It’s been an exciting week here at C+C. Not only did Colleen and I get to see each other for the first time in more than a year (!), we spent a fabulous three days eating our way through New York City. We’ll have lots more to share about our NYC cheese adventures next week, but we won’t keep you waiting any longer for our report from the big gig: the 2009 Fancy Food Show.

yes, that is a humboldt fog wedding cake

yes, that is a humboldt fog wedding cake

The Fancy Food Show is the biannual event of the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade (NASFT), and it’s like Nirvana for anyone who loves food. Since it’s a trade show, it’s not open to the general public, but as the co-writers/publishers of a top 10 cheese blog, Colleen and I were able to attend as part of the press corps. (We felt very official.) Unfortunately, our busy schedules allowed us to spend only four hours at the show and we barely scratched the surface, but we did get to visit a number of cheese-centric booths and taste lots of cheese.

The high and low points of the show:

Hits

  • Meeting some of our favorite cheesemakers, like Mary Keehn from Cypress Grove Chevre and Mateo Kehler of Jasper Hill Farm. Both were generous with their time and samples, and Mateo even mentioned that he put a link to our
    talking cheddar with Lucy of Neals Yard Dairy

    talking cheddar with Lucy of Neal's Yard Dairy

    Winnimere review on Jasper Hill Farm’s Facebook page. (Thanks, Mateo!) Mary posed for a quick photo with us just hours before it was announced that her Truffle Tremor won the sofi for best product in the cheese/dairy category at the show. A well-deserved honor! We also had fun chatting with the folks from Faribault Dairy and Grafton Village

  • Learning about new cheese partnerships, such as Faribault Dairy and Grafton Village’s new collaboration on Clothbound Cheddar. Vermont-based Grafton Village now sends its Clothbound Cheddar to Minnesota to age in Faribault’s famed sandstone caves. British cheese powerhouse Neal’s Yard Dairy is also working with Colston Bassett Dairy to age its Stilton, and the union results in a creamier, tangier blue cheese that we really enjoyed.
  • Finding some untasted cheeses on our list, like the triple-crème Brie from the Marin French Cheese Company and the Rogue River Blue from Rogue Creamery. (Washed down with a gulp of Rogue Chocolate Stout, yum.) Watch for our upcoming reviews over the next few weeks!
  • Discovering new products to pair with our cheeses. You’ll have to stay tuned for specifics, but let’s just say there was no shortage of chocolate, crackers, oils, teas, coffees and more. (Imagine if we’d had time to sample all the adult beverages, too!)

Misses

  • Unfriendly French cheese exhibitors. The only way we were able to sample any French cheeses was to linger around the cheese displays for approximately 10 minutes before the person working the booth would even pay attention to us. Memo to the French: The reason why people come to the show is to taste your cheese. It’s really hard for them to do that if you ignore them.

    perfect pairings from rogue and rogue ale

    perfect pairings from rogue and rogue ale

  • Absent American cheese exhibitors … and too much floor space. We had hoped to try more new American cheeses, but were disappointed to find the Capriole Goat Cheese booth unmanned. Others we just didn’t make it to (Utah’s Beehive, Coach Farm) in our short amount of time. It would’ve been nice if the American cheesemakers’ booths were less spread out (own pavilion next year, perhaps?), though I imagine people with more time to spend grazing benefited from other snacks between cheese samples. 
  • Our wimpy stomachs. We didn’t eat breakfast that day in order to leave room for lots of cheese samples, but we still became full relatively quickly. Perhaps it was the dozen or so cheeses we had sampled the day before. Or the large iced coffees we drank on the walk to the show. Or the three desserts we shared during the previous night’s dinner at Casellula. Anyway, we were stuffed much earlier than I had anticipated. I managed to recover in time to try a Magnolia Bakery cupcake at 10 p.m. that night. Colleen said she choked down half a sandwich during her bus ride back to D.C.

Did you attend this year’s Fancy Food Show? Any stories or tidbits to share? Spill them here!

(And another miss, from Colleen – using the iPhone instead of a real camera. Um, duh. Will bring better equipment next year!)

Before I begin, a confession: I have not always like blue cheese. It was always too strong for my Wisconsin-bred palette, which was accustomed to nothing stronger than a sharp cheddar. But my former boss and I used to frequent the Majestic Café (now just called The Majestic) in Old Town Alexandria and would share the salad, which came with some very pungent blue cheese, and I began taking small tastes. Then my tastes became bigger and bigger, and pretty soon I wanted all of it for myself (but I still shared with Sue because I’m nice like that).

Crumbly, delicious St. Petes Select - locally made in Minnesota.

Crumbly, delicious St. Pete's Select - locally made in Minnesota.

I’m not sure what kind of blue cheese that was, but it definitely wasn’t my cheese of the week – St. Pete’s Select from Minnesota’s own Faribault Dairy. This blue, Faribault Dairy’s “signature super-premium American blue cheese,” has a mild taste and crumbly texture that’s easy for the blue-cheese beginner to enjoy. I expected a much stronger flavor on first taste and was a little disappointed at first, but then I figured out the secret. I drizzled a bit of honey on top of the St. Pete’s Select, and then I got the flavor burst I was craving – salty, tangy and creamy, too. The sweetness of the honey helped to draw out St. Pete’s “blue-ness” (I don’t think that’s a real cheese term, but it is now!). Honey and blue cheese are a classic pairing, but as I found out at work the next day, other sweet foods will work. My co-worker Sara tasted the St. Pete’s and then took a bite of her apricot-mango yogurt and got the same heightened flavor experience. Who knew?

Topping the St. Petes Select with a drizzle of honey really helped bring out the cheeses tangy flavor.

Topping the St. Pete's Select with a drizzle of honey really helped bring out the cheese's tangy flavor.

St. Pete’s Select is one of three blue cheeses crafted by Faribault Dairy – you may have heard of its siblings, Amablu Blue Cheese and Amablu Gorgonzola. All three cheeses are made from rBST-free raw cow’s milk, hand-made in traditional open vats and aged in hand-dug sandstone caves. St. Pete’s Select is aged a minimum of 100 days, making it the sharpest of the bunch.

St. Pete’s Select is available by mail-order at Amazon.com (really!), and it can also be found at Surdyk’s, Premier Cheese Market and Cheesetique. I’d say that you could find it at my house, too, but I don’t think there will be any left after today.