Saturday, August 24, 2013

This One's for the Girls

This past week has been full of good news from women I love.

First, some of you may recall that three summers ago, I took my daughter on "the last mother/daughter road trip before my daughter starts to hate me because she's a teenager and I'm her mother." I'm so glad we took that trip, because as any parent of a teenage girl who looks 21 will know, the past three years have been full of slamming doors, broken curfews, smashed hollyhocks (which had the misfortune to grow directly under the bedroom window of which she routinely snuck out), and of course, boys. And more boys. Did I mention boys?

In good news, my daughter is now almost 17, has settled down a bit, and seems to be past most of the rocky spots, except when it comes to driving fast and furious (she's one ticket away from having mom as chauffeur) and I'm hoping (fingers crossed) we're on the road to a really good relationship. In fact, when I mentioned this might be the last mother/daughter adventure we take because she'll soon be going to college, she informed me she would never be too busy to take a road trip with her mama. I'm taking that as a very good sign (again, fingers crossed).

Landmark Creamery Nuage Noir.
Photo by Anna Thomas Bates
The second good bit of girly news comes from Anna Landmark, who this past week quit her day job and launched Landmark Creamery (woot woot)! Anna's been working to attain a cheesemaker license since earning the 2012 Wisconsin Cheese Originals Beginning Cheesemaker Scholarship.

She''s now making her sheep's milk cheeses at Cedar Grove Cheese full-time and has reached the stage where she's ready to start getting her cheese into the retail arena. She's even taking orders from individuals through her website, At the moment, she's only selling in the Madison-Milwaukee-Chicago areas, but will hopefully be able to ship nationwide by next March.

Congratulations, Anna! You go, girl.

Sarah Pinet with her teenage doelings.
The third bit of girly good news comes from Sarah Pinet in western Nebraska. When Sarah found out her favorite mother/daughter duo were staying in a cabin a mere three hours north of her farm, feeding the "wild" burros in Custer State Park, she messaged me and invited us for a visit.

So we trekked down to the picturesque Victory Hill Farm and hung with Sarah, her husband, Lee, their three children, 39 milking goats, 12 doelings, two sows, one boar, three piglets, two calves, two horses, one pony, two dogs, four cats, numerous chickens and two kittens that I had to persuade my daughter not hide in the backseat and take home with us.
Meadowlark Reserve

Sarah is making a whole line of goat's milk cheeses, including fresh and flavored chevres, feta, a 6-month cheddar she calls Meadowlark, Beer Cheddar (washed in Fat Tire), a gouda named Goldenrod, and my favorite, a 2-year gouda named Meadowlark Reserve.

We got the full tour of the milking parlor she designed based on Anne Topham's set-up, the creamery, based on Diana Murphy's make-room (see a pattern of Wisconsin-inspired cheesemaking here?) and the barnyard, complete with three giant pigs which promptly climbed out of the mud pit, shook every bone in their body, and completely splattered Avery and me with dark oozy gooey chunks. With a look of horror on her face, Sarah immediately started apologizing and shepherding us into the house to clean up, to which my daughter proclaimed: "That was awesome!" Ahh, that's my girl.

The offending pig.
So all in all, I'd say it was a pretty good week for us girls. A road trip with my daughter, a week away from my desk, and a cooler full of cheese to put in the fridge when we got home. Win-win!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Coming in November: The Arrival of American Artisan Cheese

In honor of the upcoming Fifth Annual Wisconsin Cheese Originals Festival, I partnered with Leah Caplan and the creative folks at Cricket Design Works in Madison to come up with an official poster for "The Arrival of American Artisan Cheese." Whatcha think?

Tickets to the festival go on sale to members of Wisconsin Cheese Originals on Monday, Sept. 9, with remaining tickets available to the public on Sept. 16. And in exciting news, now that ACS is over, I've had a chance to update the festival website with all of this year's information on tours, seminars, dinner and the Meet the Cheesemaker Gala.


Choose one of three private all-day tours for a backstage pass to America’s Dairyland. Tour a cheese plant, walk a dairy barn and taste award-winning Wisconsin artisan cheese all day long. These customized, small-group tours depart Madison at 7:45 a.m. and return to Madison by 5 p.m. Each tour is limited to just 20 people, allowing attendees to experience places most people never see, with time for personal conversations with cheesemakers. Your choices: 
  • Tour A: Classic Wisconsin Cheesemaker Tour
  • Tour B: Exploring the Farmstead Sheep & Goat Dairies of Wisconsin
  • Tour C: From Oldest to Newest: The Best of Wisconsin Dairy
Read the descriptions of each tour here.

The signature event of the festival! This popular event takes place inside the elegant ballroom at Monona Terrace. You’ll shake hands and talk shop with more than 40 Wisconsin cheesemakers and local food artisans, sample more than 200 original cheeses and artisan foods, enjoy butlered appetizers with your favorite wine or microbrew, and tap your toes to Point Five, an Americana acoustic band featuring Uplands Cheesemaker Andy Hatch. Afterward, purchase your favorites at the Metcalfe's Marketplace booth and take home a piece of Wisconsin.

