Last month we went to Cheese Camp. Yep, Cheese Camp! Actually, it’s the annual meeting of the American Cheese Society (ACS), but everyone affectionately calls it Cheese Camp. (Don’t want to read? Check out this video recap of Cheese Camp.)
What is Cheese Camp?
Mostly it’s a multi-day celebration of the amazing American cheese scene. Approximately 2,000 curd nerds gathered in Providence, RI, and for nearly a week we ate cheese, judged cheese, toured farms, sat in cheese lectures, made new friends and then ate more cheese.
Why does it matter that we went to Cheese Camp?
Because that’s where we meet new cheesemakers and taste new cheeses so we can bring hard-to-find artisan products to our case at Cheese+Provisions that you won’t easily find elsewhere.
There were a lot of highlights of Cheese Camp. Here are just a few.
- A cheese pub crawl. Five bars with several cheesemakers at each one sampling their creations.
- Farm Tours. One of the best events was the day we spent touring the farms and creameries of award-winning cheesemakers in Western Massachusetts—Ruggles Hill Creamery, Robinson Dairy and Westfield Farm.Ruggles Hill Farm
- Learning and Tasting. There actually are educational sessions at the Conference. Two of our favorites were the session where we tasted American-made Alpine-style cheeses against European Alpines. Talk about really “getting” what terroir means.We also got to taste two of America’s best known cheeses at different ages to see how they change over time. Jasper Hill Farm’s bloomy rind cheese Harbison and Vermont Creamery’s geotrichum-rinded aged goat cheese Bonne Bouche. Vertical tastings of cheese. Are we in heaven?
- The Cheese Oscars. More than 1,750 cheeses were entered into the annual ACS Cheese Awards competition. We were lucky enough to work for two days as volunteers helping behind-the-scenes at the judging. The winners were revealed at our industry’s version of a red carpet affair.The grand prize winner was a cheese called Celtic Blue Reserve from Glengarry Fine Cheese in Ontario, a creamy soft and mild blue cheese with a terrific buttery aroma. You can check out all the winners with this rundown from our friends @CultureCheese magazine.
- The Festival of Cheese. The cheesemakers come for the Oscars. The rest of us come for the festival where we literally get to taste all 1,779 entries…or at least try. We prepped the Blue Cheese table and got the honor of making the Best of Show plate, so you know we got our share of tastes of that one!
- Cheese Karaoke. It doesn’t get much better than watching some of America’s most respected cheesemakers and cheese retailers rocking it out to Bon Jovi or Cher to celebrate another great conference.
We had a ton of fun, but more importantly we accomplished our mission. We came home with a list of cheeses to share with you when we open and we got to meet the artisans behind them so we can also share their stories.
Just a few to get excited about:
- Brie-style Blue Earth from Alemar Cheese from Minnesota.
- Rosie’s Robiola, a luscious and silky bloomy rinded cheese from North Carolina’s first generation farmers behind Boxcarr Handmade Cheese.
- The nutty, washed rind Prufrock from the organic and sustainable Grey Barn in Martha’s Vineyard.
- The brine-washed and pungent Hooligan from the mother-daughter team of Cato Corner Farm.