American Cheese Society's Cheese Camp and Festival of Cheese
This past week the American Cheese Society held their annual conference, Cheese Camp. It was in Providence at the Rhode Island Convention Center, only an hour from Boston, so of course I had to make an appearance!
I signed up to volunteer during the conference, which earned me a ticket to the Festival of Cheese on Saturday night. I spent almost four hours in a fairly quiet room, occasionally checking in volunteers and answering questions. When my time was up, I wound up staying a bit late to help out at the information booth.
Hanging out at the information booth was fabulous because I was able to learn that my blogging about cheese in the past qualified me as a media entity, so I was entitled to a media pass! The pass allowed me to get into the event at 5:30 instead of 7pm, which was wonderful. Although, as you can see, the American Cheese Society set up plenty of cheese literature for people to read while they waited.
When I entered the room, I saw an overwhelming amount of cheese. Cheese was piled high on every table, as far as I could see. I'm including a picture of the map here so that you can understand, it really was that massive!
My cheesy partner-in-volunteering, Laura Scafati, and I went on a search for all of the top cheeses, the ones which had earned Best of Show awards this year. First place went to Celtic Blue Reserve from Glengarry Fine Cheese in Ontario, while second place was split between two excellent cheeses: Standard Market Cave Aged Chandoka from LaClare Farms in Wisconsin, and Roth's Private Reserve from Roth Cheese in Wisconsin. The third place cheese was from New England, and so was one I've enjoyed many times: Harbison, from the Cellars at Jasper Hill in Vermont.
In addition to the piles of cheese, surrounding the edges of the festival were other vendors. Some had charcuterie to sample, some had jams and jellies, and some had great crackers; basically, everything you found surrounding the cheese would go well with cheese. There were even a few vendors pouring samples of wine, beer, and cider, all of which I had to try, of course.
I tried too many cheeses to remember them all well, but I'd like to point out a few excellent ones. Torus, by Vermont Creamery, was one of the best cheeses of the evening. I enjoy every cheese I've ever had from Vermont Creamery, going back to when their name was the Vermont Butter and Cheese Creamery. I also very much enjoyed a pumpkin flavored goat cheese, seen next to the gorgeous spiral of dill and garlic goat cheese above. I should also point out the tasty little chocolate and goat cheese treats. And of course, my goal for the night was to eat as much aged Gouda as possible, because good aged Gouda is like candy.
Some more photographs of amazing cheeses; the most interesting cheese of this bunch was the third place goat's milk cheese, Chevrai Original from Woolwich Dairy, which tasted so bright and lemony that I had to try it twice.
After a few hours of gorging ourselves on cheese and everything else, we could take no more, and had to take our commemorative wine glasses and head north. It was an amazing day and evening, and I'm definitely considering heading to Cheese Camp next year!