Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Mars Cheese Castle Rises Again

If Wisconsin is known for anything besides cheese, it is our landmark roadside cheese stores. The most famous of all is the Mars Cheese Castle, located along I-94 between Kenosha and Racine.  

Built in 1947, Mars Cheese Castle is synonymous with Wisconsin. A combination of cheese store, restaurant, bakery, knick-knack haven and overall kitsch, the Mars Cheese Castle has served millions of tourists since it opened. And earlier this year, it looked like it just might vanish.

Turns out the shop is in the path of a new interchange being built on I-94 at the intersection of Highway 142.  It will be torn down as part of a massive highway reconstruction project that stretches from Milwaukee to the Illinois state line.

However, fear not my out-of-state friends, the Mars Cheese Castle is rising again. The Mars' owners, the Ventura family, just received approval from the local planning commission to allow construction of a brand new Cheese Castle that will be built directly behind the existing shop and storage facility on the Mars property.

And guess what? It's going to be bigger, better and more kitschy than ever.

The new Mars Cheese Castle will include turrets and a "drawbridge" -- notice that's in quotes -- in keeping with its name. Because the Mars Cheese Castle is such a Wisconsin icon, its Mars Cheese Castle sign - extremely visible from the interstate - has received a special variance from the state that will allow its relocation to the new store.

The new building will be 25,000 square feet and will include a store, restaurant and lounge, gift shop and bakery. A wine shop will be included at the base of a turret. Classy.

The Ventura family is still awaiting approval from the Paris Town Board and Kenosha County for the project. They hope to begin construction in July, hoping to time the project so the existing store can remain open until the new roadway and the new castle are ready to open.

Long live Mars Cheese Castle.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Wisconsin Artisan Frozen Yogurt

Just in time for warmer weather, Ian’s Pizza in Madison, Wis., is planning to debut the state’s newest artisan product -- frozen yogurt made from local Sugar River Dairy yogurt and fresh Blue Marble Family Farm milk, both located in southwest Wisconsin. 

The new Ian's Frozen Yogurt will be available in 8-ounce cups beginning Monday, April 20, at Ian’s Pizza by the Slice on Frances St in Madison.  It will almost always be available in original or vanilla flavors, along with specialty flavors that will reflect the seasons.
 
“Since Sugar River Yogurt is so flavorful, we knew it would make an excellent base as we were developing our frozen yogurt,” says Cindy Gross, head chef at Ian’s Pizza (pictured above). “Using just their plain yogurt and sugar during the initial testing phase, everyone on staff was blown away by just how good real frozen yogurt can taste. And our employees are definitely some of our toughest critics!”

I got the chance this morning to try two of the flavors Cindy is currently perfecting - maple and honey.  Both flavors reflect the freshness of the milk and the quality of Sugar River Dairy yogurt. Ian's Frozen Yogurt doesn't taste like the commercial gooey stuff you get at TCBY. This is the real deal, and the flavor of the milk is allowed to shine through.

Chef Gross says she plans to offer seasonal flavors, such as choke cherry, in the summer. She is working with a local farmer to develop fruits and flavorings designed to specifically compliment Sugar River Dairy yogurt in a frozen form.  She is also developing special in-house toppings, such as granola and organic chocolate, to accompany individual servings. 

If all goes well at the Frances St. location, Ian's plans to expand its frozen yogurt offerings to its other restaurants in Madison, eventually establishing a commissary to sell it direct to consumers. 

Using local ingredients is nothing new to Ian's Pizza. The restaurant has long been buying high quality meats, as well as seasonally-available produce, from local farmers.

“Since a big part of our company vision is to lessen the impact we have on the environment, incorporating more locally-produced food into our menu makes a lot of sense to us,” says Ian Gurfield, founder of Ian’s Pizza. “Plus we get to support other area small businesses, and the food just tastes better. Not only that, but we’ve found that our food costs have, in some cases, actually fallen since we started actively pursuing more Southern Wisconsin-based products.”

Hallelujah, brother. Bring on the local frozen yogurt!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Farmstead Dairies in California

Today is my final day at the California Artisan Cheese Festival, and it's my favorite day of the event - Tour Day!!  I was extremely excited to visit two farmstead dairies here in Sonoma/Marin Counties that normally don't allow visitors -- Pt. Reyes Farmstead Cheese and Bellwether Cheese Company.

