August 26-28, 2010
Day Three – 8/28/10
This is the last day of the conference with only 1 seminar
today dealing with Food Safety and FDA regulations in the dairy and cheese
industry. I won’t bore you with all the regulations talk, but I will provide a
few important points. The average cost of a product recall is upwards
of 3 million dollars, which could put small producers out of business. Good
Manufacturing Practices are more important than ever in our industry. The FDA
has targeted 70% of the small cheese processors of artisinal cheeses in the
year 2010. This was a new initiative that started in April 2010.
After lunch, we had time to sight see and take in the views
around Seattle. It was a very vibrant scene at Pike’s Place Market and the city
in general on a beautiful Saturday afternoon.
Saturday evening, the Festival of Cheese ended the ACS
conference, where first, second, and third places are handed out in 95 cheese
categories. As I have said before, there were a record 1,462 entries this year.
Also, out of all the winners, there was a Best in Show named along with second
and third place after it.
The festival was held at the Benaroya Hall, home of the
Seattle Symphony. As you can see from the pictures it is a beautiful facility.
The award ceremony was held prior to the festival. Local beer and wine
purveyors were on hand to complement all the cheese tasting with their
libations. Out in the foyer, Seattle’s best restaurants and fine purveyors had
bites of their favorite dishes available to sample.
The displays of the cheeses per category are magnificent.
The quantity of cheese is unparalleled. I tried most of the top 3 finishers in
every category, safe to say, I didn’t need dinner. All of the winners will be
posted on the American Cheese Society homepage on Sunday at www.cheesesociety.org.
The Best in Show this year went to Uplands Cheese Company
from Wisconsin, with their Extra Aged Pleasant Ridge Reserve (www.uplandscheese.com).
This was in the open category for cow’s milk cheese, aged over 60 days. It is
an artisan farmstead cheese with a very rich, full flavor. Second Place Best in
Show went to Vermont Butter and Cheese Creamery from Vermont (www.vermontcreamery.com).
It is an aged goat cheese, called Bonne Bouche. Third place was from Farms for
City Kids Foundation, Vermont (www.farmsforcitykids.org). It is called Spring
Brook Farm Tarentaise. This cheese resembles many Alpine cheeses from the
I hope you had as much fun reading my postings as I had
writing them from Seattle for ACS 2010. See you in Montreal for ACS 2011.
Day Two – 8/27/10
Day Two started out with the annual Town Hall meeting, a
popular session because it creates an inviting environment for the ACS
membership to participate in dialogues addressing their concerns. Many members
came to the microphone to address a wide variety of subjects including federal
regulations on raw milk and raw milk cheeses, the future direction of the ACS,
resources for the small cheese makers, the marketing of ACS members and what
that means, etc. Overall, the board of directors and members had a lively
debate to start off the day.
After the meeting, it was time for the seminars and classes
to start. Today, I was again signed up for three classes:
- Tasting: Pacific Northwest Dairies – Past, Present, and
- Affinage: A Collaborative Endeavor
- Perceived Product Value and the Language on a Cheese Label
At the Pacific Northwest Dairies seminar we got a chance to
taste 4 cheeses from 4 cheese makers and learn about the history of cheese
making in the area. Our first cheese was from Washington State University in Pullman, WA, which has a long and storied history in cheese making dating back to
1898, when WSU started courses dealing with dairies (www.wsu.edu/creamery).
The university currently offers cheese making classes along with dairy science
classes. These classes help smaller artisan and farmstead producers get the
knowledge to perfect their craft. We sampled WSU's Cougar Gold, named after the
school mascot. It is white cheddar with sweet after notes and a smooth finish. It
was aged at least 8 months.
The second cheese was from Sally Jackson Cheese located in Oroville, WA (www.sallyjackcheeses.com).
They have cattle, sheep, and goat on their farm. They are a very small producer
making cheese per order for local farm markets. The cheese presented was a
sheep’s milk cheese wrapped in a roasted chestnut leaf. It was 3 months old,
very moist and very robust with strong farm tastes.
Cheese number 3 was from Willamette Valley Cheese Company in
Salem, OR (www.wvcheeseco.com).
This dairy family’s heritage started in 1962. They make all types of cheeses,
from havarti and goudas to cheddar and jacks. The cheese we tried was called
Boerenkaas Gouda, which means farmer’s cheese. It was a raw milk cheese, 5
months old with a mild and clean flavor. The color was a nice yellow and had a
natural rind that they wipe with olive oil to help with the mold growth on the
rind. This was my favorite cheese out of the 4. It had the most taste
explosion. He has both Holsteins and Jersey cows in his herd and uses only the Jersey cow milk in his production to get the most fat in his milk. The Holstein milk he
sells to a co-op for fluid milk.
The last cheese we tried was from Kurtwood Farms, a cow farm
on Varshon Island, WA (www.kurtwoodfarms.com). It was started by a
former restaurateur from Seattle, Kurt Timmermeister. It is on 13 acres of
land. The unique thing about Kurt is that he only sells to restaurants and
delivers to them once a week. He also is building an aging cave on his property
to help with the affinage of the cheeses he produces. The cheese we tried was
called Dinah, named after one of his Holstein cows. It is a surface ripened
brie. It was very creamy and buttery with a thin rind.
