Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Come and celebrate cheese!

Feeling like eating lots of cheese? Want to learn about how it is made? Fascinated by dairy goats? Want to have more inspiration in the kitchen with your cheese? I bet there's a festival or conference coming up that might be of interest.

I've already mentioned the Sonoma Valley Cheese Conference. I'm very excited to be on a panel. Anything you'd like me to talk about? The focus is on blogging and I'm open to ideas and suggestions. February 21-24th are the dates. It starts off with a gathering at the Cheese School of San Francisco from 5pm - 8pm on Saturday the 21st of this month. For $25 you get to eat some exquisite cheese from some of my favorite producers and wash it down with some great wines and beer. The party moves to Sonoma on Sunday where you can eat more cheese, drink more beer and wine and meet more cheesemakers. Monday and Tuesday is the working part of the conference. Panels, guided tastings, workshops, and great networking opportunities. See Sheana's website if you want ticket information.

If that's not enough to satisfy you, there's the Fourth Annual Oregon Cheese Festival happening in March. Head to Central Point, home of Rogue Creamery on Saturday, March 15th. It is sponsored by the Oregon Cheese Guild and features my friends and neighbors and some damn fine cheese. I hope to make it this year. The cost is quite affordable and open to the public. $5 for cheese tastings and demos, $5 for wine. Wow! There's also a dinner in Ashland for $70 on Friday night. I'm checking my calendar right now.

In Petaluma, there's another cheese festival in March. California's Artisan Cheese Festival is happening March 20th-23rd. This is a big cheese appreciation event. There will be a marketplace, chef's demos, and seminars. The California Artisan Cheese Guild is playing a major role in the festival this year.

Looking ahead: May will feature the Seattle Cheese Festival May 16 & 17th at Pike Place Market. The American Cheese Society Conference will be in Austin, TX this year August 5th - 8th. Woo hoo! Good beer, good barbecue, and good cheese. Works for me!

I can't go to them all, but I'll try to hit a few of them. I've got some building about to commence around here. My $$$ will be ear-marked for other cheese endevors, namely our business. I can't say when ground breaking will be, but I'll looking at weeks rather than months at this point. This is BIG news!!!

There's no place like home

Photo: View of the Sunset District, Golden Gate Park, and Mt. Tamalpais.

I really miss the cultural diversity of the Bay Area. Why? Because most of my life seems to center around eating. I love the variety of cuisines that are available in and around San Francisco. We used to live in a neighborhood that was culturally mixed. The fringe benefit of this melting pot is the fact that I had lots of options when I went grocery shopping. When I craved good olives, I went to the Parkside Farmer's Market on Taraval. Their olive selection and feta selection cannot be beat. They used to be self serve, but now they tub them for you. I guess too many folks were grazing. Parkside also had the best milk prices and a great selection of fruits and veggies. I loved browsing through their aisles looking at the different spices, canned eggplant, and olive oils. The family that owns it is from Jordan, so I could find lots of middle eastern items without going far from home.

I often shopped in the central part of the Sunset District. This area is an eclectic mix of Asian, Eastern European, Irish, and all other ethnic groups that call San Francisco home. Parking was a nightmare in the area, and the stretch of Irving between 19th Ave and 26th Ave was/is always congested. Too many cars trying to skirt around double parked cars and lots of pedestrians. This is where I did a lot of my grocery shopping. I'd often park along Lincoln, next to Golden Gate Park and walk over one block to do my shopping. I loved looking at the fish swimming in tanks waiting to become someone's supper. Sunset Super, an Asian market, often had a good price on live Maine lobster, so I grab a pair for dinner if they were less that $7/pound.

As a treat I'd often grab a bubble tea at one of several local bubble tea outlets. Bubble tea, tapicoa drink, boba drinks, all the same thing and all tasty if they're fresh. My favorite was the Double Rainbow Ice Cream Parlor, but they went out of business and were replaced by an Asian chain called Quickly. Inferior bubble tea IMO. I'll still get bubble tea from Wonderful Foods Company. Or if I was on Clement Street, there's a candy shop across from my fave book store, Green Apple Books that makes great bubble tea (forgot the name.) Oh bubble tea. I love those tapioca pearl balls swimming in a milky tea bath. The texture isn't for everyone. My eldest sister has lived in Hong Kong and all over southeast Asia. She can't stand the drink. I love it. My favorite flavors are Green Tea with Milk at Tapioca Pearls and Mango Tea with Tapioca Pearls. I don't go for the jelly cubes or other options.

What do I do now that I'm living in rural splendor? I've gotta get into my car and drive. I've been slowly exploring my options around here and in Portland. Harder to find, I must admit. I'm looking for good Indian markets, Asian markets, and Middle Eastern markets. I love the Barbur World Foods in southwest Portland. They make pita bread to order! Heavenly. I'm still looking for a good Indian market.