I've discovered that not only does this part of California have happy cows (what cow wouldn't be happy with an ocean view?), they also have very happy sheep -- as in super cute baby sheep (it's lambing season) whose mothers produce milk that makes awesome cheese.

My tour group of 15 die-hard cheese fans got to see those sheep up close and personal at Bellwether Farms, a family-owned farmstead cheese operation run by Liam Callahan and his mother, Cindy. We also toured the cheese make room, sampled many of the family's cheeses, and in what could be the highlight of this trip - got to taste the new Bellwether Sheep Milk Yogurt.

Holy sheep, is this yogurt yummy. Imagine the best cow's milk yogurt you've ever tasted and then multiply by 10. And in even better news, Bellwether hopes to have nation-wide distribution in a couple of months. I first tasted the strawberry, and then when no one was looking, snuck another cup of vanilla and ate that before we left. Wowsers.

Bellwether of course also makes several cheeses (and have been since 1992). Cindy and Liam craft an excellent sheep's milk cheese called San Andreas, which has pretty decent distribution around the country. However, in a smart marketing move (since sheep give milk only seasonally), the Callahans also buy Jersey milk from a cow dairy just down the road. They turn that milk into some amazing Fromage Blanc, Creme Fraiche, Crescenza, and my all time favorite - Carmody, an American Original semi-soft Jersey milk cheese that absolutely melts on your tongue (pictured above - receiving its second layer of waxy rind by hand brushing).

After we finished oohing and ahhing at the baby sheep at Bellwether Farm, it was off to Pt. Reyes Farmstead Cheese, a cow dairy perched on the rolling hills overlooking Tomales Bay. I have to admit that I've seen this company's marketing materials that include a lovely picture of cows in knee-high green grass with a bright blue bay in the background, and thought
 to myself, yeah, right, as if it actually looks like that.

Turns out it ACTUALLY does. Pt. Reyes Farmstead Dairy is one of the most picturesque places I've ever seen. The Giacomini (pronounced Jack-uh-meany) family has been milking cows here since 1959. In an effort to both improve profitability and pass the farm on to his four daughters, Bob Giacomini decided to begin making farmstead blue cheese in 2000.

Today, the 700-acre farm has gone organic, with all the milk from 200 cows going into making Pt. Reyes Farmstead Original Blue. The farmstead creamery is expanding rapidly -- construction is nearly complete on a brand new building, which will house a new, larger cooler to house some new cheeses with which the family is experimenting, as well as more dry storage space, new offices, conference rooms, and an entertaining center with commercial kitchen to host chefs, media and special groups.

So, look for new, original cheeses coming from Pt. Reyes at the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco next January. If they can make farmstead blue this good, who knows what else they will come up with? I'm sure it will be amazing.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Classico Cheese

It's Saturday and I'm here in Petaluma at the third annual California Artisan Cheese Festival. Today was seminar day. One of my favorite sessions was "Traveling the Oregon Cheese Trail," hosted by David Gremmels of Rogue Creamery, Tami Parr of the Pacific Northwest Cheese Project, and Flavio DeCastilhos, owner/cheesemaker at Tumalo Farms near Bend, Oregon.

As you may recall, Tumalo Farms' cheese, Classico, just won reserve champion at the U.S. Championship Cheese Contest in Wisconsin this week. While I didn't get a chance to taste it at the contest, I did get a chance to not only sample it here at the California festival, but to also listen to the cheesemaker describe the cheese and its history.

Like many American Original cheeses, Classico, a creamy farmstead goat's milk cheese, has a unique story behind its origination. Owner Flavio DeCastilhos spent 20 years as a manager and executive in Silicon Valley's fast-paced, high-tech industry. He co-founded Healtheon/WebMD, introducing online healthcare to the market. He also worked at Silicon Graphics. His wife, Margie, is also a computer industry veteran, with 15 years experience at Hewlett Packard.

Flavio told the story that during a vacation to southern Brazil's wine country, he became fascinated with the local cheese industry and the tastes and textures of artisan cheeses. When he returned home, he decided to research the potential for building a business centered on what he considers "food for the soul." A few years later, he and his family founded Tumalo Farms.

