Seattle is spoiling me. It must know I am a first-time visitor and is trying to lull me into moving here by giving me a sunburn in a city where the fashion-conscious have Gore-Tex jackets to match every outfit, introducing me to Tom Douglas’ delightful little crab cakes, and sweet-talking me into buying fresh, squeaky cheese curds for $11.95 a pound made smack-dab in the middle of the city at Beecher’s Handmade Cheese.
Apparently both the food and weather gods have rolled out the red carpet this week for the American Cheese Society, as the sun has been shining and the food has been flowing since I arrived on Monday.
Today was the first official day of ACS, and attendees celebrated by embarking on one of four different pre-conference tours of the lovely Pacific Northwest. A cozy busload of 50 people and I attempted to visit two creameries and two farms (alas we only made it to 1 cheese plant and 1 farm) as we spent most of our time waiting to board ferries, crossing bodies of water on ferries and waiting for barges on bodies of water to cross under bridges.
(The scenery may be beautiful, but I really have to question the sanity of the manager of Poulsbo’s Central Market when she told me, quite passionately, that her three-hour (one-way) commute every day from Seattle to work via car/ferry really IS worth it).
What WAS worth it was hanging out with fellow blogger Kirstin Jackson (that’s her pictured above, looking quite modelesque while braving the wind atop one of Washington’s famous ferries) and visiting tiny Mt. Townsend Creamery in Port Townsend, Wash. We got to see its one circular cheese vat in action and meet its two owners, Matt and Ryan. My favorite of their many cheeses is Trailhead, a 5-1/2 pound tomme aged for three months.
While Trailhead was originally made with local Jersey milk (sadly no longer available – the farm is now selling it all as fluid raw milk), Matt & Ryan had to convert to local Holstein milk four months ago and have just finally got the cheese back to where they want it. I never tasted Trailhead with Jersey milk, but I can tell you it’s pretty darn good right now as is. It carries a nice nutty flavor and catches your attention.
While Mt. Townsend was the highlight of today’s 8-hour bus ride, yesterday was one highlight after another. I started the morning with a Savor Seattle food tour of the fabulous Pike Place Market, and over the course of two hours, consumed the following:
Two hot, sugary and delicious Daily Dozen Donuts
One cup of MarketSpice “Seattle Blend” tea
Three different samples of amazing smoked salmon at Pike Place Fish (home to flying fish)
Two fresh bing cherries and a juicy nectarine at Frank’s Quality Produce
A cup of classic clam chowder at Pike Place Chowder
Five different dried cherries covered in various types of chocolate from Chukar Cherries
Flagship cheddar and a cup of amazing mac n’ cheese at Beecher’s
A beef & cheese piroshky at Piroshky-Piroshky
And a crab cake from Etta’s
Vowing never to eat again, we then went to Pike Place Pub, downed a plate of nachos and a couple of beers, and went on the Underground Tour in Pioneer Square. Seeing no ghosts and no rats, we ended the evening at the fabulous Calf and Kid, a new cheese shop on Capital Hill in Seattle owned by the charming Sheri LaVigne, where Gordon Edgar was doing a reading of his “Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge”.
Gordon was losing his voice and only read a couple of excerpts, but one was my favorite: the re-telling of buying his first, very over-ripe, very nasty Tallegio. The fabulous Sheana Davis of The Epicurean Connection was on hand as well, and brought along a half dozen of cheeses from California, along with what tasted like a very nice, un-nasty Tallegio. What a sweetie.
About 30 people gathered round and asked Gordon questions like: “I hate cheese. It makes me want to vomit. Which one would you recommend that won’t make me sick?” (Gordon, in his infinite wisdom and desire to sell books, deferred to cheese goddess Judy Creighton, who happened to be in the crowd, and she advised a creamy, buttery Havarti. Good call).
All in all, a couple of very pleasant days here in the Emerald City. I can only hope that the week will get even better, as close to 700 of my favorite cheesemakers, cheese enthusiasts and general cheese geeks gather to taste, learn and talk cheese. Let the cheese coma commence.