Bayley Hazen Blue

July 3, 2011

Made Using Raw Milk

Let’s face it; the good folks of Vermont, for the most part, travel to the beat of a different drum. Despite their unbridled sense of independence, Vermont citizens also possess a great responsibility to each other and the land they call “The Kingdom of Vermont”. .. This attitude has also spilled over to my fellow observers who watch over that Quadrant in the NE United States and SE Canada. The Brain constantly finds himself spending precious time whipping those pesky, independently-thinking felines into line… not unlike herding cats… but I digress…

In the mid-1990s, Andy and Mateo Kehler, just out of college, headed to Vermont, land of many pleasant summer childhood memories spent at their grandparents’ home, with just one dream… to grow hops and make beer. What newly-graduated college guys don’t dream of making beer? In my younger days, I dreamt of my own endless fields of catnip, organically grown using sustainable farming practices… ah the good ole days…

The Brothers Kehler bought two hundred acres of farmland near Greensboro, Vermont and began studying the practicality of making beer. It just wasn’t there. Then came tofu; again it was a no go. They looked around and bam!! The light went on; they were in the middle of Dairyland. So… what do you do in the middle of Dairyland? You buy cows and become dairy farmers. Luckily for cheese lovers everywhere, that’s just what they did.

In 1998, Jasper Hills Farm was born and the brothers began to educate themselves on sustainable farming. Mateo, who had a degree in economic development, spent three years working with farmstead cheesemakers in the U.S., England, France and Spain. One of those years was spent working at Neal’s Yard Dairy in England. He also began to develop recipes for making cheeses appropriate for their dairy in the Northeast corner of the Kingdom of Vermont.

Andy has a degree in poli sci and philosophy… philosophy, now I finally know how you use a degree in philosophy… you make cheese… did I say that out loud??? (Andy, no disrespect… please forgive my free association… J) In 1993, Andy worked on a sustainable agriculture project in Chile, which included dairy operations. He is a building inspector and contractor which provided him with the knowledge and skills to design and build a state of the art dairy facility. And that’s exactly what he has done.

In 2002, the brothers bought a herd of 15 Ayrshire heifers and began their adventure making some great cheeses. And then another dream became reality… The Cellars at Jasper Hills… state of the art aging caves where the brothers take the young cheeses of their fellow cheesemakers, age them and prepare them for the consumer.

The Lady and I greatly admire the accomplishments of these two brothers who truly care for the land, the animals and also for other dairy farmers.

The brothers make two cheeses and one is Bayley Hazen Blue. This natural rind blue cheese, made from whole raw Ayrshire milk, primarily uses morning milk with less fat.

The Lady, The Man and I love this cheese. Because it is made with raw milk, the tastes of grass and hints of nuts are stronger than the blue mold making a well-balanced cheese. You get the best of both worlds; raw milk delight and kick from the blue. This cheese is a little drier than many blues and crumbles well. Your next cheese plate should finish with Bayley Hazen Blue.

I give Bayley Hazen Blue 4 Paws out of 4 Paws (cause that’s all I’ve got). 

Serving Suggestions: Even though it crumbles well, I would be reluctant to “waste” this wonderful cheese on a salad… of course, that being said, you’d be talking a superior salad. The Lady served it naked with a warm baguette. The Man swooned and while he was swooning I pawed off an extra serving for myself. The Lady noticed the paw marks but thankfully she was still feeling guilt at leaving me home while she was gallivanting in New York… so she merely smiled… You might drizzle a little honey on this cheese and serve with hazelnuts.

Wine Pairing: Tawny Port or a sweet, chilled dessert wine.

Beer Pairing: A chocolate stout would pair well with Bayley Hazen Blue.

Awards: 2007 ACS 2nd Place in the Open Farmstead Category.

Trivia: Bayley Hazen is an old military road that traverses Northern Vermont. Our first U.S. President, still a General, commissioned the road to carry troops to fight the British on the Canadian front, should one open up. No battle ever took place, but the road carried the first settlers into the Greensboro, Vermont area. The road is still used today.

