Greetings from Des Moines, IA.!
CGG and I are on our way home from yet another fabulous American Cheese Society Conference. This year found us in Austin, TX where I discovered that Shiner Bock has some serious appeal and the BBQ at Stubbs was pretty tasty.
All in all another great Conference. A little different in that this year, since I needed to be in Oklahoma City the weekend prior to the Conference, I arrived in Austin well in advance.
So, this year I volunteered in the "Competition and Judging" arena. For three days I spent 8-10 hours moving cheeses from one cooler to another, tempering prior to judgement and finally returning cheeses that had been judged to coolers awaiting their chance at glory.
On Wednesday the first-place winners from their respective categories were judged for the coveted "Best in Show" title. After that final round of judgement, the cheeses were handed off to the "Festival of Cheese" Committee Volunteers and they went to work.
The competition was over and we were done!
One of the things I learned last year when I was an Aesthetic Judge for the 2008 Conference was that it is incredibly difficult to know who won and not be able to tell anyone!
On Wednesday night, CGG and I were invited to dinner with the Faribault Dairy and Grafton group, (the ones responsible for "Duet", a Huntsman like cheese with a layer of St. Pete's Blue sandwiched between two slabs of Grafton Cheddar) and the "Atlas of American Cheese" author Jeff Roberts.
To sit there, amongst that group and not be able to tell them that their Duet had won first place and was up for "Best in Show" made me want to bust!
Incidentally, it was a blue produced by Rogue River Creamery that won "Best in Show." It can be a little difficult to find in the Twin Cities but it is a complex and truly delightful blue cheese.
Smooth and supple, wrapped with grape leaves that have been soaked in Oregon Pear Brandy giving it a slightly higher moisture content, making it just bit creamier than your average blue.
Go find some and savor the very best cheese made in the USA!
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