Two days of all-out unadulterated cheese bliss... Well, that's what it should & can be if you don't get hung up on random stabbings from queso-hungry freeloaders with toothpicks! Beyond the agoraphobic aspects of two days spent trying to fight your way in to even view what you want to taste, there's the opportunity to meet producers & importers of some of the most exquisite curds you'll ever meet.
In attempting to internet research obscure cheeses now that I'm co-handling the cheese counter at Spanish Table, I constantly come against a dead wall, even worse than when I'm trying to educate myself on new wines from an unheard-of region. Cheese like wine, seems to be dominated by a plethora of established strongholds that are well-established & well-respected by the fooderati. But as tradelines & visibility increase from throughout the world market, I'm likely to sway from swearing the kingdom of heavenly cheese belongs solely to the udders of Burgundian cows.
My absolute favorite experience was at the Corsican Cellar stand, where the passionate Olivier presented us with an album documenting the cheese making process as well as a romantic view of the countryside. While every cheese caused pause for concentration, the U Taravu Tomme Corse Ottavi Raw Goat was an exquisite bite of another century. Unfortunately DeLaurenti's didn't stock this rare bird. Now if I could only taste it again, I'd pay the piper.
Not to toot the Spanish horn too loudly, but I tasted a beautifully pungent Catalunyan goat's milk cheese named Pau Sant Mateu at our friend Jay's Cucina Fresca table & immediately put in an order for Span Tab. A washed rind cheese with a burnished glow, the sweet/nutty & funky aromas were an immediate turn on for this pungent cheese lover. You like Taleggio? You gotta try this. With a plethora of "safe" Spanish sheep's cheese flooding the market, Manchego move over, things are getting very interesting!
Other picks to seek out:
Crottin Maitre Seguin from Sevre et Belle, little buttons of mushroomy goodness that reminded me of the heavenly Cheve Chaud salades I enjoyed on my honeymoon in Gascony.
Local producer's Estrella Family Creamery out of Montesano, WA had us running for the cash machine for a sampling of their Reposee, cow's milk with a bloomy rind embedded with rosemary, bay leaf & juniper, as well as their Red Darla, made in the devourable Trappist style (again for washed-rind lovers who don't mind stinky cheeses.)
But Best in Show in my opinion, belonged to an excrutiatingly expensive cheese that was worth every penny since our friends pronounced it the best they've ever had. Brescianella Acquavite is something you should taste at least once in your lifetime, even if it does take a small chunk out of your wallet. From Lombardy, Italy, this cheese is embalmed in brandy-soaked rye seeds--a taste you'll never forget.
In only its second year, this festival is a work-in-progress, but with national recognition from Saveur & an incredible local turnout there's lots to look forward to next time around.
Artisanal Alley & it's $5 paid admission fee were done away with on Sunday since the producers felt it limited their exposure. I thought it was a good idea to keep non-appreciative crowds in check, but oh well. I applaud the Market's decision to close half of the thorough-fare to vehicles, making more room for wrap-around canopies rather than one big buffet line. But while Bravo Farm's Raw Milk Sage broke the rules this East Coast gal still says--the less cheddar, all the better!