The island of Pag off the coast of Croatia is home to a special artisan cheese, Paski Sir. Paski Sir is gaining worldwide recognition quickly as it amasses award-after-award. In 2010, it won the prestigious Barber Award and was named the World’s Best New Cheese at the World Cheese Awards. That’s one hefty accolade.

Through this blog, The Lady and I met Simon Kerr, the indefatigable Marketing and Export Director for Gligora Dairy where Paski Sir is produced (Simon is also a Master when it comes to understanding social media). He graciously offered to send a sample our way and we were thrilled. After sampling it, we felt we had been granted membership in an exclusive club… those lucky enough to taste this exquisite sheeps’ milk cheese.

Before reviewing let me share more about Pag and the production of Paski Sir.

The Lady was in Croatia in 1978 when it was still Yugoslavia and Tito was alive and kicking. She didn’t get to Pag but the week she spent in Yugoslavia is one of her fondest memories. She loved every minute she spent there; the people were friendly; the countryside is beautiful; the cities old and stately. Her favorite was the Croatian walled city of Dubrovnik. She worked in the airline industry at that time and was invited to sit in the cockpit while landing in Dubrovnik; ahh, the good ole days of aviation… but I digress…

The Island of Pag is off the coast of Croatia in the Adriatic Sea and enjoys a perfect climate for cheesemaking. Its eastern landscape lies beneath the mainland Velebit mountain range which creates the Pag Bora, a strong, cool and dry wind that comes off the mountains. When it reaches the sea, it creates millions of tiny sea droplets that the Bora dries and turns the droplets into salt dust. Then the Bora deposits the salt dust on the vegetation of the island. It is here that the Paska Ovca Sheep grazes on the vegetation, their favorite being the Pag Sage growing on the rocky landscape.  The aromatic sage is quite prominent in both the scent and taste of this cheese. Paski Sir is a perfect example of terroir and cheese.

Paski Sir has been produced on Pag since the 7th Century during Roman occupation  and today there are several dairies producing this cheese (and many other award-winning cheeses as well). Currently the main producers of Paski Sir have formed a Cheese Association with the intention of obtaining Protected Designation of Origin for Paski Sir to impose strict condition for production. It would also ensure that Paski Sir remains a product of Pag.

In 2008, 2009 and 2010, Gligora Sirana Dairy won the coveted 3 star Superior taste Award from the International Taste and Quality Institute for Paski Sir.

The Lady, The Man and I enjoyed a wedge of this cheese one evening and although it started out as the appetizer; it quickly became dinner. The cheese was so satisfying we were unable to just taste one or two bites and the three us finished the entire wedge. I suppose we should be embarrassed but we’re not in the least. 

The piece we had was aged about one year and the color of light caramel. It has a dense paste with some small eyes, similar in appearance to a Manchego. When The Lady sliced the wedge, a floral aroma filled the air and promised more to come. The first taste is light but quickly develops into a strong, piquant finish. A finish that lingers and grows as you enjoy yet another slice. It crumbles and melts and leaves you begging for more. The taste is unique and because this cheese is thermalized rather than  pasteurized, most of the floral of the sage plant is still delightfully present which adds to the enjoyment of this cheese. As a point of reference because this cheese is not yet widely-known in the US, this cheese is moister than Manchego and not as salty as a Pecorino but has similarities to both.

The Lady and I decided after enjoying this cheese, we are firmly moving into the category of lovers of sheep milk cheeses. Like the Sally Jackson cheese The Lady tasted at the 2010 ACS Conference, the taste remains in your mind and you can almost taste it again with only thinking of it.

I give Paski Sir 4 Paws out of 4 Paws (cause that’s all I’ve got). 

Sadly, Paski Sir is not currently available for sale in the United States but Simon told The Lady it should be available via wholesale through Grand Prix Trading of New York by mid-May, 2011. For further information regarding Paski Sir, please contact Simon via his Paski Sir Blog. Paski Sir also has a Facebook page you can “Like” and they Tweet as @PaskiSir. As I said earlier, Simon knows his way around the internet. His series “From Ewe to You” is informative and follows the entire production of Paski Sir from the Ewe to your table. You can win a wheel of Paski Sir – the details are on the blog.

