Recently in the cheese world …

American Goat Cheese Awards: The American Dairy Goat Association (ADGA) annual cheese competition was held last month in New York. Congratulations to Bonnie Blue Farm (TN) for the Best in Show award for Tanasi Tomme, and to Split Creek Farm (SC) for Reserve Best in Show for Farm Feta in Olive Oil. Familiar names on the winners list include Maryland’s Firefly Farms (four awards) and Spriggs Delight Farm; Oregon’s Rivers Edge Chevre (1st in flavored hard cheeses for Astraea); California’s Redwood Hill Farm (cleaning up the yogurt & kefir categories) and Fat Toad Farm in Vermont for their goats milk caramel sauce. View the complete results here.

MSLivingNov09Craft Cheese in Mainstream Media: Martha Stewart Living’s November issue features Vermont’s artisan cheesemakers, and the cheese episode airs this Thursday, Nov. 5, featuring Liz Thorpe. Emeril Lagasse is also on the bandwagon, recently visiting Jasper Hill Farm and Bellwether Farms in California for the Emeril Green show. The Bellwether episode (“Pass the Cheese, Please”) first aired last night, Nov. 2, but check the listings for a re-run if you missed it.

Tillamook Mac ‘n Cheese Competition: Last month was the 5th annual Tillamook Macaroni and Cheese competition in Portland, OR. The winner? Ann Jones from Littleton, CO, with her “Rustic Fried Sage and Chicken Apple Sausage Mac ‘n Cheese with Autumn Chutney.” She took both grand prize and people’s choice (and, I presume, longest recipe name!). Congrats!

Free Cheese! Bellwether Farms is giving away a $100 gift certificate to one lucky winner. To enter, create an original recipe using Bellwether’s creme fraiche and submit the recipe and a photo by December 1st. View complete details here.

On the Cheese Blogs: Madame Fromage selected Meadow Creek‘s Grayson as her Halloween cheese (great pick!) … The Cheeselover Fiona Beckett is served a unique cheese course … View pictures from the 2009 PDX Wedge Festival … Check out this recipe for Savory Onion and Gouda Dutch Baby from Herbivoracious (perfect for any bits of L’Amuse or Roomano you may have around).

American Cheese on Twitter: Now that Twitter has launched their lists feature, we’ve set about to create the ultimate list of American cheesemakers/sellers/enthusiasts. If you’re interested in America’s craft cheese movement, these are our must-follows. And if you make, sell, or promote cheese in America and we somehow aren’t yet following you on Twitter, drop us a note in the comments or @100cheeses.

Cheese of the Month: The most viewed cheese review we posted for the month of October was… Coach Farm’s goat medallion (third from left, above).

Remember to check our DC and MN Cheese Event listings for classes, tastings and more … we’ll be updating as holiday events are announced. And if you have cheese events or news to share, drop us a note at dccheese@gmail.com or mncheese@gmail.com.



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We could recommend some of our favorite hoity-toity American cheeses to mark our nation’s 233rd birthday, but let’s be honest — the only cheese most Americans will be chowing down on on Saturday are those slathered over a juicy slab of beef* (or turkey or tofu). The New York Times today offered advice on creating the perfect burger, but in our not-so-humble opinion, the real ingredient to watch is the cheese. You might enjoy a healthy dollop of Roquefort or an Irish cheddar on your every day burgers, but needless to say the 4th of July calls for more patriotic selections. Fortunately, American cheesemakers are a force to be reckoned with (and they were a large contingent of the cheese crew that made up the largest single food category at this week’s Fancy Food Show).

If you prefer a classic burger, try a cheddar from Vermont’s Grafton Village, and you can’t go wrong with Jasper Hill’s Bayley Hazen or Rogue Creamery’s Smokey Blue.

For a Greek-American burger, dress it up with Hidden Hills Dairy Bolton Feta (from Pennsylvania) or goats’ milk feta from Mozzarella Company of Texas. 

Stink it up with Meadow Creek’s Grayson, an American tallegio (the 2009 batch has just been released), or go for total sensory overload with a dollop of Cypress Grove’s Truffle Tremor.

If you really just have to have individually-wrapped slices of pre-cut cheese — well, you probably aren’t reading this blog. But just in case, let me point you toward Tillamook’s cheddar cheese singles so you can still enjoy the convenience without compromising on a “cheese food product.”

If you need additional incentive to seek out artisanal American cheeses for your July 4th celebration, see the “Cheese as an Act of Patriotism” post at The Saxelby Almanac. And tell us, what’s the best cheese and beef pairing you’ve ever had??

(*I’m going to assume you’re using local, grassfed and e.coli-free ground beef, but here’s some advice if you need help finding a local beef provider – and check out the craft beer finder to find a good patriotic beer to wash it down.)

After noting the injustice of National Grilled Cheese Month overlapping with Passover, Colleen challenged me last week to make a matzah version of a grilled-cheese sandwich. I have made many matzah pizzas over the years, but I don’t believe matzah grilled cheese ever graced my plate before. Up to the task, I came home from a Heavy Table interview last night and decided to give it a shot.