Starting a farm and a business from scratch gave Flavio the opportunity to build a state-of-the-art cheesemaking operation. He spent two years researching, studying and learning the art and science of running a dairy goat farm and making goat's milk cheeses. He became particularly interested in perfecting traditional Dutch and Italian cheeses, and in experimenting with local ingredients to develop new recipes that would celebrate the terroir of Oregon.

Today, Flavio has invested in modern barns and automated milking stations. The creamery has separate rooms for holding the milk in stainless steel tanks and making the cheese. He also built an aging cellar into the side of a hill designed systems to control temperature and humidity to perfect age his cheeses.

Tucked in the triangle between Bend, Sisters, and Redmond in central Oregon, Tumalo Farms consists of 84 acres surrounded by views of the Cascades. At 3,500 feet above sea level, the high desert climate means more than 300 days of sunshine a year (sign me up!!). 

Tumalo Farms' flagship cheese is the now award-winning Classico, a hard goat's milk cheese inspired by traditional Dutch cheeses. Made in 9-pound wheels, it boasts a honeysuckle aroma and becomes more caramelized as it gets older. Flavio crafts about eight different cheeses, five of them based on the Classico recipe, including cheeses with capricorns, cumin, fenugreek seeds and rosemary. He also makes a couple other American Originals, including Pond Hopper, a goat's milk cheese made with a local microbrew.

If you get a chance, I'd highly recommend trying Flavio's Classico. Especially now that it has won such a high profile award, more retailers should start carrying it. You can also buy it online at the Tumalo Farms website. Enjoy!

Friday, March 20, 2009

On Location: California's Artisan Cheese Festival

Today I got up at 4:30 a.m., talked my husband into driving me to O'Hare, got on a plane to San Francisco, rented a car, drove across the Golden Gate Bridge and up Hwy 101 all the way to Petaluma, California. 

All in the name of cheese. 

This weekend is California's Artisan Cheese Festival in Petaluma, located about an hour north of San Francisco. After only getting lost twice (had to stop in Sausalito for a ham & cheese on sliced sourdough), and nearly 15 hours after leaving home, I finally had the opportunity to taste more than 30 different artisan cheeses at tonight's Meet the Cheesemaker event. For great photos all weekend, visit the Canyon of Cheese blog, written by Bryce Allemann, who's also serving as assistant director at this year's festival.

I was on a particular mission to meet the owner of Beehive Cheese Co., after rediscovering his cheese at the U.S. Championship Cheese Contest this past week. Beehive Cheese has the distinction of being one of only five artisan cheese plants in the entire state of Utah. I figured anyone who goes through the trouble of finding milk and making cheese in UTAH - of all places - has got to be worth talking to.

After a few minutes of stalking him from across the room, I caught up to Tim Welsh and his lovely wife, Kari, introduced myself, and found out the Welshes started Beehive Cheese from scratch in 2005. Prior to that, Tim and a business partner had been running a software company for 15 years and had the opportunity to sell. His partner went on to start another company and Tim decided to make cheese.

"Everybody thought I was nuts when I told them I was going to be a cheesemaker. They literally thought I was out of my mind," Tim told me tonight.

So Tim and Kari went on a cross-country mission, talking to other artisan cheesemakers and trying hundreds of different cheeses in an effort to decide what kind of cheese to craft. After major help from Utah State University's dairy center, Tim gave up his briefcase and laptop for the romance of making hand-crafted cheese.

Today, he procures 500 gallons of milk a day to make a variety of different American Originals. My favorite is Barely Buzzed (pictured above), a full bodied cheese with a nutty flavor and smooth texture that Tim makes in 20-pound wheels that are about 4 inches high. The cheese is hand rubbed with a Turkish grind of Colorado Legacy Coffee Company's (who just happens to be Tim's brother) "Beehive Blend". The blend consists of a mix of South American, Central American, and Indonesian beans roasted to different styles. 

Tim says French lavender buds are also ground with the coffee and the mixture is diluted with oil to suspend the dry ingredients in the rub. The result is an artisan cheese with notes of butterscotch and caramel which are of course more prevalent near the rind, but find their way nicely to the center. Barely Buzzed has won several major awards, including two first places at the American Cheese Society in 2007 and 2008 in the flavored cheddar category. 

