The 9th Annual California’s Artisan Cheese Festival has announced this year’s roster of experts leading seminars and workshops on Saturday, March 21, 2015. The weekend-long festival takes place March 20-22 and brings together artisan cheesemakers, chefs, brewers, sommeliers, winemakers and passionate guests for three days of touring, tasting and learning about artisan cheese.
Bringing attendees face-to-face with the experts who work with and create some of America’s best artisan cheeses, the Saturday seminars and workshops tend to sell out early every year. Some of the experts that will be leading seminars this March are:
- Janet Fletcher, author and co-author of more than 20 books on food, cheese and wine, including her newsletter Planet Cheese, is leading two seminars: “Cheese & Cider Happily Ever After” and “Hops vs. Malt: A Smackdown with Cheese.” She will be co-leading the Cheese & Cider seminar with Ellen Cavelli, co-owner of Tilted Shed Ciderworks and next-generation leader in the American Cider Revival. Fletcher and Cavelli will lead guests through a range of traditional cider styles (French, West Country, Basque and single-varietal), as well as wholly unique styles as interpreted by American producers, while helping attendees discover the cheeses that fine cider loves best. In Hops vs. Malt, Fletcher will teach attendees the do’s and dont’s of pairing cheese with hoppy ales vs. malt-focused brews.
- Award-winning author and lecturer Laura Werlin is leading the “Cheese & Chocolate – World’s Two Best Foods on One Plate, One Palate” seminar as well as “California’s Sheep’s Milk Cheeses (and Wine).” An expert in American artisan cheeses, Werlin received the prestigious James Beard award for her book “The All American Cheese and Wine Book,” which was the first of its kind to focus entirely on cheese and wine pairing. She also received a prestigious James Beard Award nomination for her book, “Laura Werlin’s Cheese Essentials.” In the Cheese & Chocolate seminar, Werlin will cover the basics in tasting cheese and chocolate side by side, and in her Sheep’s Milk seminar, she will shed light on this rarely used milk and the newcomers around California who specialize in it.
- The world’s first Honey Flavor Wheel was recently developed by Amina Harris, director of the Honey and Pollination Center at the Robert Mondavi Institute of Wine and Food Science at UC Davis. Harris will be employing her honey wheel and joining forces with Lynne Devereaux, Director of Marketing and Public Relations for Laura Chenel’s Chevre and Marin French Cheese Company, in leading a seminar entitled “What A Perfect Pair: Honey & Cheese.” Cheese and honey are inseparable partners on cheese plates and in recipes. This session goes behind the hive to show how hard the honeybees work to produce honey and how vital their work as pollinators is to the food shed. With a passion for quality and respect for authenticity, Harris and Devereaux are dedicated to celebrating honey and cheese in Sonoma County. Each attendee will also receive a Honey Flavor Wheel to take home.
- Stephanie Skinner and Thalassa (Lassa) Skinner, co-owners of Culture: The Word on Cheese magazine, are leading a seminar entitled “Pair if you Dare.” In this innovative seminar, guests will go beyond the usual cheese accompaniments with a broad selection of cheese styles alongside out-of-the-ordinary pairings – including pickled vegetables, smoked shellfish, chocolate, teas, sour beer, and tropical fruits. Stephanie and Lassa will discuss what makes a good pairing and why, as well as different tastes and textures, to help attendees find comfort in contrasts as well as in complements.
- Soyoung Scanlan, the owner and cheesemaker at Andante Dairy, is leading a seminar entitled “All About the Milk: Tasting & Working with Different Cheeses.” Before becoming a cheesemaker, Scanlan worked as a biochemist and a dairy scientist, but has found her passion in making cheese. In this seminar, Scanlan will discuss how to understand how each milk expresses itself in the context of cheese and how cheese reveals the essence of the terroirs in which the milk and the cheese are produced. Attendees of this seminar will taste and learn about cheeses from cows, goats, buffalo, and sheep.
- Peggy Smith and Sue Conley, the co-founders of Cowgirl Creamery, will be leading an informative educational afternoon seminar and tasting entitled “Four Ingredients to the Nth Power.”This seminar is for those who want to take the next step in learning about the technical aspects of the four basic ingredients of cheese, and what each element contributes to the final product as well as how the elements interact to make different cheeses. This class will take place at the new Cowgirl Creamery warehouse in Petaluma, which is just a short walk away from the Sheraton.