Serving suggestion: Slice in triangles, leave the rind intact and serve this cheese naked to fully enjoy its flavor and taste. The Lady served the Paski Sir with a trio of Vintner’s Kitchen jams: Marionberry Jam with Port, Confetti Pepper Jelly and Strawberry and Pinot Noir Jam and VK’s Honeyed Wine Mustard with Garlic. She also had a peppered salumi on the plate and freshly baked French Bread.

Wine Pairing: The Lady enjoyed a glass of 14 Hands Merlot with this cheese although she suggests a Riesling would also pair well with Paski Sir.

Beer Pairing: North Coast Old Stock Ale . The Earthy sweetness pairs well with the salty tang of the Paski Sir.

Trivia: Pag lacework, also made on the island and used in the background of the Paski Sir label, was inscribed in the UNESCO’s Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2009.

FTC Full Disclosure – The cheesemaker/manufacturer sent me their product, hoping I would review the product/cheese.

XO, Classic, Vlaskaas, Farmer’s Choice, and Beemster Lite are naturally Lactose-Free

The Lady and I are partial to Beemster Cheese and its US Marketing Teamof Michael, Bridgett and Bob. Recently Michael and Bob visited The Lady’s Kiosk and shared with her the new marketing strategy the company developed to further grow their image.

The three men appearing in the campaign photo are three generations of Beemster Dairy Farmers who live in the Beemster Polder and are members of the Beemster Co-Op: all continuing the Beemster tradition by making cheese with the same high standards and passion that sets the Beemster “bar” so high.

American consumers want to know “the story” of the specialty cheeses they buy and take home to enjoy with family and friends. (The Lady has made telling “the story” part of her every day in the cheesemines.) Beemster labels now open and reseal. Inside each label is the Beemster “story” explaining where the cheese comes from and what makes it unique. We all like to share the stories we learn with those we know and like. (That pretty much sums up the theme of this blog… I like to share the cheese stories I have rattling around in my cheesy brain…)

Beemster is now offering a “100% Money Back Guarantee” on all their cheeses. Folks, naturally, are reluctant, especially in this economy, to spend a little extra on a specialty cheese if they haven’t had a chance to try it. (That won’t happen at The Lady’s kiosk, as she tells all her customers, “If we cut it and wrap it, you can sample it”.) But not all cheese shops are created the same and now Beemster will guarantee that you are satisfied with your purchase, or they will refund your purchase price.

Also, to further assist their customers, Beemster is adding the “Lactose-Free” label to their cheeses that are aged more than five months. Most customers don’t realize that aged cheeses are usually lactose-free (such as Parmesans and most Alpine-style cheeses).

Lastly, Beemster recognizes that people are more likely to stand behind a product that has been around for a while; traditionally crafted that has been handed down through history and generations.

The Lady and I give our own kudos to Beemster and wish them great success with their new campaign.

Congratulations to all the Major Winners. List of American Winners to Follow. Complete list of winners by clicking here.

World Champion Cheese 2010: Cornish Blue Produced by Cornish Blue Cheese Company

Dairy Crest Trophy: Best Mature Traditional Cheddar from J.A.& E Montgomery

PTF Trophy: Best Cheese Entered by a PTF Member: Mature Block Farmhouse from A.J. & R. G. Barber

Barber’s Trophy: Best New Cheese: Paski Sir from Sirana Gligora (Croatia)

USDEC Trophy: Best USA Cheese:Tarentaise from Spring Brook Farm

Agri Expo Trophy: Best South African Cheese: Hugenot from Dalewood Fromage

Avilton Foods Trophy: Best Continenetal Cheese: Gruyere Premier Cru from Von Muhlenen

Le Gruyere AOC Trophy: Best Le Gruyere AOC: Gruyere Premier Cru from Von Muhlenen

North Downs Dairy Co. Ltd. Trophy: Best Mature Block Farmhouse Cheddar from A.J. & R.G. Barber

Fudges Trophy: Best British Cheese: Cornish Blue from Cornish Blue Cheese Company

Wensleydale Trophy: Best English Cheese: Cornish Blue from Cornish Blue Cheese Company

