It's that time of year again, where more than 700 cheesemakers, distributors, retailers, educators and cheese geeks like me, gather to talk shop, eat cheese, and find out what's new in the cheese world. This year, we're in North Carolina at "Cheese Rally in Raleigh", the theme of the 29th annual American Cheese Society conference and competition.
Thursday is my favorite day of the conference, as mid-afternoon brings the Meet the Cheesemaker event, showcasing hundreds of cheeses from dozens of companies across North America. After asking this morning's keynote speaker Temple Grandin, noted author and expert on humane livestock handling, what her favorite cheese was (answer: blue), I set out to find her at least two new blues, and in the process, discovered a slough of new cheeses I'll be looking for from now on.
First up: two new Gorgonzolas from two Wisconsin companies. Hmmm ... is it a bit ironic that I have to travel 950 miles to discover new Wisconsin cheeses? I may be losing my touch.
Next up: the washed-rind revolution. Remember when you couldn't find a decent washed-rind cheese made in America? Those days are long gone. It seems every company is coming up with a new washed-rind cheese, and many of them are downright fabulous, including the following:
Last but not least, more and more smaller goat dairies across the United States are handcrafting exceptional bloomy rind cheeses. These are the kinds of cheeses that don't travel well, so if you find one in your local cheese case, by all means purchase it and enjoy it. My favorite of all these types of cheese is:
Last but not least, I have to share this amazing marketing piece from the Cellars at Jasper Hill. Packaged like a matchbook, with trading cards inside depicting each individual cheese in its repertoire, this novel little gem is miniature and adorable. Created by Zoe Brickley, sales and marketing manager, the piece replaces brochures that easily become out of date, and if the company adds or drops a cheese, they simply add or subtract a cheese card from the matchbook. Zoe hopes more cheesemakers will adopt the marketing package -- and already, Beehive Cheese Company has - to create a series of American cheese trading cards. Genius, sheer genius.