With more than 1,400 cheeses to try at last night’s Festival of Cheese – the annual culmination of the American Cheese Society conference and competition – cheese lovers from around the world descended upon dozens of tables filled with cheeses sorted by category: flavored, fresh, farmstead, smoked, washed-rind, blues, international style, American originals, Italian-style, soft-ripened, cheddar and more, all in a quest to taste every cheese possible.
Some succeeded. Many failed. The rest of us are still in a cheese coma.
For me, one of the best parts of the annual Festival of Cheese is volunteering to prep the event. As usual, my husband and I were in charge of the cheddar table. Our mission: sort, cut, prep and tray 119 cheddar cheeses of every shape, color, variety and size, onto only seven tables. With one of the best volunteer crews ever assembled, we did it in just over six hours.
Here’s a look at the process:
8 AM: Uriah and I pose for a selfie to remember how energetic we looked before shepherding hundreds of cheeses from cooler truck to speed rack to cutting tables to plating:
9 AM: three of my awesome volunteers starting to cut and plate cheddar. I always encourage my team to get creative in cutting and traying the cheeses, because after all, how often are we encouraged to play with our food?
10 AM: beginning to sort where the cheeses will land:
NOON: Here’s a portion of our table, about halfway through the process. Time for lunch:
2:30 PM: We are almost done – just have to fluff up the tables with crackers, flowers and fruit. Time to take a team photo:
4 PM: And, it’s showtime. Here’s a glimpse of just a portion of our magnificent cheddar tables, with my hand-carved “cheddar mountains”. Gosh, playing with cheese is fun:
Of course, the main perk of attending the Festival of Cheese is getting to try all the winning cheeses, including the Best of Show winners. Here they are, in all their glory:
It’s also fun people-watching – here’s a shot of U.S. Champion Cheesemaker Cecylia Szewczyk taking a photo of one of her many award-winning cheeses before the crowds arrive. The girl just keeps racking up the cheese awards:
Every year, I try to find the most unusual cheese at the event, and this year was no exception. This creative cheesemaker decided to insert a lemon into the middle of his cheese. Not surprisingly, the cheese was lemony in flavor:
If you missed this year’s Festival of Cheese, fear not! The event will be repeated again next year, this time in Des Moines, Iowa. I look forward to seeing you there in 2016!
All photos by Uriah Carpenter.