Welsh Assembly Government Trophy: Best welsh Cheese: Gorwydd Caerphilly from Trethowan’s Dairy

Isigny Ste Mere Trophy: Best PDO Blue Cheese: Creamy Gorgonzola DOP from Cairati, Fine Italian Foods

Best Spanish Cheese: Lo Pebrat d’Ossera from Formatgeria Serrat Gros

Best  French Cheese: Brebis from French Food Freaks

Best Italian Cheese: Rossini from Arrigoni Valtalleggio Spa

Best Canary Island Cheese: Untado en Pimenton from Finca de Uga

Best Irish Cheese: Newmarket Creamery Vintage Red Cheddar from Traditional Cheese Compny, Ltd.

John Davidge Award for Exceptional Contribution to Cheese: David Hartley from Wensleydale Cheese

This post concludes our series on the eight basic steps in cheesemaking as outlined by Dr. Frank Kosikowski and Max McCalman.

The Lady’s nose is buried in Max McCalman’s latest book, Mastering Cheese and just finished the chapter that outlines the eight basic steps of cheesemaking. Max used the work of a Dairy Science Professor. The Lady shared this information with me and I made an executive decision to include this information in our Cheese 101: Learning the Basics to Make You an Expert.

In 1983, Cornell University’s Frank V. Kosikowski announced his intention to create the American Cheese Society. He did, serving as its first president. This event helped launch the renaissance of artisan cheese making in the United States. Sally Jackson was already making cheese in Washington State after obtaining a government grant during the Carter Administration and both Laura Chenel and Mary Keehn were making chevres that would become award winners… the American cheese game was on…

As a dairy science professor, Kosikowski developed the eight basic steps in cheesemaking. As with all artistic endeavors, these steps aren’t etched in stone, unless you are a sculpture…, but it’s a great general outline in what goes into basic cheesemaking.

The Lady and I thank Dr. Kosikowski for his work in making this outline and Max for sharing it in his book. We will share this information in several installments here on the blog.

Step 1: Setting the Milk can be viewed by clicking here.

Step 2: Cutting the Curds

Step 3: Cooking and Holding

Steps 4, 5 and 6: Dipping and Draining the Curd; Knitting the Curd; Pressing the Curd

Step 7: Salting the Cheese

The most important ingredient in cheese (after milk, of course) is salt. Salt serves several important and critical purposes in cheesemaking: flavor, moisture reduction and control of bacteria and mold.

There are two ways to salt cheese. The first is dry-salting; sprinkling the salt directly into or onto the cheese curd. The cheesemaker can also sprinkle salt on the surface as the aging process begins.

Wet-salting is the second way to add salt. This manner is also known as brining. Here the cheese is immersed into a brining solution and left there for a few hours or up to several days.

As with every step, salting is an important step as it also helps remove moisture from the cheese (in addition to adding flavor) and just a slight difference in the amount f salt used can significantly affect the final cheese .

Salt also contributes to the formation of the rind.

Step 8: Curing

At this point, the curds are now cheese; but not great cheese. The curing and then aging will now complete the steps and if everything goes right, the cheesemaker will end up with an award-winning cheese. A cheese to make one proud.

Many stages can go into the curing process; many of them are optional and used for specific cheese types.

Many cheeses will be rubbed with herbs and spices; some will be sprinkled with vegetable ash; some may be brushed, sprayed, wrapped in cloth or wrapped in grape leaves. All of these steps are part of curing to make the desired cheese.

Cheeses may be washed to create a more-friendly surface for bacteria that are desired. If washed with wine or beer, yeast will be introduced to the mix and will affect the flavor development of the cheese.

Ripening agents kick in at this point and release enzymes that work their way into the cheese, breaking down the proteins, fats and sugars; setting off aroma and flavor compounds. In brie, the ripening agents help develop the bloomy rind.

Once the curing is done the aging begins and can last anywhere from a few days or in rare cases up to several years for certain cheddars and Dutch Goudas.

The Lady’s nose is buried in Max McCalman’s latest book, Mastering Cheese and just finished the chapter that outlines the eight basic steps of cheesemaking. Max used the work of a Dairy Science Professor. The Lady shared this information with me and I made an executive decision to include this information in our Cheese 101: Learning the Basics to Make You an Expert.

