ACS 2017 Denver Day 2

At recent conferences Friday is an early morning because that has been when ACS has scheduled a Guild Leaders meeting where all the Guilds can get together and talk through questions and issues surrounding how to run a good Guild. This year we had representatives from Maine, the SouthEast, Rocky Mountains area, MA, OR, VT, WA, PA, NH, BKLN(!), MN, IA, NY State, and CT. I was there to talk about the new Cheese Guilds Network website that I’m developing to try to facilitate Guild communication year-round. Jessie and Arlene were also there representing Maine.

Among the topics we covered were the new resources that ACS has rolled out for members, such as the Safe Cheesemaking Hub, Envirnmental Testing buying clubs, Guild festivals and the staff needed, education for retailers beyond the CCP certification offered once a year at ACS, regional cooperation on workshops and festivals, new on-line food safety resources, and the advent of more efforts to deregulate dairy and other food processing.

There was a LOT of good information that was shared, and although the session was slated to go one hour, it want well over 90 minutes and hopefully will continue on-line soon on a new network for just that purpose —


— I found it very productive, and I think many of the other participants did as well. We learned a lot of excellent infomation that I’m sure we will share with the rest of the Guild in more detail at our August meeting. 

Meanwhile the theme of my morning morning becomes…


Michael Kalish (who has taught an affinage workshop for us in Maine) and his twin brother Charlie led this deep dive into the hundreds and hundreds of pages that make up the now active FDA regulatory program based on the Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA). Both Michael and Charlie consult with many businesses on food safety practices and they are both now trained as Lead Trainers for PCQI training when they are not competing on the Food Network as The Cheese Twins.

FSMA has begun implementation for LARGE companies (>500 employees) only in 2017, and the FDA has begun their auditing and inspections which they hope to complete by the end of the year, but have recently admitted that they are a bit behind on their goals. Implementation for SMALL companies (<500 employees but > $1 million in sales and inventory) is scheduled to begin in 2018, and then ALL companies (including those averaging under $1 million in sales over the past three years who wish to apply to be classified as “Qualified Producers”) is still scheduled to take affect in December of 2018.

Most of us in Maine will be able to apply to be a “Qualified Facility” as long as we —

  • maintain and update all appropriate state licences in good standing;
  • our production facility is registered with the FDA
  • we can prove that our rolling 3 year average of sales + inventory does not exceed $1 million;
  • and our products are not implicated in a food bourne illnes outbreak

Qualified Producers will still be required to follow the same Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) as everyone else, but (depending on how Maine’s state inspectors decide to incorporate FSMA principles into the State licensing guidelines) may not be required to always employ and staff during production a “Qualified Individual” or create and maintain all of the Preventative Controls (PC) paperwork.

For those SMALL Maine food processors, and those who do not wish to apply to become a Qualified Facility, the Kalishes stepped through an outline of the important aspects of what will will be necessary to pass the inevitable FDA audit. Primarily this involves becoming familiar with US Code Title 21 CFR 117, which are the regulations with the regard to the production of Human Food. There are seven parts (a – g) but the most important ones are a) General Provisions, b) of the “modernized” GMP, c) what used to be called the Hazards Analysis and Requirements for Preventative Controls but is now simply your “Food Safety Plan”, and g) your Supply Chain Program.

The other thing that cheese makers IN PARTICULAR will need to be familiar with (whether they become a Qualified Facility or not) is the FDA Guideance on Listeria Prevention, which is currently in the draft stage having just accepted public comments, but is most likely to be implemented much as it is currently written.

The Kalishes made many good observations about the best way to approach the entire effort to get to compliance with the (still evolving) FSMA regulations and I would be hppy to go through my notes in detail with anyone who would like me to do that. Arlene and Carrie also attended this workshop, so they might also be able to walk through what we learned. There are also many resources available, beginning with the FDAs own central web repository of information. The FDA is also “tantalizingly close” to releasing a FREE Windows application called the Food Safety Plan Builder, which will allow you to plug in your company’s particulars and it will lead you step-by-step through the process of generating all the necessary forms to create a compliant Food Safety Plan. And right now, at least through the end of 2017, ACS members will have FREE access to an on-line Food Safety Training Course developed by NC State University that incorporates FSMA principles. We will have more information about this offer that would normally cost $149 (still an incredible deal) at our August meeting so stay tuned.