Another favorite is Aggiano, a unique American Parmesan style cheese named after the Utah State Aggies. I have no idea what an Aggie is, but Utah State decided on it for their mascot. Pronounced "AGGI" ano, the recipe is courtesy of the Utah State University dairy center. A dry, yet creamy cheese, this beauty is tangy with a pineapple note (but not overpowering) and flakes off the wedge leaving a butterscotch aftertaste. Yummy.

So I know what you're thinking ... what exactly is a Utah cheesemaker doing at a Californian Artisan Cheese Festival? Well, when you've only got five cheesemakers in your entire state, you look to the closest place and hope they adopt you. And that's just what California has done. Smart move on their part, because if the Welshes were any closer, we Wisconsinites would claim them as our own. 

Thursday, March 19, 2009

And the U.S Champion Cheese is ...

This just in ... the 2009 United States Championship Cheese is SarVecchio, a Parmesan made in Antigo, Wisconsin by cheesemaker John Griffiths at Sartori Foods.

The champion was named at 12:30 p.m. today CST by 24 judges at the U.S. Championship Cheese Contest, held at the Lambeau Field Atrium in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

First runner-up went to Classico, a hard goat's milk cheese from Tumalo Farms in Oregon, while a Medium Cheddar from McCadam Cheese in Chateaugay, New York was named as second runner up.

The top three cheeses were selected from the blue ribbon winners in 64 categories. A total of 1,360 cheeses competed.

Overall, Wisconsin fared very well in the 2009 competition. According to my unofficial results (which consist of me viewing by hand each of the class results and tallying the awards on a piece of paper), Wisconsin earned 41 first places, 40 second places and 35 third places.

Wisconsin also swept 21 categories, with cheesemakers earning the top three places in each. Some of those categories are expected, such as Colby or Brick (both varieties originated here), as well as Mild Cheddar (nearly every commercial plant makes some variety of mild cheddar), but for the first time, Wisconsin also swept other categories, such as:
  • Quesos Para Fundir 
  • Semi-Soft Goat's Milk Cheese
  • Soft and Semi-Soft Sheep's Milk Cheese
  • Flavored & Soft & Semi-Soft Sheep's Milk Cheese
  • Hard Mixed Milk Cheeses
While the usually much-decorated cheesemakers such as Sid Cook of Carr Valley, Myron Olson of Chalet Cheese, the Buholzers of Klondike Cheese and others took home several awards, many of the state's newcomers and new Wisconsin Original Cheeses introduced during the past year did really well. Let's hear it for some of my favorites:

  • English Hollow Cheddar, Maple Leaf Cheese Co-op, Monroe -- won second place out of 33 entries in cheddars aged 1-2 years. This new cheese crafted by Master Cheesemaker Jeff Wideman edged out perennial favorite Cabot Creamery in Vermont.

  • Quesadilla, Cesar Luis, Shullsburg -- this novice cheesemaker placed 4th out of 14 entries in his very first cheese contest. Whoo-hoo!

  • Lil Wil's Big Cheese, Willi Lehner, Blue Mounds -- took first out of 25 entries in the smear ripened cheese category. This cheese costs upwards of $40 a pound. My daughter has been known to eat an entire wedge on the way home from the cheese shop. Because yes, it is that good.

  • Marieke Cumin Gouda, Marieke Penterman, Thorp -- won second place out of 46 entries in flavored semi-soft cheeses.

  • Moody Blue, Roth Kase USA, Monroe -- this brand new cheese took second in the smoked cheese category. It just entered the market and you can find it at Whole Foods.

  • LaClare Farm Evalon, Saxon Homestead Creamery, Cleveland, Wis. -- took second in the hard goat's milk cheddar category. This is a brand new cheese being made with milk from the farm of Larry & Clara Hedrich. 

  • Driftless Cheese, Hidden Springs Creamery, Westby -- cheesemaker Brenda Jensen, one of my perennial favorites, took home several awards, including two first places for her Driftless and Driftless Honey/Lavender in the soft and semi-soft sheep's milk cheese categories.