In 1983, Cornell University’s Frank V. Kosikowski announced his intention to create the American Cheese Society. He did, serving as its first president. This event helped launch the renaissance of artisan cheese making in the United States. Sally Jackson was already making cheese in Washington State after obtaining a government grant during the Carter Administration and both Laura Chenel and Mary Keehn were making chevres that would become award winners… the American cheese game was on…

As a dairy science professor, Kosikowski developed the eight basic steps in cheesemaking. As with all artistic endeavors, these steps aren’t etched in stone, unless you are a sculpture…, but it’s a great general outline in what goes into basic cheesemaking.

The Lady and I thank Dr. Kosikowski for his work in making this outline and Max for sharing it in his book. We will share this information in several installments here on the blog.

Step 1: Setting the Milk can be viewed by clicking here.

Step 2: Cutting the Curds

Step 3: Cooking and Holding

Step 4: Dipping and Draining the Curd

At this point in the cheesemaking process, the curds are transferred to molds, baskets or colander where more whey is drained away from the curd. Sometimes, the curds may also be put inside cheesecloth, hung and allowed to drain that way. If in baskets or molds, the additional whey can be drained simply by opening a valve in the vat. The curds will begin to meld and take on the form of the mold, basket or cheesecloth into which they have been dipped.  As with the Emmi Roth-Kase GranQueso The Lady helped make in Wisconsin, the finished cheese may retain the imprint of the basket holding it. This is a sign that the cheese is artisan made.

Step 5: Knitting the Curd

In Step 5, the curds begin to fuse together into a consistent form and really begin to look like the finished cheese. This knitting may take place in vats, in the baskets, hoops or in a press where pressure is applied to the curd.

Also, at this point, when making cheddar an additional, unique type of knitting takes place: cheddaring. (The Lady assisted in the cheddaring when making Flagship at Beecher’s this past summer.) The masses of curds are cut into large blocks, pulled to the sides of the vat, and stacked on top of each other. They are flipped several times and re-stacked. This expels more whey. When the cheddaring is complete, the curds milled; the curds are put through a cutting device which one more time changes their texture.

Step 6: Pressing the Curd

Pressing the curd may take a few hours or several days; again depending on the desired finished cheese. Pressing expels even more moisture, defines the density and texture of the cheese.

Soft cheeses are rarely, if ever, pressed. Instead they are pressed under their own weight. Harder cheeses may actually have weights placed on the top to create added pressure.

Joe Widmer, Owner and Licensed Cheesemaker at Widmer Cellars, places bricks, now almost 100 years old and were used by his grandfather and father before him, on top of his Aged Brick. And yes, the cheese is called brick because of the pressing use of those bricks and also because the cheese is the shape of bricks.

At this point, the bacteria cultures are still alive; acidification continues and these two must be monitored carefully. Here is where modern technology can assist the artisan cheesemaker. Electronic and computerized monitoring can assist the cheesemaker. But, instinct and experience are still the most important part of cheesemaking but why not use a little modern technology to make the job a bit easier?

Up next: Step 7: Salting the Cheese and Step 8: Curing the Cheese

As part of our Cheese 101 project, The Lady is sharing the seven seminars she attended at the recent American Cheese Society Conference in Seattle.

The first seminar she attended delved into the concept of terroir and how place affects taste.

Moderator: Janet Fletcher – Food Writer for the San Francisco Chronicle

Panelists: Amy Trubek, Ph.D., University of Vermont; Ivan Larcher, Larcher Consulting Company; Mateo Kehler, Jasper Hill Farm

Terroir is a concept dating back to 14th Century France and is the belief that the land, the environment and the producer each have a unique effect on the taste of the product they are making.

Originally, the concept applied first to wine, but over time cheese became part of terroir. Terroir also led to the Appellation systems of France, Spain, Italy and the EU whereby particular products from specific areas are “protected” by the governments creating standards unique to the product and the area where it is produced. Under the protected designations wine makers cannot produce a sangiovese wine and call it Chianti unless it is produced in Tuscany. Although the Pinot noir grape is used to produce wine in the Willamette Valley, the producers cannot call it Burgundy as that is a protected name for pinot noir produced in the Burgundy region of France.

