder Keith Adams, a native of Davis, California.
Using gently pasteurized milk from grass-fed cows at a farm 40 miles away, Keith in 2008 launched Alemar (named for his daughters Alexandra and Mariel) and its sole product, the Camembert-inspired Bent River. In 2021 Keith and Kieran Folliard (Food Building founder) brought on Head Cheesemaker Charlotte Serino.
Charlotte is quite simply upping Alemar’s game. She graduated from UW-Madison in Wisconsin, went on to study food science and she has extensive experience making and selling artisan cheese. She’s mongered at a local favorite gourmet grocery store (Lund’s and Byerly’s) and a Multi-National (Whole Foods Market). Charlotte also has farmstead experience making many varieties of Goat’s milk cheeses prior to joining the Alemar Team. Her precision and thoughtfulness brings new light to Alemar’s production.
Charlotte was a suspect in our cheesy murder mystery event we had at Ambi Wine Bar!
From Alemar we have a few beauties:
Apricity-------> 1st in Open Category – Soft-Ripened Cheeses – made from cow’s milk
Blue Earth------> 2nd in Open Category – Soft-Ripened Cheeses – made from cow’s milk
Sakatah-----no awards this year, you just need to buy it!
St. Malachi from The Farm at Doe Run----> 1st BEST IN SHOW!!!
Yes I buried the lead, because I love Alemar soooooo much!
Yes, the link is a Facebook page, many makers do not spend money on a web site, this is how tight the margins are. Located in the rural heart of Chester County Pennsylvania, The Farm at Doe Run was purchased in 2008 by Pennsylvania native Richard Hayne, founder of Urban Outfitters.
Named for a Catholic parish in Pennsylvania, St. Malachi is an Alpine-style cow's milk cheese with a firm washed rind. For production, the curd is heated and washed with water, re-heated and then brine added during the make process. The washing of the curds prior to hooping (pressing the curds into the form) rids the curds of some of the lactose that is still on the surface of the curd. When this lactose is washed away, the cheese will have more "sweetness" because that lactose is gone and can no longer convert to lactic acid in the cheese.
Pair with Wandering Cellars Chardonnay
The dairy farm sits up on top of Pleasant Ridge in the Driftless region of southwestern Wisconsin. The cows are bred seasonally, which is unusual for dairy farms in the US. And the result is two seasonal cheeses: Pleasant Ridge Reserve and Rush Creek Reserve (I will save Rush Creek Reserve for a later edition of this blog, provided I am on the show again). It is a supernatural cheese, completely transformative. If this sounds over the top with a bunch of superlatives, it really is not. The area is seriously divine, but don't tell anyone!! Let's keep this to ourselves!
Pleasant Ridge Reserve is an aged, alpine-style cheese. Like the coveted, alpage versions of Beaufort and Gruyere, Pleasant Ridge is made only in the summer months, while the cows are grazing fresh pasture.
The sweetness born from the grass-fed milk combines with the savory flavors developed by the cheese’s natural, washed rind. The resulting complexity – rich and salty, with a long, fruity finish – has made Pleasant Ridge one of the most distinctive and celebrated cheeses in the country.
In fact, Pleasant Ridge Reserve is the most-awarded cheese in American history, having won Best of Show in the American Cheese Society’s annual competition three times (2001, 2005 and 2010), and having also won the US Cheese Championships in 2003. It is the only cheese to have placed in ACS Best of Show four times, and the only cheese to have ever won both of the major national cheese competitions.
Pair with varietals from the French Region of Haute Savoie/Northern Rhone
Today, Terra Rouge Easton Viognier
Beecher's Flagsheep------> 1st in it's category of "Open category, mixed milks"
In 2003, Kurt Beecher Dammeier opened his first Beecher’s Handmade Cheese in Seattle’s historic Pike Place Market. For Kurt, Beecher’s fulfilled an ambition beyond just making great cheese. He has long felt passionately about eating food free of harmful additives and preservatives.
Flagsheep’s recipe closely follows the Flagship model with the addition of fresh, pasteurized sheep’s milk. This cheese is dense, earthy and fruity with a sweet butterscotch finish.
This natural rind cheese is clothbound and open-air aged, allowing it to lose about 15% of its moisture during the aging process.
After being bound in cloth, each truckle is rubbed with butter and then hand-turned on a daily basis during the first two months of aging. After that, each truckle is turned weekly until the Affineur determines that it is ready for the market.
Kingston Breezy Blue-----> 1st in it's class of Rindless Blue-veined – made from goat, sheep, mixed, or other milks
This blue cheese has been red hot, lately. Winning best of class at ACS, This cheese also was listed in the Top 20 at the 2023 U.S. Championship Cheese Contest. It’s a mixed milk (cow and goat) Blue that comes from high-quality milk from pasture grazing animals (including some milked by hand). Kingston Amish farm traditions include allowing their cows and goats to graze on pasture when Wisconsin weather permits and hand milking using old-fashioned milk cans. The extra care and centuries-old practice is reflected in the luscious, high-quality milk and extraordinary blue cheeses crafted by their award-winning cheesemakers.
Pair with a sweet dessert wine. Such as a White Port or Sauternes
I might (if I remember to bring) serve it with Isadore Nuts Chai Spiced Pecans
Mount Raclette from Alpinage Cheese-------> 1st in it's category: Raclette-style – Aged over 45 days
Alpinage is making Farmstead cheese directly at the farm using raw milk coming straight from the milking parlor. Fashioned after a favorite French & Swiss mountain cheese but with a Wisconsin twist, our Classic Raclette is characterized by its creamy texture with prominent earthy and fruity flavors that will please your taste buds. All Alpinage cheeses are aged for at least 60 days on rustic wood boards in a cave-like cellar. The Cheesemakers, Orphee (originally from France) and Paula (a 6th generation dairy farmer), met in 2014, sharing an instant connection, much of which related to cheese, farming and food. Together they make this award-winning raclette cheese, a love you can taste, and a taste you can love.
Again, pair with varietals (Roussanne, Marsanne, close enough: Viognier) from the French Region of Haute Savoie/Northern Rhone
Two bonus eats! Blakesville Creamery's collaboration with France 44. Not kidding, the award winning chesses are completely AWOL on occasion. But, I found this cheese by recommendation from the conspicuously tall Austin at France 44. A custom and collaborative cheese specifically for France 44 between Blakesville Creamery and Damfwerk Distillery. Considered a grilling cheese. But I would eat is in any way shape and form!
Fresh Mozzarella di Bufala Campana DOP with grilled nectarines and brioche. Real quick directions, because it is late in the evening for me:
Slice Nectarines and drizzle with olive oil. I used Lemon Olive Oil from Love That Olive in Maple Grove . Grill lightly. Repeat for slices of Brioche
Chop nectarines into smaller chunks and macerate with Petit Ami Wine from Carlos Creek, sugar, vanilla bean, pinch of salt, and basil.
Tear Mozzarella into bite sized portions. Spoon a few chunks of nectarine onto the brioche and top with the torn mozz. Finnish with salt and squeeze of lemon.
Pairing for both: Sparkling fruit forward Rose' or Petit Ami from Carlos Creek
Ever growing list of trivia:
And, if you read to the end of this post, you will be graced with a bit of knowledge that is NOT commonly known among folks:
It is still illegal in Wisconsin for Restaurants to put margarine on the table. It can only be served if the customer requests.
Wisconsin is the only place outside of Switzerland that REQUIRES a license to make cheese.
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