Have you ever had a night that was so amazing you just wanted to live it over and over, again and again? That was my night at the West Coast Cheesemonger Invitational.
The Cheesemonger Invitational is a competition to see which cheesemonger is the best at their craft. The invitation went out to all mongers to compete and 35 mongers answered the call. Selling cheese requires more than just liking cheese and this is what this competition is all about.
For those competing, the event started at 9am and, for the top ten, went until late in the evening. Their day started with a written exam followed by a blind tasting, salesmanship contest, cutting competition and finished with the creation of their perfect bite of cheese. That is when the public came in. At 5pm the doors of Public Works in the Mission District opened and allowed cheese-lovers in.
I never thought I would say that it was almost difficult to eat 35 bites of cheese, each was better than the first and I always wanted to go back for more. Luckily my cheese needs were met by an amazing fondue bar and grilled cheese stand along with samplings that were available from some of the amazing cheesemakers and suppliers who attended the event.
Once the bites were consumed the final ten were announced. I am happy to say that Seattle was represented by Hannah Fitzmorris from the Calf and Kid. The final ten were put to four final tests- explain your favorite cheese, cut a quarter pound of cheese perfectly, wrap three different kinds of cheeses and pairing one cheese with a local cider. Although these tasks may sound easy – when was the last time you cut a perfect quarter pound from a large wheel of cheese? Or wrapped three different types of cheeses perfectly in 45 seconds? These are skills that make a great cheesemonger. This year the honor of top cheesemonger went to Perry Soulos of Arrowine and Cheese from Arlington, Virginia. He rocked the competition and offered up a bite composed of Redwood Hill Farm‘s chevre with grapes, candied ginger and Burstin’ Berry Poppin’ Pebbles breakfast cereal- it looked like a piece of candy!
Although the cheese competition was the main focus of the evening, the cheese itself is what stole the show! The fondue bar was an endless flow of amazing gooey cheese and each cheesemaker and provider had a plethora of amazing cheese offerings. Neal’s Yard brought a delicious selections from England. America was represented by Bellwether Farms, Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company, Cypress Grove Chevre and Seattle’s own Beecher’s. I love them all but for me the night was stolen by Oma – the sweetest stinkiest mushiest glory of a cheese. This little beauty is found in the Cellars at Jasper Hill and will make you rethink stinky cheese and life.
The Cheesemonger Invitational reaffirmed my love and belief in cheesemongers and raised my hope that great American cheese will be readily available for many years to come.
On a final note, I had to mention that the greatness of the evening was capped off by the Seahawks beating the San Francisco 49’s and the Hawks heading to the Superbowl- and subsequently winning it.
Here are a few totally cheesy events listed currently on Brown Paper Tickets!
Sunday, February 9th | Say Fromage! (A Circle of Book Clubs literary salon) – Tucson, Arizona
In another of their now-famous literary salons, Circle of Book Clubs will bring author Kathe Lison to Tucson to talk about her best-selling (Amazon 2013 Best of the Year) book, The Whole Fromage. You’ll meet Ms. Lison and learn all sorts of fascinating things you’ve always needed to know about this ancient culinary art.
Sunday, February 9th | Badass Brunch – Youngstown, Ohio
Menu includes: yogurt parfait with lemon curd, blueberry compote, granola; winter lettuce blend with radish, apple, Kokoborrego sheep milk cheese and roasted shallot honey-mustard dressing; individual quiches with braised chard, Swiss and gruyere cheese; and roasted fresh Berkshire ham with winter spices.
Sunday, February 9th | Sour Sunday – San Diego, California
These four beers will be paired with four cheeses expertly picked by the house cheese monger for a palate pleasing pucker party!
Monday, February 10th | Heart-Shaped Cheesemaking – San Francisco, California
A hands-on cheesemaking course where each participant leaves with his or her freshly made cheese. Includes a cheese tasting of soft ripened washed rind cheese, alongside wine and an array of snacks.
Thursday, February 13th | Beer & Pizza: A Love Worth Celebrating – Chicago, Illinois
Dimo’s Pizza and Greenbush Brewing are collaborating to present “Beer and Pizza: A Love Worth Celebrating,” an all-you-can-drink-and-eat craft beer and pizza event.
Also, here are some Seattle Valentine’s Day events to make our local lovers feel all warm and fuzzy!
Friday, February 14th | Valentines Day in Fremont’s Most Romantic Dining Room – Seattle, Washington
Full Menu: amuse buche; petite sausage en croute with spiced mustard & sweet fig jam; pickled roots and vegetables with smoked fish; fresh and delicate seafood sausage with roasted red peppers & brown butter sauce; Chef Douglas Chiechi’s famous Italian sausage served over fresh pasta & paired with a light tomato sauce; garden fresh tossed salad and vinaigrette; and fromaggio e dolci – a selection of Italian cheeses with accoutrements & a variety of sweets to share.
Friday, February 14th | Loves Me- Presented by Marco Collins – Seattle, Washington
Get your romance on with an intimate evening curated by Marco Collins showcasing a cross section of diverse Northwest artists.
Saturday, February 15th | Loves Me Not- an Anti-Valentine’s Day Celebration – Seattle, Washington
Celebrate your single-ness with an evening curated by Marco Collins showcasing a cross section of diverse Northwest artists.