Here’s how we ended up making the trek up to Central Point, Oregon for the Oregon Cheese Festival! Ryan and I had met Rod Volbeda of Willamette Valley Cheese Company and Francis Plowman of Rogue Creamery at Food Fete in January. Over nibbles of Oregon cheese, they had casually invited us up to Southern Oregon for the festival. They probably don’t even remember the conversation, but being a woman of my word and mostly just adventurous, I had to make it happen.
The cheese festival is a one-day event in a tent set up next to Rogue Creamery. This year’s event took place a few Saturdays ago on St. Patrick’s Day. Included in the admission price of $15 was a marketplace for sampling cheese and other goodies. For $5 more, we received a glass for tastings of beer/wine. I really enjoyed the farmer’s market format, which allowed for direct interaction at each of the tables. Even with the crowds, it never got so bad that I didn’t feel like I couldn’t chat with the vendors.
Aside from the array of delicious cheeses we tasted and the libations that paired so nicely with them, the highlight of the festival was really the two classes that we attended - Elementary Cheesemaking with Margo True of Sunset Magazine and Tasty Beers & Fabulous Cheeses with Ginger Johnson of Women Enjoying Beer. Both of the sessions were incredibly interesting and entertaining, AND they were free! It was a good thing we signed up early because the classes were pretty full.
David Gremmels, President/Cheesemaker of Rogue Creamery, helping Margo with her demonstration.
In Margo True’s class, we learned how SIMPLE making cheeses can be. You really just have to get a dairy thermometer and get started! We learned how to make Fresh Chive Cheese, Ricotta, and Fromage Blanc. It was really neat watching the cheesemaking right before our very eyes.
Here are the cheeses that we had a chance to taste at the end of the class. Ryan was so inspired by the class that he’s already planning out his first batch of cheese. I’ll be sure to document how that goes!
Tasty Beers & Fabulous Cheeses
The second class was the first of its kind at the Oregon Cheese Festival! The beer and cheese pairing/tasting was led by Ginger Johnson of Women Enjoying Beer, a business dedicated to beer education, especially among females. She is freakin’ amazing and incredibly animated. Exhibit A.
Beer enthusiasm - that’s what it’s about. The class focused on pair four different cheeses with local Oregon brews.
- Standing Stone Amber Ale with Pholia Farms Takelma cheese
- Standing Stone I Love Oregon Ale with Willamette Valley Cheese Company Havarti
- Oakshire Brewing Watershed IPA with Rogue’s Flora Nelle
- Oakshire Brewing Overcast Espresso Stout with Rogue’s Pistol Point cheese
There was definitely interest in the topic, so Oregon Cheese Festival, feel free to offer such a class again!
Back on the marketplace floor, here were some of my favorite non-cheese vendors:
Jamie Rear of Zella Foods chatted it up with us on hazelnuts and her life growing up on a hazelnut orchard. No going out to movies with friends when there’s work to be done in the orchard! If she would let me, I’d love to visit and check out the harvest that she’d described.
Louis Jeandin of Mushrooms All Year was on hand to chat about his gorgeous display of local mushrooms. We also sampled some truffle butter!
Unfortunately, I wasn’t diligent about taking photos of EVERYTHING. Some of the great stuff I missed, but must recommend: Hot Lips Soda via Oregon Artisan Foods and Wandering Aengus Ciderworks. Since Boston Local Food Festival, I’ve been pining for a dry cider to match the ones at Farnum Hill Ciders. I think I’ve found it!
With all the local cheese, beer/wine/cider, and other foods, Oregon Cheese Festival was quite the experience. Definitely worth the drive and short weekend trip!
Would you consider making cheese if you knew how easy it can be? What kinds of cheese would you try making [regardless of difficulty level]?