Breathe in. Breathe out. 


For the last few ACS Conferences the FDA has sent a representative to speak to the membership directly about its increasingly focused regulatory work in the cheese world. Beginning with their botched announcement about the use of wooden boards in aging facilities the ACS has realized it is critical for the artisan cheese industry to help the FDA understand the industry better rather than the remain in a constant state of defensive vigilence waiting for the next “pronoucement” from this regulatory agency. This effort has seemed to pay off in better relations as well as better decisons so far.

At lunch today we heard from Jenny Scott, FDA Senior Advisor in the Office of Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. Instead of regurgitating my four pages of notes on her presentation (I posted an image of my view of it at the top of the page), I’ll hit the highlights:

  • The FDA has paused its (unscientific and unsupported by any other food regulator) rule assigning a maximum level of NON-toxigenic E. coli in cheese and dairy products pending further study by the FDA & Scott announced that they have NO current plans to UNpause it.
  • And if they did UNpause the ruling it would begin in draft form allowing for public hearings and comment before being finalized. 
  • Scott acknowledged that the FDA is currently re-evaluating the 60 Day Rule for cheeses made with unpasteurized milk. She said that the agency is “interested in identifying [effective] alternativesto pasteurization” for reducing/eliminating bad bacteria from cheese. Scott also emphacized that “our effort [by reviewing the 60 day rule] is NOT to require pasteurization”! This is really good news. 
  • Scott summarized the effort to implement the FSMA as a way to change the FDA from being a reactive regulator to helping food producers implement preventative measures to assure their food is produced safely.


And now for something completely different.

Four cheese pairing specialists (I didn’t know there was such a thing, either) hosted another tasting that I signed up for in the afternoon. (Rachel Perez, Leigh Friend, Kirsten Jackson, and Tia Keenan) each contributed one or two differnt pairing that we tried with three different cheeses and many different compliments. 

In their opening remarks Keenan defined a pairing as the idea of a social experience as much as of a culinary experience. She also reminded us that “mindfulness begins by thinking about who will be sharing the pairing and what state of mind we want that pairing to be experienced.” In other words an informal barside pairing shouldn’t require the total concentration of the diners. Llikewise layers of pairing elements are appreciated in a quiet multi-course experience.

Jackson spoke about the “Third Experience” when two flavors combine to form a completely new flavor. Friend provided a tip about using the temperature of each pairing ingredient to adjust the experience: warm temperatures intensify flavors, especially when combined with cheese which will liquify and spread more completely in the mouth when it’s served at a warmer temperature. And when items are chilled, their flavors can be muted. She gave the example of chilling a horseradish sauce if there’s a danger that the fiery root might overwhelm the other, perhaps subtler, components.

And with that the pairings began!

The first combined Le Pommier Camembert with sheets of nori. We rolled a small piece of Camembert in a small sheet of nori and then ate it like a little savory burrito. I think this was a pairing of Perez who said that the particular Camembert we were eating always reminded her of the smell of the ocean air because of a dominent briny note in the cheese, so in this case she picked up on that and trebled the umami adding the nori sheet. I really liked this pairing, but many otheres had trouble working through the sushi ingredient out of its element and didn’t enjoy it as much as I did.

Next Jackson combined the Chollerhocker — as Swiss alpine cheese with a rind washed with a spiced brine — with some hickory smoked pickled brussels sprouts. The super rich and beefy cheese was really set off by the sour of the pickle and the light drift of smoke and sulphur funk of the sprouts. This was another winner in my book, and a lot more of the crowd jumped on this bandwagon.

