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Say Cheese…

Last night Lori, Renee and I all went to the annual Chef’s CollaborativeWine & Cheese party. Washington now has 35 artisan cheese makers, which is the same amount as Wisconsin! 15 of those cheese makers were represented last night, along with 5 Washington wine makers. It was SUCH hard work tasting all that cheese and wine! Sigh.

Herban Feast Catering hosted the event and what a beautiful venue! They are on 1st Avenue and if you need a space to rent in Seattle for any occasion, this is the place! They offered several delightful hors d’ouevres bites so I can also attest to the fact that their food and service is great. They have been feeding people for over 10 years and they know what they are doing.

While we did not have a bad bite, here are a few of my most favorites.
Pecorino Romano is nearly always my favorite, and Black Sheep Creamerydid not disappoint me. I love the tangy sharpness, and the drier feel on my tongue. Perfect alone, and a fabulous enhancement to any dish. I believe it was Larkhaven Farmstead who had the combo of sheep/goat ‘feta’…ohmygosh!!! It is SO amazing. The perfect blend: creamy and crumbly, so fresh tasting with just enough tang to make me smile in surprise. Definitely lacking in that pungent ‘feta’ quality, and yet the sheepy-goatiness more than make up for it. While it would enhance any salad, I would have it on the cheese board. Mt Townsend Creamery’sCirrus Camembert is so smooth and creamy…I always wonder what folks see in the lowly Brie, when they could have Queen Camembert instead. And this Camembert is most certainly the queen mother!

While goat and sheep cheese are nearly always my first choices, be they fresh or aged, Beecher’s Flagship cheese is the best cows milk, cheddar style cheese EVER! It has a creamy texture, and the flavor is so robust and sharp, I cannot help but make yummy noises. I have tasted it several times (I nearly always have some in the fridge at home) and last night we got to taste their Flagship Reserve. It is the same cheese as the Flagship, but it has been aged differently and longer. It is more like Parmesan in texture and the sharpness is still there. They didn’t have any of their blank slate or fresh curds there, but there were other cheese makers with similar items to try so it was fun to taste the different cheese maker’s versions of some old favorites, along with a few brand new tastes.

Estrella Family Creamery was there, too. They are the hot ticket these days, with everyone who loves cheese seeking out their product. The standout for me was their smoked cheese called ‘Weebles’. It is a raw cow’s milk cheese that has the texture of a provolone. I have had some smoked cheeses lately and they tasted like the smoke was an added flavor, which was way too strong. The smoke gently caresses this cheese. It tasted natural, as if the cows had been warming themselves by an alder-wood bonfire during milking.

There were lots of other great cheeses, too. All three of us tried different wines so we could share them around, since it was going to be impossible for each of us to taste all the wines. FairWinds Winery, Kalamar Winery, Stina’s Cellars, Sorenson Cellars and Windy Point Vineyards all had selections for us to choose from. Everything I tasted was good, but there were no true standouts for me. Lori really liked the sangiovese, but I a not sure which winery’s sangio it was. Renee mentioned that she really enjoyed the Sorenson Pinot Gris, but what she really loved was the all-natural Dry Soda from Seattle. I believe the Lemongrass flavor won out slightly over the Lavender, Kumquat and Rhubarb flavors.

I got to shake hands with Seth Caswell (owner/chef of Stumbling Goat Bistro, and the president of Seattle’s Chef’s Collaborative) and his wife, which just thrills me to no end. Zach Lyons is, among other things, the vice president of our chapter and seems to be the General Organizer of All Things. He has the energy of a newly wed and his sincere passion for this local food movement is so much fun to witness. I am very grateful that he invited me, and gave me the courage, to be an active participant in my very first Chef’s Collaborative event, back in February. Zach treats everyone he meets as a great friend, and I feel lucky that I can walk up to him and get that heart-warming smile that he has to offer.

So we had a blast, made some good contacts, and enjoyed some wonderful cheese. Just today I wrote a catering proposal for a bridal shower and I offered an artisan cheese platter. So what I want to know from you is this: Would you like to attend a wine and artisan cheese event at Monica’s? What would you like that event to cost and when would you like it to be? Let me know what you are thinking!