Click here to learn which of your favorite cheesemakers and food artisans will be there!



Join us for a full day of tasting and talking about American artisan cheese. Purchase an all-day pass and attend the morning keynote by author Laura Werlin, and elegant lunch with cheese & chocolate dessert pairing in the Grand Terrace, and two afternoon seminars, including one pairing session with either beer or brandy.

Read about all the Saturday sessions here.

Experience a culinary sensation at one of three Madison restaurants, where each chef partners with two Wisconsin artisan cheesemakers and hosts an amazing three-course meal featuring Wisconsin artisan cheese. Attendees join the featured Cheesemakers in a private room for dinner. Each dinner is limited to 30 guests.

Click here to learn which restaurants and cheesemakers are pairing up this year.

I hope you'll join me in November to celebrate the Arrival of American Artisan Cheese. I'm looking forward to seeing you all at the festival!

Sunday, August 04, 2013

On Location: ACS in Madison

Well it's official: the 30th American Cheese Society annual conference and competition is now on the books as one of the biggest (and do I daresay best?) cheesy shindigs in the history of cheese nerd conventions. Ever.

With nearly 1,000 cheese geeks from across North America descending upon Madison, Wisconsin this past week to talk, eat and sell cheese, most everyone is now on their way home or has made it to their final destination with their bellies full of cheese and their briefcases full of business cards. And let me just say that after spending the past 15 months planning 32 seminars, 5 tours, numerous special events and a grand Festival of Cheese featuring nearly 1,800 different cheeses for the tasting, co-chairs Bob Wills, Sara Hill and I are ready for a nap.

But before I nod off, let's share a few photo highlights of the week.

Here's my cheese-sister-in-crime Sara Hill after being inducted into the prestigous Guilde Internationale Des Fromagers. Check out the website - it's in French - so you know it's important. Sara has worked 30 years in the cheese industry and deserves this honor. Congrats, Sara!

Next, let me be the first person to tell every retailer in the nation that you need to carry the new Savory Spoon Panforte, which debuted at Saturday night's Festival of Cheese. Featuring locally sourced cherries and honey, along with the traditional nuts which made this 15th Century Italian dessert famous, the Door County, Wisconsin version crafted by Janice Thomas can be cut to order or sold in small, gift wooden boxes sourced from France. Two words: super yummy. Contact to order.

Willi Lehner and his Third Place Best in Show Bandaged Cheddar and Big Sky Grana (for the first time ever, the same cheesemaker tied himself for a Best in Show ribbon) - may have (rightfully) stolen the show ...

But probably the happiest cheesemaker to win a ribbon may have been Martha Davis Kipcak maker of Martha's Pimento Cheese. When Martha's Pimento Cheese with Jalapenos was announced as the second place winner in the Cold Pack Cheese and Spreads with Flavor Added category, she almost couldn't stand up in shock. But you should have seen her face when the announcer proclaimed she had also taken FIRST in the category with her original Martha's Pimento Cheese. For someone who's been in the food industry for 15 years, but only making cheese for less than a year, this is a well-deserved honor. Congratulations, Martha!

Before the conference proper started, ACS goers had their pick of five different tours featuring Wisconsin dairy farms and creameries. I had a blast planning and leading the Driftless Tour of Wisconsin Sheep and Goat Dairies, visiting Dreamfarm in Cross Plains, Hidden Springs Creamery in Westby, and Nordic Creamery in Westby. With a local-foods lunch catered right on the farm and a perfect blue sky, this particular tour showcased the best of Wisconsin.

Thanks to Sarah Bekkum for leading the tour at Nordic Creamery!

Thanks to Brenda Jensen (first in line!) for leading us through her amazingly beautiful dairy sheep farm and creamery.

And thanks to Diana Murphy for showing us her goat farm and creamery!

Of course, there were the seminars. This being Wisconsin, we wanted to plan some not-so-usual tasting sessions, so we brought in experts from the University of Wisconsin to lead a fluid milk tasting ...

... and the first-ever cheese curd tasting session!

Of course there were also more traditional seminars, such as a 90-minute educational session on the flavor profiles of Comte.

My favorite event is always the Meet the Cheesemaker, where this year, 70 cheesemakers from across the nation and Canada lined up their wares for show and tell. Of course some cheesemakers, such as Cesar and Heydi Luis are more photogenic than others. Say cheese!

The weather could not have been more perfect to welcome members of the University of Wisconsin marching band to the Monona Terrace rooftop, where the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board threw the mother of all opening conference parties, complete with a toe-tapping band, picnic-style food, mounds o'cheese and of course, free beer. This is Wisconsin, after all.

The conference proper wrapped up Saturday night with the annual Festival of Cheese, where Best in Show winner Winnimere from Jasper Hill Farm was featured (thanks to Mateo for having three cases overnighted to the festival so everyone could have a taste)!

And where tables of blue cheese ...

And smoked cheese ...

And, well, every kind of cheese filled a room to hold 1,200 attendees.

Many, many thanks to the hundreds of volunteers, ACS staff, cheesemakers and all attendees for helping make the 30th ACS so memorable. See you next year in Sacramento, California, July 29 - August 1.