My second seminar was on Affinage, the aging of cheeses. The
expert panel included Herve Mons of the Mons Fromagerie in France, Raef Hodgson
of Neal’s Yard Dairy in London, and Doug Erb of Landaff Creamery in New Hampshire, who uses the Cellars at Jasper Hill in Vermont to age his cheese. They
talked about the importance of air flow, temperature, and humidity to properly
age cheese. Affineurs make their own imprint on the products they produce.
Mons Fromagarie has been an Affineur since 1964. They
age around 180 cheeses from 130 producers in 4 caves. They use mostly wooden
planks, made of spruce. The spruce wood has less tannin to affect the cheese
resting on it.
Neal’s Yard Dairy has been an Affineur since 1979.
They have two retail stores and the affinage in London. They service many
cheesemakers from the area.
Landaff Creamery, uses the Cellars at Jasper Hill to age
their cheese. They make the cheese at their farm and take it to the cellars to
be aged. They are a very small operation that don’t have time or room to age
their own cheeses.
The last seminar of the day dealt with cheese labeling and
perceived product value. Consumer research done by Mary Anne Drake of North Carolina State University was discussed. This research has documented that the
consumer does read a label and it is important how that label reads. The key to
success is the product has to taste good but also look good. Labeling is
important but it is the flavor that drives demand and repeat purchases. We want
to engage the purchaser to pick up that piece of cheese and put it in the
cart. To draw the consumer, the label should be appealing, have
wording that resonates with them, and accentuate the positive in your product.
Flavor and health benefits are most important and keep them coming back.
Tomorrow is the last day for seminars and culminates with
the awards presentation and the Festival of Cheese. Stay tuned……..
Day One – 8/26/10
Day One here in Seattle started out early with Keynote
Speaker Laurie Demeritt from the Hartman Group. She discussed mega trends in
food and how consumer food culture is changing. Consumers are now looking for
fresh, real, and less processed. She gave many good points on how this relates
to the cheese industry and the cheese makers.
As consumers we are no longer just eating three meals a day.
We are continually grazing throughout the day as our consumption changes.
Cheese is a perfect fit for the snacks between meals as well as an essential
ingredient for many of our favorite meals.
After Laurie finished, it was off to the many seminars that
were being held during the day. I signed up for three today:
- The Art of Blue Cheese: Making to Tasting
- Marketing in the Age of Twitter and all Social Media
- Last Stop Cheese Shop
During the blue cheese seminar, Cary Bryant, Rogue Creamery
in Oregon, Mike Brennenstuhl, Seymour Dairy Products in Wisconsin, and Jeff
Jirik, Faribault Dairy in Minnesota discussed the importance of milk selection,
breed variations of the cows, goat, or sheep, physical modifications during
processing, and the animal diet in determining the look and taste of the blue
cheese available in stores today. For example, if the herd is pasture or grass fed,
the color of the cheese is more yellow and the flavor more robust. If they are
fed silage, the cheese is white and less flavorful. Blue cheese takes on the
personality of its creators by virtue of milk type, region of country,
processing, ingredients, and curing/aging.
The second seminar was on social media and how Twitter,
Facebook, and YouTube are changing how companies look at consumers. Our
speaker, Michael Claypool, from Huge, Inc., showed us the good and the bad of
social media. This was a very interesting seminar, since it really deals with
new media that is only 4 years old. We still don't know what role this
media will play in our business.
The unique aspect of this new media is that it turns around
how companies deal with marketing. Instead of customers signing up for an
e-mail, companies can find customers through Facebook, Twitter, etc. He gave an
example with Twitter where people were tweeting about a bad experience
with a consumer goods corporation. The company had their people
online at the same time handling these complaints almost instantly, by tweeting
back. He then gave some facts and statistics that I found interesting. YouTube
is the second biggest search engine on the web, behind Google and it is Google
owned. Only 24% of small businesses use the new social media, but this number
is climbing every year. On Facebook, the 55 – 65 year old demographics are the
fastest growing segment. Also, Generation Y & Z consider email to be
obsolete; they Twitter and Facebook all day long. This year, Boston College stopped handing out email accounts to incoming freshmen. Any college news is
posted on their website, Facebook page, or tweeted to its followers.
He also touched on two other sites: Yelp and CitySearch.
These two websites provide reviews by city for everything from
retail shops to plumbers. The public loves to look at reviews and rankings, but
as owners look to social media, they have to be careful on how they handle
complaints, bad posts, etc. The speaker did not have any evidence of what
clearly works because it is so new and evolving everyday. He did stress to
embrace social media, but do not stop what you are currently doing to promote
your business. He is very excited to watch the evolution of this new media and
its integration into business marketing practices over the next few years.
The last seminar of the day focused on the importance of
retail cheese counter at local stores. The cheese counter is where most
consumers are exposed to the whole world of cheese. Label narratives, sampling,
and telling the story of the cheese are essential to building an informed
customer base. The cheese counter is a very important control point in the
cheese to consumer chain, the last stop.
After the seminars, I attended the “Meet the
Cheesemaker” reception which provided the opportunity to talk with some of the
cheesemakers that have submitted cheeses to be judged this year.
We sampled their cheeses and talked with them about their farms and the
types of cheeses they make. This year the ACS has set a new record on cheeses
being judged. There are over 1,462 cheeses submitted, besting last years record
by over 100 cheeses. It is an exciting time to be here.
The last event of the evening was the Opening Reception at
the Seattle Aquarium, sponsored by the Oregon Dairy Farmers. It included buffet
food and drink, set up through out the aquarium for our own personal tour.
I look forward to Day Two in Seattle. Thanks for reading……………