  • Smoked Capriko & Capriko Reserve, Nordic Creamery, Westby -- cheesemaker Al Bekkum took first and second in the hard mixed milk cheese category. He also took first with his Sarah Select With Peppers (I did not know this cheese even existed) in the flavored soft & semi-soft mixed milk category. It is my new mission to hunt down this cheese.

  • Unsalted Butter, Grassland Dairy, Greenwood -- buttermakers at this renowned Wisconsin butter plant swept this category, taking first, second and third with their unsalted butters.
The champion cheeses will be auctioned off at a special ceremony on April 22 in LaCrosse. In the meantime, Brennan's Markets in Wisconsin purchases A LOT of the winning cheeses and features them in their stores in Brookfield, Monroe, Madison and New Glarus. 

Congratulations to all the winners!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

May the Best Cheese Win

The 2009 United States Championship Cheese Contest is underway this week inside the Lambeau Field Atrium in Green Bay, Wis. With a record  1,360 entries in 65 categories, 24 judges from 12 states have their hands and mouths (literally) full trying to discern the winners in this biennial contest.

Yesterday, I spent the day at the contest helping one judging team analyze, taste and score 38 low fat and reduced fat cheeses. Every year, the contest asks for "B Team" volunteers - meaning folks who are willing - for free - to schlep cheese from a palette, open the box, record the number, haul the cheese to the judging team, then repack the cheese and haul back to the palette.

My "B Team" partner this year was none other than the very strong and fearless Tammy Welles, a technical service manager at Northland Laboratories in Green Bay. 
Between the two of us, we lifted WAY too many 40-pound blocks of cheeses all day. Tammy brought strength to the table and I brought height, so between the two of us we rocked. 

Our judging team consisted of Mark Johnson, senior scientist at the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research, and Kory Hynonen of Oshkosh Cheese Sales. These two fellows poked, prodded, squished, tasted and spit out nearly 60 cheeses during the course of the day. (Judges don't actually swallow the cheeses - can you imagine eating that many different cheeses over the course of three days -- pass the Pepto Bismol please).

It took about four hours to judge 38 cheeses in the lowfat category, which ranged from 40-pound blocks of lowfat cojack to long cylinders of provolone to cups of flavored cheese spread to packages of string cheese. Toward the middle of the morning, after one particularly offensive jalapeno jack cheese, Tammy & I were instructed to save the rest of the pepper cheeses for the end of the judging class. My favorite quote from Kory: "That last one just about did us in."

The best aspect about the U.S. Championship Cheese Contest is that it is open and free to the public. Judging continues today from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Then tomorrow, the real action happens, as Nick Barnett, Green Bay Packer and cheese enthusiast, makes an appearance from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. to sign autographs, and then Troy Landwehr, Master Cheese Carver, transforms 640 pounds of cheddar into a work of fine art in from 9 a.m. to Noon. 

Then, from 10 a.m. to noon on Thursday, the championship cheeses will be judged - the blue ribbon winner from each of the 65 classes will be judged again, this time to determine the top 3 winners, including the 2009 U.S. Championship Cheese.  The final round of judging will be telecast live on the contest website. Photos are also uploaded daily and results are posted in real time on the web.

So, good luck to all the cheesemakers and may the best cheese win! Check back here on Thursday for the announcement of winners.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Cheese Wars

A new documentary highlighting the differences between the dairy industries in California and Wisconsin will make its debut at the Wisconsin Film Festival on Saturday, April 4. 

Cheese Wars is a 30-minute look at how California's growing milk production has changed Wisconsin's status as America's Dairyland. It's written, directed and produced by Taylor Pipes, who graduated with a broadcast journalism degree from the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee in 2002. He moved to San Francisco and began studying at the Graduate School of Journalism at Berkeley in 2006. "Cheese Wars" is his thesis project and looks at the humorous and serious side of the battle for cheese production dominance between California and Wisconsin.

Taylor contacted me back in April 2008 to let me know he was following my blog and had interviewed many of the Wisconsin folks featured in it. Yesterday, I heard from him again, only this time, his film is done! I checked out the trailer, and he's right - there is the serious side, featuring an interview with Patrick Geoghegan of the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, where Mr. Geoghegan sits in a dimly lit room and soberly proclaims: 

"The dairy industry in Wisconsin is very important. When we get calls from the media wanting to do the 'ha ha' story about cheese wars, it's not funny."