Sacha Laurin, the assistant cheesemaker at Winters Cheese Company, is leading a unique cheesemaking seminar entitled “Feta and Friends.” The origins of feta go back as far as the late Roman Empire and sometimes the recipe can seem similarly Byzantine. Fortunately, Laurin has adapted the feta-making process for the home cheesemaker, and in this class attendees will make their own batch, then dress up their cheese with olive oil, tapenades, fresh and dried herbs, and other goodies.
Louella Hill, also known as the San Francisco Milk Maid, is leading a cheesemaking seminar entitled “Mozzarella Making,”as well as a hands-on educational seminar entitled “Three Milks, One Recipe, Many Tastes.”
- The cheesemaking seminar focuses on teaching budding cheesemakers to make a perfect mozzarella, as well as learning mozzarella stretching, rolling, braiding, twisting, and stuffing. The educational seminar is a hands-on learning experience that teaches attendees the difference between goat’s, cow’s and sheep’s milks by tasting, touching and smelling every step of the process from the starting liquid to a finished wheel. This class gives non-cooks (and less confident foodies) a way to do something hands-on while building confidence around the language used to describe different cheeses.
For those home cheesemakers who are ready to move on from mozzarella and ricotta, cheesemaker and educator Stephanie Soleil is leading a seminar entitled “Cheesemaking 201: Pressed Cheese – Romano.” This intermediate cheesemaking class teaches home cheesemakers how to press cheese and properly age cheese in their own refrigerators, and every attendee will go home with their own round to continue aging for weeks or months.
- For those who enjoy a little friendly competition between cheesemakers, then “Bite of California – Cheesemaker Battle for the Best Bite” is the seminar to attend. In order to illustrate the versatility of cheese and some of the incredible food produced in California, cheesemakers including Cypress Grove Chevre and Redwood Hill Farm & Creamery will each prepare a savory and sweet bite showcasing their cheese. In a friendly clash of California’s booming specialty food world, the attendees will sample these bites and vote for their favorite “Bite of California” while learning about food pairing.
All seminars, except the Cowgirls’ afternoon seminar, will take place at the festival’s host hotel, Sheraton Sonoma County–Petaluma (745 Baywood Drive, Petaluma, CA 94954). Seminar times are 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 21. The ticket price for the seminars and workshops includes a catered lunch by Petaluma Market from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. Tickets are $95 per person for the cheesemaking seminars and $65-$75 per person for all other seminars. Several participating authors will also be signing and selling their books between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. in the main lobby of the Sheraton Sonoma County. Tickets for all events can be purchased at www.artisancheesefestival.com.
Those interested can also follow updates by “liking” the Artisan Cheese Festival on Facebookand following the event on Twitter. All events are priced separately and the Sheraton Sonoma County – Petaluma is offering special discounted rates on rooms for festival-goers.
Generous sponsors of the Artisan Cheese Festival include All American Printing, American AgCredit, Beehive Cheese Company, California Milk Advisory Board, Central Coast Creamery, Clover Stornetta Farms, Cowgirl Creamery, Culture magazine, Cypress Grove Chevre, Donald & Maureen Green Foundation, Edible Marin and Wine Country, Edible East Bay, Exchange Bank, Ellipses Public Relations, Fiscalini Cheese Co., John Boos, Lagunitas Brewing Company, Laura Chenel Chevre, Marin French Cheese Company, Nicasio Valley Cheese Company, Nugget Markets Inc., Oliver’s Markets, Orland Farmstead Creamery, Pennyroyal Farm & Creamery, Petaluma Creamery, Petaluma Market, Petaluma Post, Pisenti & Brinker LLP, Pt. Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company, Redwood Hill Farm, Relish Culinary Adventures, Redwood Hill Farm Rustic Bakery, Sierra Nevada Cheese Company, Sheraton Sonoma County, Simple & Crisp, The Cheese School of San Francisco, Valley Ford Cheese Company, and Willapa Hills Cheese.