Then there's H Mart. Shortly after we moved here, a huge Asian grocery store opened up in Tigard. This made all of the local papers. There was a lot of TV coverage, too. This store makes me feel right at home. It is a Korean chain based out of New Jersey. They cater to many styles of Asian cuisine. There's a huge bakery, sushi counter, noodle bar, and kim chi bar that takes up the front third of the store. They've got a great fish counter (yay!) and there's an entire aisle devoted to soy sauce, fish sauce and assorted high sodium delights. One section featured Asian housewares. I can replace my miso soup bowls here. They had special refrigerators aimed at Koreans. I've never seen a fridge that looks like a chest freezer with a button on it that says "ferment." Ferment? Oh! It is a kim chi fridge, I guess. Fancy!

I felt like I was back in San Francisco except that everyone was very polite and the place wasn't crowded. They even had a bubble tea bar! Now, when I feel homesick, I can jump in the car and wander through the aisles at H Mart. I'm not homesick as much as I used to be. I guess I'm getting used to this place. The stuff I used to think was weird and strange seems more normal now.

Also want to find a good place for dim sum. I'm told to head for the border. The Canadian border. The closest dim sum of quality is in Vancouver. If you know of anything closer, like in Portland, please let me know!

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Sonoma Valley Cheese Conference, a panelist, and a cheese

Ladies and Gentlemen and children of all ages! We have achieved a milestone. The cheese is ready to be eaten!!

This cheese was born on Halloween 2008. I just cut into it on January 4th.

I just cut the second one on Feb. 1st.

I'm a very proud cheesemaker. These wheels turned out great! Good texture. Good moisture. Good flavor. The current wheel is better than the first. Yay!

If you want to try some of this fine cheese, you might have to stop by and say please.

If you happen to be around the town of Sonoma from Feb. 22 - Feb. 24, you'll find me at the Sonoma Valley Cheese Conference. Stop by and say hello! If you're lucky, I might let you try some of my cheese.

Even better than just eating my cheese, I'm on a panel. I get to discuss the finer points of blogging about cheese. Come and ask questions. Feel free to heckle, I'll only blog about you.

I attended the Sonoma Valley Cheese Conference last year and loved it. It is like a mini American Cheese Society conference with informative workshops, discussion, great networking opportunities, and a great gathering of cheese professionals. I love the town of Sonoma, so this is an added bonus. My friend Sheana Davis is the organizer. She pours her heart into making this happen and she does a great job. There is always lots of cheese, plenty of local beers, and a nice selection of wine to be consumed. Not a bad way to spend a few days. I hope the weather is nice and warm. I could use some more sunshine. Please find me and say hello.

Here's a brief description from the website:

The 7th annual Sonoma Valley Cheese Conference. Hosted by Sheana Davis & Ig Vella. Guest Keynote Speakers include Rob Kaufelt, Murray’s Cheese Shop, New York, Sid Cook, Carr Valley Cheese, Wisconsin, Petra Cooper, 5th Town Artisan Cheese Company, Ontario. Speaker Coordinator Gordon Edgar, Rainbow Grocery Cooperative. Conference Receptions Host, Rainbow Grocery, Cheese Plus and Bi Rite Market. Advisory Committee includes Ig Vella, Gordon Edgar, Sid Cook, Judy Creighton, Dee Harley, Harley Farm; Ray Bair, Cheese Plus; Sam Mogannam, Bi Rite, Mark Todd, The Cheese Dude. A very special Sonoma Dairy and Vineyard Tour, hosted by Levoroni Dairy & Vineyards. The Conference will be held at Sonoma Valley Inn & Conference Center.

A fine, three month old aged goat cheese. Semi-firm. Made in Dundee, Oregon.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Goo Goo Muck

Photo: Steve Mace from The Untamed Youth on bass, Dexter Romweber from the Flat Duo Jets, guitar, and Joel Trueblood from The Untamed Youth on drums. April 1990.

Lux Interior died today. Sad. I always liked The Cramps. They put on a great live show. Spent a few Halloweens in their company. I even took my mom to see them while I was in college. She was visiting me and the Cramps were playing Springfest, an annual event sponsored by my old college radio station, KCOU. As general manager of the station, I had some duties to perform so I set my mom at a reserved table in the front of the balcony of the Blue Note and I went off to make sure things were running smoothly. It was a phenomenal show. Local surf band, The Untamed Youth opened the show. Then the Flat Duo Jets tore things up and the Cramps wrapped up the evening in fine style. I think Mom enjoyed the show. Lux Interior sweated profusely and did his usual striptease act, and performed most of the show in his shiny, black leather underwear. Poison Ivy was her usual cool-as-a-cucumber self. Nothing like an evening of raunchy rockabilly, and trashy rock and roll to make a girl feel good. Mom still talks about that show.