Thursday, July 24, 2008

On Location: Meet the Cheesemaker

If I could figure out how to do it, I'd add a Breaking News scroll bar to my blog with this tagline: Dozens of cheeses debut at American Cheese Society annual conference in Chicago --- Blogger sets new personal record for tasting new cheeses in one day --- Send Pepto and a big bowl of fiber as soon as possible ...

Needless to say, I just returned to my hotel room after working the Meet the Cheesemaker event here at ACS, where more than 60 cheesemakers from around the country are sampling their latest and greatest wares for every cheese buyer, food editor and artisan enthusiast in the country. Dozens of Wisconsin cheesemakers were in attendance, and in exciting news, many of them debuted several new cheeses that I've been itching to write about. So grab a glass a wine and settle in. There's a lot to report. Here we go:

1. Raspberry Bellavitano from Sartori Foods: this little treasure won't be available in retail stores until October, but I suggest you purchase a wheel as soon as it hits the market. I've been a fan of Sartori Bellavitano (quick reminder -- Sartori bought Antigo Cheese a couple years ago -- this cheese is made in the Antigo plant) since it debuted about a year ago, but the Raspberry version is awesome. Soaked in New Glarus Raspberry Tart Beer, this cheese is an American Original, says cheesemaker Mike Matucheski. It boasts an amazing, almost cravable taste reminiscent of an aged, premium Cheddar balanced by a full flavored Parmesan. One word: wowsers.

2. Ville Theresa from Widmer's Cheese Cellars: Master Cheesemaker Joe Widmer told me he finally had time to recreate this cheese, which with he won a blue ribbon 10 years ago at ACS, but never put on the market. This semi-soft washed rind cheese is about two months old and is cave-aged, creating an orange rind. Very creamy and supple, it reminds me of an aged brick, but is milder with a slightly tangy flavor. Joe says its goes great with a good stout beer and I whole-heartedly believe him.

3. Smoked Salmon & Dill Cheddar from Cedar Grove: You lucky West Coasters have apparently been enjoying this cheese for some time, as Master Cheesemaker Bob Wills tells me he's been making it for more than a year for a customer in Washington. Made using dried salmon and dill, this cheddar is amazing -- the smoked flavor hits you first, with the salmon coming in on the finish. Yummy.

4. Smoked Alpine from Pasture Pride Cheese: Cheesemaker Tom Torkelson was sampling this new cheese, a semi-soft, brined goat cheese made in six-pound wheels and smoked at Carr Valley with an applewood flavor. This creamy-white cheese is very good, carries a tangy flavor and compliments Tom's other cheeses that I like so much: Redstone Robust and Castlerock Reserve.

5. Bad Axe from Hidden Springs Creamery: I've been a big fan of cheesemaker Brenda Jensen since she hit the scene two years ago, and I think she's created another winner in this cave-aged, one-month-old sheep's milk cheese that nicely bridges her aged Ocooch Mountain and her fresh Driftless cheese. Named as a tribute to the Bad Axe area in Western Wisconsin (site of a Native American massacre), this cheese is creamy and carries a really special flavor.

6. Feddost from Nordic Creamery: Al Bekkum is a well-known Wisconsin cheesemaker who has earned several gold medals and blue ribbons for his cheeses he made at a previous company. His own, new start-up, Nordic Creamery, debuted its "Feddost" cheese tonight at ACS. Al's signature cheese, this American Original is a blend of goat's and cow's milk handcrafted with a curd infusion of cumin and cloves -- a Norwegian flavor tradition. It's formed in 10-pound wheels and cellar-aged. This is one of those cheeses that is indescribable -- even Al himself will admit it's "a little weird" but watch out -- this cheese is going to put Nordic Creamery on the map. Cheese buyers were bringing other cheese buyers over to the table to marvel at this creation.

7. Prosciutto Roll from BelGioioso Cheese: this uniquely packaged product features a sheet of Fresh Mozzarella rolled with aged prosciutto and fresh basil, ready to slice and serve. Part of BelGioioso's new "Unwrap and Roll" line, this product was officially introduced July 16 at the American Culinary Federation and tastes very good. It's a nice compliment to BelGioioso's great line of Italian style cheeses.

8. Smokey Blue from Castle Rock Organic Dairy: this farmstead operation just keeps introducing new products, and this time, its original smokey blue takes the cake. Smoked in a traditional smoke with hickory wood chips, and then aged in the dairy's new underground cave, this blue cheese is simply amazing.

So that's the scoop from today's American Cheese Society conference here in Chicago. Stay tuned tomorrow for complete award results and then again on Saturday for my yearly cheese coma following the Festival of Cheese. Whoo-hoo!

3 comments:

Terry said...

I was unable to make it to the show this year. I am very glad you are writing day by day updates.
Keep it up, I enjoy your blog very much.
Was the smokey blue similar to Rogue Creamerys Smokey Blue?
I am a big fan of the Bellavatino as well, and I can't wait to try the new one.

Resident_Cheesemonger said...

I could really go for Ville Theresa and a "good stout beer" right about now. Beer and cheese (instead of wine and cheese) is quite underrated I think. Enjoy the massive amounts of good cheese. I'm envious!

cheese underground lady said...

The Castle Rock smokey blue is indeed similar and just as good as Rogue Creamery's Smokey Blue.