Ironically, the word terroir only came into existence in the late 1800s and was created as a marketing tool for the wine makers in France.

Janet Fletcher began the seminar explaining her definition of terroir is “the impact of environment on flavor”. She asked if anyone in the audience thought terroir was bunk and only one hand was raised.

I heard a story a few years back that a certain award-winning cheesemaker of raw milk cheeses in  California, stated that his cheese would taste exactly the same no matter where he made it and no matter where his herd grazed. Believers of terroir were scandalized by this statement.

Dr. Amy Trubek from the University of Vermont was the first speaker. She is an Assistant Professor of Nutrition and Food Sciences and previously taught at the New England Culinary Institute. She is best known for her book, “Taste of Place”, which explores the multifaceted connections between taste and place in both cuisine and agriculture in the USA. At the University of Vermont she has been studying wines, cheeses, maple syrups and even hickory nuts and how the land, the environment and the producer affects the taste of the final product.

One example is an ongoing study of Tarentaise, an Alpine-style cheese made from raw milk by two dairy farms in Vermont. The recipes are based on the European cheese, Beaufort. Thistle Hill and Spring Brook farms both produce this cheese and are located less than twenty miles apart in Vermont near the foot of the Green Mountains. In this experiment, they took milk from the two farms and transported it to the same cheesemaking facility. The two milks were given to one cheesemaker who used the same recipe to make Tarentaise and began the aging in the same cave facility. Everything, except the milks, is the same. This study will continue for at least two years. At nine months, the two cheeses were tasted and one had a distinct garlic and onion taste which the other lacked. At this point, the study directed its efforts on the farms and found that what the cows were eating was the difference. Both herds were pasture-fed but the grasses and other growth in the meadows was different. Definitely “the taste of place” is in play in this experiment.

The next speaker was a Frenchman, Ivan Larcher, who is a consultant to cheesemakers who are starting their first dairies. He was a farmstead cheesemaker in France. As a Frenchman, he exhibits an “ownership” of the terroir concept and is quite specific in his thoughts about it. (I mean this is a positive way and not as a criticism.)

He believes that terroir cannot be created; it is something you “get”; it’s what you are and it’s what you do. Terroir is the result of humans, practices, heritage, landscape and the direct influence of the microbiological ecosystem of the area. He stated positively that pasteurization of milk destroys the terroir. To realize the benefits and results of terroir, the cheese must be made from raw milk; there are no exceptions to this rule.

According to Larcher, the flavor of cheese is a combination of milk (20%), microbiology (40%) and enzymes (40%).

He also stressed the point that of the millions of kinds of bacteria, only 4 or 5 are bad; the rest are good and necessary to produce flavorful cheese and preserve the terroir of the product. His inference is that the US Government needs to change the laws regarding raw milk products.

The last speaker was Mateo Kehler who makes Bayley Hazen Blue at Jasper Hill Farm. In addition to the Tarentaise project at UV, Kehler spoke about a Vermont Cheddar project also being conducted that is using milk from four different dairies to make cheddar.

He stated that geographical indicators create terroir but went beyond the concept and discussed the globalization of cheesemaking. With his brother, Andy, Kehler has built seven caves for aging and for cheesemakers who cannot age their own cheeses, the brothers will. They want to make artisan cheesemaking into a multi-million dollar enterprise. From what I know, it seems they will be quite successful.

At Jasper Hill, he is also developing a program that will uniform the making of Bayley Hazen Blue and franchise it to cheesemakers other than Jasper Hill.

I left the seminar with a better understanding of terroir and a firm believer that it exists.

 

The last seminar The Lady attended at last week’s American Cheese Society conference was an introduction to charcuterie and was moderated by Tyler Hawes, Buyer for Artisanal Premium Cheese. Because cheese and cured meats are often paired, it seemed a natural for the conference.

 The panel included Herb Eckhouse, owner of LaQuercia Meats located in Norwalk, Iowa. Since 2005, Herb and his wife Kathy have been creating premium quality salumi, which includes speck, pancetta, coppa, guanciale, lardo and prosciutto. Their prosciutto is dry cured without the use of nitrates or nitrites.

