2019 California Artisan Cheese Festival

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A display of goat cheese samples. All of these samples are the same type of cheese at fresh, three months, six months, one year, and two years of age.

Okay.  So this was a pretty fun event.  Four hours of non-stop food tasting.  Free insulated shopping bag which Velcro’s shut, complimentary wineglass, and a fist full of informational packets and chill packs to keep whatever you bought while there cold on the way home.  It was great despite the fact that my family were an hour late and only spent three (Ahem…2.5 because my feet were sore, and I was nursing a migraine) hours there.  Unfortunately it was not free.

At $50 dollars a head I don’t know what I was expecting (including my 13-year-old kid who is apparently too old to get child prices anymore), but it wasn’t what I got.  Rows of rectangular tables lined the walls and created a maze of isles through the building located on the Sonoma County Fair Grounds.  Long lines of people waited at each table, matching complimentary bag and wineglass in hand, for the opportunity to try a bite or drink of whatever was being served.

Cheese.  All shapes and hardness; soft, fresh, aged, hard, mild, sharp.  You name it, they had it.  Or did they?  It was almost all cheese made from cow’s milk.  Sure there were a couple of stands there from alternative dairies with goat and sheep’s milk, but I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t more.  Don’t get me wrong.  What there was, was amazing.  Cow’s milk cheese is delicious, just like any other.  Yet, I had attended almost exclusively for the allure of possibly meeting alternative cheeses.

Many of the cheeses I sampled were delicious.  Some I didn’t fancy.  But better than the endless rows of cheese calling out to be tested and tried, were the non-cheese items which appealed to my adolescent child (No, he didn’t get a wineglass.  Yes, there were specially labeled wrist bands to differentiate between the over and under twenty-ones.)  There was a gourmet salt company selling a variety of smoked, seasoned, and truffled salts.  Several meat and charcuterie makers were interspersed among the cheese mongers as well as candy makers also.

To be honest, I hadn’t intended to purchase anything while there.  After the tickets, the cost of gas, and the hours of driving, I was not having it.  Then my son tried a sample of Apple Cider Caramels With Toasted Almonds from Little Apple Treats, a Good Food Awards Winner.  His eyes nearly bugged out of his head as he smiled for the first time since leaving the house.  Sold!  $6.95 for a bag of six pieces.  Yikes!  Worth it for me though, and I’ll probably be hunting down more bags for every major holiday which involves candy from now on.

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By far my favorite sample was the duck breast bacon (at least it tasted like bacon) from Ryan Creek Root Cellars in Eureka.  A 0.38-pound whole duck breast sold for $14.00.  Most delicious bacon-esque food I’ve ever eaten.  My mind instantly raced to all the things I could use it for; a salt pork/bacon replacement in clam chowder, serve it with eggs benedict, top deviled eggs with little savory strips of it.  Oh the ducky goodness.

Lastly, there was the wine.  I have to admit; the wineries were most generous with their samples and provided nearly full glasses.  If I were a drinker, I probably would have really appreciated that.  As a non-drinker (and the designated driver) I didn’t really care.  I could tell from the scents that there were some really good wines there.  (Hey, you can’t cook with alcohol without knowing what is good and what is going to ruin your dish.)  Mom certainly enjoyed most of them and was particularly fond of whatever was being served in the left front corner relative to the building’s main entrance.  I had intended to swing back around and buy her a bottle and never got to it.  If anyone knows what company that was and what wine they were serving, let me know in the comments.  It’s going to make a no-brainer gift for her one of these days. 

Overall, this is a fun event.  I wouldn’t call it a family event, but I certainly took my tweenage kid to it.  Cheese, chocolate, candies, savory meats? Totally worth trying it again next year. I’m looking for more events like this to attend, so if any of my readers know of good ones I might like let me know about them in the comments. Feel free to share what your favorite thing about any food event you attended was.

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