And then we flip to the California Happy Cow commercials, where talking cows proclaim they're moving west where it's warmer. My favorite part is a quote taken from the set where the commercials are shot. It's from Todd Horrick, a Marin County beef rancher: “They were Union cows, they can't take one of my cows and use them -- we tried that.” 

Good to know that even the cows in California apparently have Hollywood contracts.

While I have no idea how the film ends or who all is featured, it's pretty easy to tell which side the Wisconsin Film Festival is on by the trailer copy posted on its website:

"As California's milk and cheese production has skyrocketed, it has changed Wisconsin's position as America's Dairyland. This documentary compares the standard dairies out west (5000-cow operations milked on metal carousels) with our own local farms (small herds with more pasture). Both claim advantages that the other doesn't have -- so which is better? Higher yields per cow, or better tasting cheese made with tradition? Go Wisconsin!" 

To see the film at the Wisconsin Film Festival, buy your tickets now. The festival is very popular and always sells out. Taylor is also working on a distributor deal to get the film out into the more general viewing public. Let's hope he also gets a deal to make some movie posters. I can't wait to get one on my wall.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

So You Want to be a Cheesemaker

A young Wisconsin cheesemaker left this week for a two-month trip across Ireland, England, Germany and Switzerland to spend time learning Old World traditions through the Wisconsin Dairy Artisan Research Program

Jon Metzig grew up - literally - on top of his family's cheese factory, Union Star, near Fremont, Wis. As young as seven years old, he would help out in the cheese factory. He earned his cheesemakers license while still in high school, and then attended UW- River Falls, where he studied under Ranee May and worked in the pilot plant on campus, earning a degree in Agriculture Business and Food Science. Today, he works as a cheesmaker at Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese near Waterloo, Wis.
 
During this two month trip, Jon hopes to learn more about traditional cheese making -- especially washed rind cheese. He will spend seven weeks at Gubbeen Cheese in West Cork, Ireland, working with Giana and Tom Ferguson, and will then plan on visiting cheddar factories in Somerset, England to learn more about bandaged cheddar. He’ll wrap up his trip with visits in Switzerland and Germany to local cheese factories, affinage facilities and dairy farms.

Follow Jon along on his trip on the new So You Want to Be A Cheesemaker blog, set up to allow Jon to share his learnings with the rest of the industry. Upon his return, Jon will also make a presentation and publish a paper with his findings. Best of luck to Jon on his journey and we look forward to welcoming him back home to Wisconsin in May!

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Wisconsin Cheese Originals

In exciting news, I am embarking on a new adventure this week, as I roll out a new organization called Wisconsin Cheese Originals. Think Slow Food for people who like cheese, and you'll get the picture - a member-based organization sponsoring year-round educational seminars, tastings, cheesemaker receptions, all celebrating Wisconsin cheesemakers for people who love cheese.

I've been writing exclusively about cheese for a living for nearly two years now -- yes, I know it's hard to believe that someone can actually just write about cheese -- and it amazes me that 1) I never run out of things to report on and 2) more and more people are emailing me questions about cheesemakers, cheese types and what kinds of cheese they should be buying.

So I figured, hey - why not start an organization dedicated to cheese? Lots of states have cheese guilds where cheese enthusiasts can network with people who love cheese. Wisconsin has lots of organizations dedicated to helping cheesemakers and promoting cheese -- kudos to the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, Dairy Business Innovation Center, Wisconsin Specialty Cheese Institute, the list goes on. However, none of these organizations are dedicated to just EATING cheese. 

So that's where Wisconsin Cheese Originals comes in. If you're interesting in trying new Wisconsin artisan cheeses before they hit the market, meeting Wisconisn cheesemakers in person, and learning more about the differences between goat, sheep, water buffalo and cow's milk cheeses, than feel free to join us

And be sure to save the dates of November 6-7 on your calendar now. Wisconsin Cheese Originals will sponsor Madison's first Wisconsin Original Cheese Festival, to be held at the Monona Terrace on the Capitol square in downtown Madison, Wis. You'll get to meet dozens of cheesemakers, take tours of cheese plants, attend educational seminars, and participate in a dine-around at fine restaurants all over town. It's going to be awesome. I'll see you there.