Their pigs are bought from non-confinement and sub-therapeutic antibiotic-free farms and are fed only a vegetarian, grain based diet (primarily soybean and corn which are grown in Iowa). They also offer an acorn-fed product to compete with European meats that feature acorn-fed pork.

During the Q&A time, a cheesemaker asked if Herb would be interested in buying whey to feed his pigs. Ironically, although pigs are omnivores and will eat just about anything that comes their way, for the charcuterie market, vegetarian-fed pigs are the only ones acceptable to most charcuterie makers.

By using only non-confined and sub-therapeutic antibiotic-free pigs, LaQuercia eliminates 99% of the pigs being raised for human consumption.

They also use the entire pig from head to feet in their meats.

They dry-cure their meats and are regularly inspected by State and Federal FDA regulators.

The three meats we sampled from LaQuercia were: Prosciutto, Speck (Smoked Prosciutto) and Prosciutto Picante.

Uber-Chef Mario Batali uses LaQuercia Meats and featured them in a recent cookbook.

The second panel member was Cristiano Creminelli of Creminelli Fine Meats LLC, which is located in Springville, Utah. Cristiano emigrated here from Italy and comes from a long line of salumi makers dating back into the 1600s. In 2007, he was awarded “Artisan of Excellence” by his peers and has won two “sofi” awards for excellence.

He uses only organic, natural raw materials including pork that is fed only white grains and raised on small family farms.

The three meats from Creminelli were: Wild Boar Salami, Tartufo Salami and Sopressata.

Fra ‘Mani’s founder, former-chef, writer and restaurateur Paul Bertolli, was the third speaker. His factory is in Berkeley. Before starting Fra ‘Mani (brother’s hands in Italian) Paul was a nationally-recognized chef in the San Francisco Bay area and best-selling Cookbook writer.

Like the others, Paul only uses antibiotic-free pigs that are fed a complete vegetarian diet.

We sampled his Mortadella and Salumi Toscano, which is aged eighty days.

He expressed his concern that the FDA is stepping back about oversight and wanting the makers to do their own policing. Along with the others on the panel, he fears more problems such as the tainted egg crisis of recent days.

 Last up was Armandino Batali, the oldest of the group and obviously revered by the rest of the panel. His grandfather opened Seattle’s first Italian food import store in 1903. However, Armandino went to work for Boeing as an engineer. When he retired, he switched gears, learned to cure meats and opened Salumi Artisan Cured Meats at Pioneer Square in downtown Seattle. Recently he passed day-to-day operations to his daughter and son-in-law. His son is Mario Batali.

Armandino and family like to challenge the palate and “flip the salami”. He proved this with the samples he brought for the tasting: Mole Salami made with chocolate and cayenne pepper; Agrumi Salami which was made using orange and cardamom and a pepperoni with red peppers and anise.

All four men stressed the importance of good raw materials, cleanliness and humane treatment of the pigs and the pork. One told a tale about how inhumanely some stockyard workers treat animals and meat. All appreciate the government regulations and work with them positively.

A bit of trivia: Genoa Salami contains some beef and in the US must be cooked rather than cured due to the ecoli outbreaks over the last decade.

So I’m sitting here in the Cheese Bunker hidden somewhere in the suburbs of Seattle and The Lady is hanging out with the “Cheese Swells” at the Seattle “No Pets” Sheraton… something is definitely wrong with this cheese picture…

The Lady and The Man just returned from the New Members and First Time Attendees Reception hosted by our friends, Sartori Foods and The Lady is dropping cheese names like there’s no tomorrow… however, you can bet, she’ll be dropping more names tomorrow… yada, yada, yada…

She ran into our buddy Gaetano Auricchio and the BelGioioso Cheese Swells at Pike Place Market today on her way to the home of my most favorite-of-all-time cheese, No Woman. The fine cheesemakers at Beechers were… well, they were making cheese…  to make matters worse, she came back to the “Cheese Bunker” with the scent of No Woman on her clothes (but not a wedge to be found anywhere on her)… at least she took a couple of pictures but then I discovered she had left the cord I need to download the pix to the computer… she had one item on her “things to do for Spaulding Gray” list… and she forgot… sheesh… I do all the heavy lifting and she hangs with the “cheese swells”…

