The 2014 American Cheese Society (ACS) Conference in Sacramento was amazing, as long as you did not step outside.  With temperatures well into the 90s it felt like walking under a hair dryer.  Luckily, there was little need to venture away from the Conference Center because there was so much cheese-related activity to participate in on-site. Though the days were packed full of cheesy goodness, a few events stand out, including:

The Farm Tours – A few of the Vermont Creamery team headed out early on Tuesday morning to visit cheesemakers and artisanal food producers around the Bay Area.  My tour, lead by Lynn Giacomi of Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese, voyaged to West Marin and stopped at three farmstead cheese operations: Barinaga Ranch (Sheep), Point Reyes (Cow) and Tomales Farmstead Creamery (Goat).  It was a wonderful way to get a picture of the many types of cheesemaking that are happening California right now.

Attending inspiring ACS Sessions- Included in the conference are a series of educational seminars offered by cheesemakers and professionals from across the country (and world, really). These sessions highlighted how truly vast and complex the cheesemaking world really.  There were sessions brand building for cheesemakers, single variety honey and cheese pairings (Coupole was the favorite at my table!), and a decidedly geeky, but oh so fascinating discussion about microbes and cheese rinds. There was definitely a panel to meet every taste.

Dine Around Town- This year ACS introduced a new event in order to bring public attention to the world of cheese.  Cheesemakers were paired with local restaurant chefs to develop a special Thursday night dinner menu featuring their artisan cheeses.   Out of the 20 restaurants in the Sacramento area that were chosen for this event, Vermont Creamery was fortunate enough to be paired with Mulvaney’s Building and Loan, a well-respected modern American restaurant run by Chef Patrick Mulvaney.  The whole Vermont Creamery team enjoyed an impressive three course meal featuring Bijou, Cremont and Bonne Bouche.

Volunteering for the Festival of Cheese - Several members of the Vermont Creamery team volunteer to prepare for the Festival of Cheese.  This herculean task involves cutting and plating literally thousands of different cheeses that had only been entered a few days prior, all in a few harried hours on the day of the festival.  I was lucky enough to be assigned to a team of cheese experts from the local distributor Tony’s Fine Foods and we managed to finish our Farmstead cheese section (including the Best of Show Spring Brook Farm Tarentaise Reserve) in six hours.  My wrists and elbows were aching by the end of all of the cheese-cutting, but finally seeing the finished table overflowing with the work of dedicated American cheesemakers truly brought out a sense of accomplishment. 

Each year, the American Cheese Society Conference travels to a different corner of the country.  If you are a cheese lover and have the opportunity to attend any of the great events associated with the conference, I highly recommend you do so.  You won’t be disappointed.   Our East Coast readers will be happy to know that ACS will be in Rhode Island next year for their 2015 Conference.