The Wedge: Portland’s October Cheese Festival – Marcella The Cheesemonger International Guilde des Fromagers
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The Wedge: Portland’s October Cheese Festival

AmericanCheeseMonth_Evergreen-260x265Originally a Bi-Annual Event, The Wedge is now a yearly Cheese  Festival celebrated in Downtown Portland… and lucky for all of us in the area who love to check out cheese and rub elbows with The Cheese Swells… It was a great way to start celebrating The ACS’s American Cheese Month.

The Man and I ventured out of our sleepy Vancouver, Washington comfort zone and fought traffic (actually, I fought the frigging traffic while The Man tolerated my rantings about Portland drivers and their insane driving habits … what’s wrong with you Oregonians… it’s Saturday for heaven’s sake… is there ever not maddening traffic in your fair city on The Columbia??? Geez, Louise…but I digress) to head to The Wedge… a true cheese oasis after the traffic nightmare…

For $15.00 a head (with a $5.00 credit to buy cheese), The Oregon Cheese Guild treated us to the best of the Pacific Northwest.

20141004_124904-001Our first stop was the Tillamook Booth where we sampled their Vintage 2 Year Extra Sharp White Cheddar aka at The Manse as our “Everyday Cheddar”. Sadly, there were no cheese curds… The Man wept… I can see another trip to the Oregon Coast to visit the factory, the only place you can buy Tillamook Cheese Curds… worth the drive (and fighting the already-mentioned Oregon traffic… grrrr…)… and watching The Man swoon…

The iconic Tillamook County Creamery Association is to the Northwest what Cabot Creamery is to the Northeast; a cooperative producing consistently superior cheeses at affordable prices. Back in my mongering days, when asked “What is the best cheddar for the best price?”, I would take my customers over to the Tillamook Vintage 2 Year Extra Sharp White Cheddar, even though we didn’t sell it in the cheese kiosk. I’m sure some of my Cheese Swell friends are poo-pooing this statement as they read it (and I could name names… I won’t; you know who you are…); but I stand by this Cheddar; it’s never not in my fridge… always on call…

After Tillamook, we stopped at the Briar Rose Creamery and chatted with Sarah and her charming husband. It was a short chat; the fans of her cheeses and spreads formed a long line and were anxious to sample her  tasty offerings… Cheese Nerds can be so pushy…20141004_122522-001

 

As always, Willamette Valley Cheese Company had a gorgeous display of their Gouda-style cheeses and were sampling several of them, including their curds… yep… The Man swooned…

20141004_124637-001We stopped to visit with the ever-smiling Kala Nyx, Specialty Cheese Buyer and Merchandiser for Market of Choice. She introduced us to Mary, Monger at the MOC West Linn store. Stop in and let Mary create your own swooning moment.

Kala also introduced us to Shari Reyna, Owner of Fern’s Edge Dairy in Lowell. You can “Like” Fern’s Edge Dairy on Facebook and that would be terrific, but better yet, you can assist Shari in expanding her dairy’s operations through her fall fund-raising campaign.  Fern’s Edge is the only dairy certified to sell raw goat’s milk in Oregon, which you can buy at select MOC markets in Corvallis and Eugene.

Small dairies like Fern’s Edge constantly fight to stay alive as economics make it increasingly harder to produce and deliver superior quality dairy products at prices people are willing and able to pay. Having visited several dairies where quality, cleanliness and humane treatment of the animals are priorities, I marvel that smaller dairies and creameries can afford to sell their products at price points too many consumers complain about…

I read in an article about Sally Jackson (when forced to shut down her creamery back in 2010 because she couldn’t afford the necessary upgrades to stay in business) that revealed that many years Sally’s reported taxable income was less than $15K. Sally sure as 20141004_124253-001hell wasn’t doing it to get rich… and neither are cheesemakers like Shari, my good friend, Rhonda Gothberg  of Gothberg Farms in Bow, Washington and I suspect, most of the dairies and creameries present yesterday.

And if we don’t support them, who will and what will happen to these American Originals that we love and stand in long lines to taste at events like The Wedge?

We stopped at Cascadia Creamery and sampled their raw milk lovely, Sleeping Beauty which makes a righteous (do people still say that or am I showing my age??? and do I care???) mac and cheese.

Two charming beret-clad mongers were sampling Big Boy Blue at the Willapa Hills Farmstead Cheese booth. You can read my interview with WHFS Owner and Cheesemaker, Steven Hueffed.20141004_123028-001

Bob McCall was slinging the goats at Cypress Grove Chevre’s booth; Tim Healy and Francis Plowman were slinging the blues at Rogue Creamery’s booth and Emily Davidson (Who up 20141004_122800-001until last week was Emily Morgan. Congratulations and may you enjoy marriage as much as I have enjoyed being married to The Man the last 34 years… I suppose that makes me “righteously” older…) was busy at the Ancient Heritage booth.

Other stops included Kelly’s Jelly booth which had lots of jelly samples that pair well with cheese, adding their signature fiery zip to the lactic creaminess of cheese. The lady in the booth, whose name I did not get – sorry, was also telling attendees how well their jellies top ice cream. Later this week I will be reviewing Kelly’s Pine-a-Peno which I paired with Koko’s Coconut Milk Gouda… another coupling of the legendary (Yes, I watched How I Met Your Mother and yes, it ended exactly the way it was meant to end…no spoiler alert; if you haven’t seen it, I’m not going to be the one to tell.. ) pairing of pineapple and coconut.

20141004_123421-001We used one of our $5 credits toward a wedge of Washington State’s Domina Dairy and Creamery’s Gouda-style Summer Cheese, a raw milk cheese aged twelve months and packed with beta carotene… again, review will follow soon. It was our first time tasting Domina Dairy cheeses. We love discovering new cheeses and new cheesemakers.

At the Face Rock Creamery booth, we bought a bag of their Three 20141004_124144-001Pepper Cheese Curds which I used yesterday to make that classic, fast food and decadent Canadian staple, Poutine... recipe will be posted later this week.  The Man had never experienced Poutine; but as you might expect, anything that has cheese curds as a main ingredient is okay with The Man. Oddly enough, when in Toronto several years ago, we never came across the dish and the first time I had it was in Madison, Wisconsin in 2013 and again this past summer in Anchorage, Alaska. I’ll bet they have lots of Poutine variations at the Great Canadian Cheese Festival…eh?

Like I said, The Wedge was a great way for The Man and me to kick off our own celebration of the American Cheese Society’s American Cheese Month… and to enjoy the all-too-regular Portland pastime of sitting in frigging traffic on I-5, both south and north… but I’m not bitter…

Coming: To continue our celebration of American Cheese Month (and the “official” launch of the new website “facelift”) we’re giving away lots of cheesy delights including Beecher’s Handmade Cheeses, Ancient Heritage Cheese Assortment, BelGioioso Cheese Basket, Kitchen Table Bakers’ Parm Crisp assortment, Kelly’s Jelly trios, Sully’s Hot Date Jam, an autographed copy of Kurt Beecher Dammeier’s “Pure Flavor”, a $50 Whole Foods Market Gift Card and more great goodies… details will be posted tomorrow…

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