But first a picture of the cheese that is probably my favorite US-made cheese. Jasper Hill Winnimere. I just can’t get enough. I just want to dive in and submerge myself in the smoky cheese stink!
I would say that the washed-rind cheeses* were the ones that really stood out. As a group they were tremendously improved from even last year. I would buy almost anything that was out there at the Festival of Cheese.**
In no particular order:
1. Sweet Grass Dairy Titan. I’ve love the Sweet Grass folks and their grass-fed cheeses (Green Hill, Thomasville Tomme etc.) for awhile but this washed rind one hit some new heights for them. Check it out if you can find it, I think it is in very short supply these days.
2. Pasture Pride goat cheeses. We’ve carried their 40# lb. cheddar and I always loved the name, quite possibly because we have “Cheese Pride” buttons for our cheese department. I had no idea they were making awesome aged goat cheeses though.
3. Prairie Fruits. At an event like this it can be hard for some cheeses to stand out. Washed-rinds and aged cheeses tend to be more memorable once you’ve tried 50 other cheeses. However, Prairie Fruits soft-ripened cheeses were nearly perfect. They don’t get out my way so I hadn’t heard of ‘em before but if you’re around Illinois, go get some.
4. It seemed like every time I tasted a cheese and went “wow” I’d look at the sign and it would be from Vermont cheesemakers Consider Bardwell Farm. So, if you can find it, do more than consider it, ok?
5. Hendricks Farm Telford Reserve We’ve carried their “Cow Pie” but this aged farmhouse cheddar is so flavorfull it verged on too much. Verged, mind you, it veered back at the last possible moment. Fruity, earthy. and a little intense in how the flavor explodes in your mouth.
6. Blackberry Farm Trefoil My notes were a casualty (the only one, I am a professional, believe it or not) of someone’s spilled beer during our room party but I guarantee it was good because it had lots of exclamation marks. Here’s what I can read: “ … awesome(sic)…!! … eep ? BIG …ar…mmmmm! Wh… re … ple? !!!” I can’t think of a better recommendation
7. Redwood Hill Kefir Goat kefir from Sebastopol! New!
8. Have I mentioned how awesome the Bellwether Sheep Yogurt is recently? It is quite possibly the awesomest yogurt made in this country.
9. Carr Valley Snow White won best of show. It’s a traditional (bandage-wrapped) cheddar made of goat milk. I have a little piece in my fridge that I smuggled back home.
10. Hidden Springs Their cheese is so great that I went and visited after the conference. Sheep pics are coming!
Cheese Bear says, “Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.”
*washed rind cheeses are, like the name implies, washed with something, usually salt, sometimes booze, that creates a good environment for certain bacteria. It’s why those cheeses tend to be more stinky and pungent. Examples are Taleggio, Pont Leveque, Livarot, Munster d’Alsace, and this Winnimere. Mmmmmmmmmm.
**Festival of Cheese is when all the cheese that professional cheesemakers send is put out in a huge, fancy hall for all of us to gorge on. Over 1000 cheeses from all over the US and Canada.