Greetings from beautiful Providence! Wow, what a week! We spent this week in Rhode Island at the American Cheese Society Conference. They had over 1200 attendees at this year’s conference, and it was wonderful to come together with so many folks in the industry. We are going to focus this week’s blog on the conference, because we are super excited about everything we saw and learned, and we want to share that with you. Plus, with building our creamery this year, we haven’t been able to take a vacation, so this was a nice break from the farm and building site for us!
We got to Providence Tuesday night and headed out on a bus tour of Central Massachusetts on Wednesday morning. The tour was great, and we were able to visit with three area cheesemakers who produce artisan cheese from goat and cow milk. Each stop included a tour of their cheesemaking facility, an opportunity for the producers to share the story behind their hard work, as well as samples of their cheese. It was a tasty experience and we were able to enjoy the beautiful New England countryside along the way.
Wednesday night was the “Cheese Crawl” where we went to different pubs around the downtown area and got to sample cheeses from different makers along the way. It was neat to see our friends at Farms For City Kids Foundation of Vermont at one of the pubs. They were serving their famous Tarentaise cheese, which won the Best of Show award last year at the conference. This is a very prestigious award, and what’s so neat about Tarentaise winning it is that our French cheese consultant, Alex (you can read about him in a previous blog post) helped to develop this cheese! So, obviously, we are very excited to see how our cheese that Alex is working on will turn out.
After the cheese crawl fun of Wednesday night was over, we had a full day of learning and networking on Thursday. We learned more things such as about aging cheese on wood boards and got to spend the evening meeting the cheesemakers. There were so many cheesemakers and different types of cheese. Next year, hopefully we can be at that event! We sure enjoyed sampling all sorts of delicious cheeses and meeting the faces behind the cheese.
Friday was another day of learning, and we enjoyed hearing about the Basque cheese-making culture in Spain as well as trying to better understand how people price their cheese. And then of course, the award ceremony was on Friday evening, and it was great to see who won the coveted prizes. A blue cheese from Canada won the Best of Show! We had a wonderful supper in downtown Providence and then headed over to the Open Mic night where cheese mongers and makers from all over were trying out their karaoke skills, or playing the guitar to entertain everyone.
We continued with our learning on Saturday, and we were able to really dig into understanding the science behind aging cheese (way more complicated than you would think—who knew humidity was such a big deal?!) as well as enjoyed a delicious brunch filled with the yogurts, butters, spreads, etc. from the cheese competition. We are definitely not complaining about trying all the delicious contest entries, and coming to the conference is a culinary treat!
The Festival of Cheese brought the whole conference together and to a close. It was an amazing display of all the types of cheeses (1779 entries this year) on different tables throughout a big exhibit hall. Tables of smoked cheese, tables of cheddar, tables of blue (and the Best of Show was all gone by the time we got there—dangit!), and all sorts of other cheeses, including some of the Alpine styles like we will make. We got to sample ciders, beers, sausages, breads, even smoked oysters! It was a remarkable event. We are so grateful we got to attend the conference, and next year we plan to be in Des Moines, Iowa for the 2016 conference….and hopefully with our own cheese entered in the contest! Thank you for reading today—and thank you to everyone who took the time to visit with us at this year’s conference. We really enjoyed seeing all of our old friends and meeting new faces.