After Pike Place Market, she and The Man stopped in The Daily Grill and had a late lunch while waiting to pick up The Lady’s creds at Cheese-a-Topia at the Seattle “No Pets” Sheraton…

The Man likes to hang with The Lady… well, that I can understand… I like hanging with her as well… he sat in the lobby of the Seattle “No Pets” Sheraton while The Lady went to the reception. All the new members and first time attendees were invited and the ACS Board of Directors (aka The Really Big Cheese Swells) welcomed everyone. Sartori Foods hosted the event and had many of their terrific cheeses for everyone to enjoy.

They played Board of Directors Bingo: little-known facts about members of the board were on a bingo card and as you chatted with them you had to find out various bits of trivia. The most interesting for The Lady was that our friend, Tim Smith from Kroger, was a ballet dancer and danced with the Boston Ballet… from ballet to cheese… talk about a renaissance man… I did a little research and discovered his interpretation of the Prince Florstan pas de trois in Sleeping Beauty is still legend.

On deck tomorrow… Cheesemongers’ Merchandising Competition; Terroir in America; Last Stop: Cheese Shop; Getting Inside the Retail Mine and Meet the Cheesemaker… boy do I have my work cut out for me tomorrow reporting on all these seminars… until then, I remain your humble Feline Foodie reporting from the “Cheese Bunker” hidden somewhere in the suburbs of Seattle…

In May, during her 2010 Wisconsin Cheese Tour, The Lady met Gerald (Jerry) Heimerl from Saxon Homestead Cheese. He graciously attended the Madison Trade Show and introduced the group to his line of farmstead cheeses. Jerry is one of the cheesemakers, a super salesman and all-around great guy. This is someone you would want to hang around on the weekend.

Located on the shores of Lake Michigan near Hika Bay, Saxon’s cows graze on a salad bar mix of greens in season and savor frozen grass hidden in the winter snow. The Klessig clan (Jerry’s in-laws own the land and encouraged their children to follow their dairy and cheese bliss) feel that sustainable is not enough and are moving forward with “life-enhancing” agriculture practices.

The Lady sampled five of the Saxon cheeses and here’s a review of the “cheese plate” that Jerry served:

Big Ed’s (named after Jerry’s father-in-law) is a Gouda-style cheese with Alpine hints. It is aged four months and has a clean, natural rind imprinted with a cool Saxon logo. The cheese is mild and buttery and melts on the palate. A great snacking and cooking cheese. This cheese is a great cheese for kids who are sometimes shy about trying new foods. But, don’t let that bother you, cheese hounds will love this cheese also.

Saxony is an Alpine-style cheese that reminded The Lady of one of her favorite cheeses, Gruyere. This complex cheese is nutty with that delightful Alpine bite. It is aged for a minimum of ninety days and hits its stride at about five months. This cheese is a perfect cooking cheese – try it in fondue; try it on a grilled cheese and it will add a new dimension to your favorite mac n cheese recipe.

Pastures is a raw milk, bandaged cheese that is aged at least four months. It is young with a full flavor that is sweet and nutty and lingers long after you have eaten your last bite. Again, this is a cheese that is great on the table and in the kitchen.

Green Fields is a monastery-style cheese with a washed-rind. This semi-soft cheese has a nutty flavor that changes subtly as the seasons change and the terroir shines through. This cheese melts well and would make a mean grilled cheese.

LaClare Farm Evalon was the last cheese Jerry served. Saxon Creamery teamed with LaClare Farms to make this raw goat milk cheese that is aged more than seventy days. A wonderful melting semi-soft cheese, with a bit of a goaty finish… as it should… it is made using fresh, clean goat milk from healthy does fed on whole grains.

Although she has no Paws… The Lady gives the Saxon Homestead Cheese Plate 3 Paws out of 4 Paws and gives Saxony 4 Paws out of 4 Paws.

On their website, Saxon Homestead has many excellent serving suggestions and drink pairings for each of their cheeses.