Only recently, when American artisan cheese has been compared to cheese from Europe, the U.S. product has come out smelling like roses. So perhaps it's apropos that this year's official gathering of American artisan and specialty cheesemakers will take place in Portland, Ore., which calls itself the City of Roses.
Fresh salmon, locally brewed American pale ale, and Oregon Pinot Noir should make fine accompaniments to the hundreds of cheeses from the country's best new cheesemakers as the conference takes place July 19-22. This year's theme is Exploring Cheese Frontiers.
The American Cheese Society says its conference is the only opportunity for producers, distributors, retailers, food writers, academics, technical experts and enthusiasts to come together for a few days and focus on nothing but the world of artisan cheese.
The conference will include an educational program designed to inform and inspire, networking events with great refreshments and entertainment, and optional tours that explore the area's wineries, and retail shops and restaurants. There is even a tour of the Willamette River aboard the Willamette Star.
Then of course there is all that cheese.
Last year in Louisville, a record 749 cheeses were entered into the competition in dozens of categories, and this year should be no less abundant. And what cheeses they are!
There are cheeses washed with wine and with beer or infused with chocolate or chipotle peppers. There are cheeses wrapped in leaves, bound in cloth, and rubbed with herbs. Some cheeses, butters and yogurts are made from goats milk and sheeps milk, and others made from raw cows milk. There are cheeses made on tiny farmsteads and cheeses made by large companies that make millions of pounds a year. Last year's "Best of Show" went to Uplands Cheese Co. of Wis., for its Pleasant Ridge Reserve.
The educational program is robust, with sessions that cover topics like world cheese standards, certification, raw milk cheesemaking, a profile of Tillamook Cheese, wine and beer with cheese, lessons from the craft brewing industry, conflicts with suburban sprawl, and scholar-in-residence cheese evaluations.
The conference will be held at the Hilton Portland and Executive Tower downtown which can be reached from the airport via light rail.
ACS Conference at a GlanceWhere: Hilton Portland and Executive Tower
When: July 19-22
What: Competition, education, and social events with America's farmstead, artisan, and specialty cheesemakers
Social Events not to be Missed
- Wednesday July 19 6:15 p.m. - 9:45 p.m. Portland Cruise,
- Sponsored by Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board
- Thursday 7 p.m. - 9 p.m. Opening Reception, Portland Art Museum
- Sponsored by Dairy Farmers of Oregon, Roth Käse USA, Ltd. and Tillamook County Creamery
- Friday 5 p.m. - 7 p.m. Awards Ceremony
- 7:30 p.m. Restaurant Dine-Around (Additional cost for participation)
- Saturday 4 p.m. - 9 p.m. Festival of Cheese,
- with more than 600 cheeses from competition. Sponsored by Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board
- Sunday 11 a.m. - 2 p.m. Cheese Sale,
- Hillsboro Sunday Farmers' Market at Orenco Station