Sacramento Hails The Big Cheese by Lisa Frank

Move over Cheese Whiz and Velveeta, for the first time in over 10 years the American Cheese Society (ACS) is coming to Sacramento with over 1700 craft cheeses.  Whey to go Sacramento! It’s quite a Feta in our cap.  (By Lisa Frank)

Celebrating the American Cheese Plate! will highlight the growth of the artisan and specialty cheese community throughout North America.  Nearly 1,000 industry leaders are expected to participate in the four-day event.  Tuesday, July 29 – Friday, August 1.  The conference also includes:
a cheese competition to be “Best In Show” from over 1700 cheeses entered in 20 categories like Cheese Curds, Rindless Blue-Veined Cheese, Cheese Spreads or Butters along with the usuals like Cheddar, Fetas, and Soft-Ripened Cheese;
the Certified Cheese Professional Exam – if you think you know enough to be a cheese sommelier;
Educational seminars from how to build a cheese cave to improving industry standards, to cheese spider grafts explained.

While most of the conference is for those in the cheese industry, the public is invited to several events:

Festival of Cheese, will feature the cheeses entered in the cheese competition, highlighting the winners. In addition to a staggering number of cheeses, the Festival will have artisan producers and local purveyors of cheese accessories, such as crackers, charcuterie, preserves, honeys, and craft beer.  It’s a Muenster cheese tasting.  Friday August 1, 7:00 pm – 9:30 pm at the Sacramento Convention Center.  Tickets for the general public are $60 via Brown Paper Tickets.

Cheese Sale, this is your opportunity to buy the best cheeses made in North America at a great price. Feeling adventurous, buy a $25 cheese grab bag and see what you snagged.  Proceeds from the Cheese Sale benefit the American Cheese Education Foundation. Cash is king, but credit cards are accepted.  Edam while you can, it’s a ewe-nique opportunity.  Saturday, August 2nd, 11:00 – 2:00 at the Sacramento Convention Center, admission is free.  Brie there or brie square.  Okay I’ll stop.

And if you think Sacramento is curd-less, think again.  While specialty grocery stores usually carry a nice variety of cheeses, we have several cheese-centric locations that bring you craft cheese every day!

The Rind,  1801 L Street, opened 11 am until at least 10 everyday.  916.441.RIND (7463)
The Rind is a cheese bar where you can taste unique artisanal cheeses paired with interesting wines and beers.  Cheese-heads can sample everything, from buttery to blue, nutty to stinky.  And if you need more than a taste, try their grown-up grilled cheese sandwiches or mac & cheese.  Definitely not a blue and yellow box with electric-orange powdered cheese.

The Cultured & The Cured,  3644 J Street opened Tuesday – Sunday, 11am until 9 pm Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday; 10pm on Friday and Saturday; 5pm on Sunday; Closed Monday.   (916) 732-3600  This East Sac shop focuses on local and west coast cheeses and charcuterie, bringing to Sacramento the tradition of a cheese monger who will help guide you to find exactly what you’re looking for even when you don’t know what you’re looking for!  Soups, salads, charcuterie plates, grilled cheese, mac & cheese, sandwiches, and pantry items, this shop takes their cheese seriously and so will you.

The Block Butcher,  1050 20th Street, 916.476.6306 11AM to 12AM every day.
Block Butcher Bar is a boutique salumi, spirits and wine bar. The menu features charcuterie, fine artisanal cheeses and seasonal bites.  Choose from the “pickled, cured, fermented and marinated” selections; make your own charcuterie boards or cheese slabs; or salads and sandwiches.  With over 30 cheeses  (cow, sheep, goat and blues) to choose from it’s hard to limit it to 3/5/7 choices.  But they are there to help.  And over 100 different whiskeys – it’s kind of hard to leave.

Northern California has some options if you are looking to incorporate more cheese into your life.

The Cheese School in San Francisco if where to head if you want to become a cheese monger, learn how to make cheese or just learn more about cheese by tasting!  They have a wide variety of fun, tasty and educational classes.
The Cheese Trail is a list of Marin and Sonoma dairies that offer tours and purchasing options, please note:  not all dairies are open to the public.  Go to the source:  The Cheese Trail Map  They have mapped out your route so fill up the gas tank and head west!
And for a Certificate in Dairy Arts (who knew there was such a thing?) you can attend the College of Marin Cheese Making Program

Cheese, it’s a Gouda thing.  All puns intended, cuz I’m Quark-y that way. . .hee hee hee.
Cheese 101 – a cheat sheet
Fresh:  Retains fresh milk flavors with little or no aging such as cream cheese, cottage cheese or queso fresco.
Soft-ripened:  A beneficial mold sprayed on or added to ripening cheese to create a bloomy rind, such as Camembert or Brie.
Surface-ripened: A wrinkly, surface-ripened rind or a thin rind barely contains the runny cheese, such as French goat cheeses
Semi-hard: Complex taste with a firm, sometimes crumbly texture that good for melting, such as Fontina, Gruyere or Monterey Jack
Aged (hard): Crumbly, sweet, pungent, low in moisture and good for grating, such as Parmigiano
Washed rind:  Characteristically creamy and smelly with a tacky surface and pinkish or orange-colored rind, such as Epoisses or Taleggio
Blue (pierced): A mold injected into the cheese that created various types of blue veining, such as Gorgonzola or Maytag Blue

Word to know in the Cheese World:
Artisan:  Cheese made primarily by had in small batches with special attention to the tradition
Cheesemonger:  A knowledgeable person who sells cheese.
Curds and Whey:  Milk naturally thickens and forms curds when left in a warm place or when a coagulant like rennet is added.  Cutting the curds allows them to release water, called whey.  The whey is drained off leaving the curds that are formed or pressed into molds, rounds or other shapes.
Farmstead:  Cheese made on the farm with milk from the farmer’s own herd.


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