A poor substitute for the real thing

A poor substitute for the real thing

I broke a piece of matzah in half and inserted a slice of Tillamook medium aged cheddar (available at Costco in resealable bags and a fantastic substitute for American cheese singles) and got the sandwich going in my toaster oven. Just a few minutes later, the matzah became brown and the cheese was bubbling. The first taste consisted mostly of plain matzah and was blah as expected, but the second yielded a cheesy bite.

But was it any good? Not really. The cheese was delicious, but the slightly charred matzah did nothing to enhance its flavor, and you really can’t compare bland matzah to the soft and tasty cushion that a piece of quality bread can provide. Luckily, Passover ends on Thursday night, so I can enjoy the rest of National Grilled Cheese Month as it’s meant to be – with the best bread I can find.

100th-anniversary-badge1I grew up just over the mountains from Tillamook, Oregon, home to the Tillamook Cheese Factory. Crossing the coast range, the sight of dairy cows grazing in the valley – and their distinctive, uh, fragrance – was the first sign that we were nearly to the Coast. And of course, no visit to the Coast would be complete without a visit to the factory to watch the signature orange blocks of cheddar roll off the line, sample the curds and newest cheese varieties, and enjoy a giant scoop of fresh Tillamook ice cream in a waffle cone. (My favorite flavor is Marionberry Pie, closely followed by Mountain Huckleberry.) This past summer, we took my son for his first visit. He and my niece were facinated by the cheese bricks carried along conveyor belts, and didn’t complain about having to eat ice cream, either. A family tradition we’ll continue for many years!

Today is the 100th anniversary of the Tillamook County Creamery Association (and my little sister’s birthday, too – Happy Birthday, K!). Tillamook has been farmer-owned since 1909, and led the dairy industry in banning artificial growth hormones (rBST) all the way back in 2005. I’m sorry we won’t be able to sample the special anniversary white cheddar, aged three years and being released today at the factory, but will break open one of our vintage extra sharp cheddar logs we bring back from our annual visit. We can get only the most basic varieties of Tillamook in our local grocery stores, so we always stock up on the others on our annual trek west. Also for the anniversary, Tillamook has released a beautiful new cookbook which I look forward to getting my hands on on my next trip home. I have a vintage Tillamook cookbook, loaded with recipes for cheesy canapes, seafood casseroles and other recipes from the 1930s (originally published in 1935!)

If you’re in Oregon, visit the Tillamook fan site for a schedule of centennial events, or join their fan club on Facebook. (Psst, find us on Facebook, too!) And if you need more reason to love Tillamook, here are a few Tillamook cheese recipes from around the web:

Growing up, New Year’s Eve was the one time a year we got to eat all the processed junk food our little hearts desired, from ready-made French onion dip and Lay’s potato chips to whatever shrink-wrapped meat and cheese goodies my dad got in holiday gift baskets from his colleagues. I don’t believe I ever had a homemade cheese ball, but we did think the Hickory Farms cheese logs and spreads were a nifty treat. (Funny how warped a sense of “luxury food” one develops when raised on a strict healthy-food diet!)

Aside from the low gas prices, dismal economic reports continue to lead the daily news reports. If you’re feeling a little more frugal (late)-Seventies than Swinging Sixties, the retro cheese ball stretches your cheese dollar and is sure to amuse and delight your New Year’s Eve guests. Better yet, cheese balls are best made from a good, traditional cheddar and don’t require a special trip to your local cheesemonger. Apparently, cheese balls are all the rage this holiday season, having been endorsed by Amy Sedaris and Martha herself (link to video clip). A classic recipe requires cheddar, cream cheese, a liquid (Worcestershire sauce traditionally), spices and crushed nuts. The possibilities for variations are endless, but I kept mine simple and used Old Bay for a taste of the Chesapeake. Serve with some mini crab cakes or steamed King crab legs for maximum effect.

Recipe: Chesapeake Cheddar Cheese Ball

Ingredients:
2 cups grated cheddar 
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
1/2 cup crushed pecans
* (I used Tillamook to keep with the coastal theme. Had I planned a little more in advance, I would’ve used Chapel’s Country Creamery’s crab spice cheddar, locally-produced on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.) 

Instructions: Mix first four ingredients in mixer until well combined. Chill in refrigerator for 30 minutes to an hour, then shape into a ball and roll in crushed pecans until evenly coated. Wrap and store in refrigerator overnight. Bring to room temperature (at least 30 minutes) before serving. Enjoy!

Of course, you can make your cheese ball as simple or fancy as you please.  Alanna has a round-up of family cheese ball recipes over at BlogHer, including Big Red Kitchen‘s eye-catching Curried Cheese Ball with coconut and peanuts. The Kitchn offers a more gourmet option, a Blue Cheese and Rosemary Ball, or booze it up with this Cheese Truffle recipe from Tillamook. For a sweet option, try (or imitate) a Butterscotch Brickle cheese ball mix

Ringing in the New Year with cheese? Let us know what’s on your menu!
And be sure to follow us on Twitter for the latest from around the cheeseosphere.