The following pairings got more complex. A Rogue Creamery Hazelnut Smoked Blue was paired with a sour cherry compote on top of a chocolate graham triangle made with 61% chocolate shavings. I think that it was Friend who said this reminded her of a campfire S’more with the cheese adding the gooey marshmallow notes plus the campfire smoke. I’m less sweet tolerant so I appreciated the combination and it tasted balanced, it didn’t win me over the way it did most of the others in the room.

(And then I “went Rogue” by sneaking a piece of the blue cheese into another piece of nori. I was good, but not as perfect as the Camembert combo.)

Now we started pairing liquids, beginning with a Big B’s Cider from Oregon called “Hoppearcot” together with the briny Camembert. The cider was a wee bit too sweet for my palate and the briny funk of the cheese couldn’t cut that for me. Others, though seemed to enjoy it, especially a woman a few spots to my left.

The last two bounced confidently away from the stereotypical alcoholic beverages, first with an intense drinking chocolate cocktail made from chocolate and hot water in equal parts, and splashes of half and half, Agnostura bitters, and bourbon. We only needed to pour about a Tablespoon in our cups to enjoy it in perfect proportion with bites of the Chollerhocker and the smoky blue. It was very good with them both.

Then they challenged us with a hot cup of Yogi Licorice Tea which paired especially well with the smoky blue, and only so so with the alpine cheese because the tea’s thick sweetness nullified the brothy spicy meaty flavors of the cheese.

So I learned about the opportunity to create different experiences with a few simple or complex components, and best of all they all included cheese!

AWARD TIME! See the next post for annuncements about Maine winners in a record-breaking year for the largest cheese competition in North America…

ACS 2017 Denver Day 1

[I’m writing fast in the interest of posting as much as possible as soon as possible, so please excuse my typos! I’ll go through later on to clean those up for posterity…]

The Denver dawn was sunny and clear despite my weater apps prediction of four rainy days…which still could happen, but this morning I shared my walk to the convention center with dog walkers out in shorts or yoga pants and flipflops.

Breakfast was a “Vermont Pancake Breakfast” sponsored by the Vermont Cheese Council where I learned that Vermont has 56 cheese makers in the state who produce 630 million pounds of cheese annually…! Maine may have many more cheese makers at this point, but we lag Just A Wee Bit behind the Green Mountain State in volume. A little bit. However, during the welcome talks by Executive Director Nora Weiser and Board President Jeff Jirik I also learned that 74% of ACS member cheesemakers produce less than 50,000 pounds of cheese a year and 26% produce less than 5000 pounds a year, so Maine’s producers are more typical in the overall artisan cheese movement.

The Keynote speaker after breakfast was a mountain climber (site appropriate!) named Jim Davidson who wanted to talk to us about Resiliance through the lens of his adventures and challenges he faced climbing some of the highest mountains in the world. He applied the lessons he learned to the adventure of running a cheese or food based business and the challenges we face on a daily/monthly/annual basis.

New York Cheese on Mt. Everest Expedition 2017

Fun fact: cheese is one of high altitude mountaineer’s best friends because it gets harder to eat and digest calories at low oxygen levels and cheese is a very concentrated source of protein and fat, and carbs alone don’t help maintain muscle mass. And that only yak and yak-cow hybrids can be productive over 11,000 feet in altitude, so most of the local cheese available in that are is made from made from nak milk (Davidson told us that “yak” refers to the male animal only, and that the Nepalese will giggle if you ask them for some “yak cheese” — I suppose that would be like asking us for some “bull cheese”…

After the opening session we split into the smaller concurrent sessions. Mine was titled “What’s Next: Cheese R&D Comes Out From Behind The Curtain” which consisted of thirteen tables featuring one cheesemaker at each table with one or a few of the cheeses they are currently working on. After everyone was seated the moderator announced that we would have 15 minutes or so at each table learning about the cheeses of that particular cheese maker, and then en masse we would all get up and move to the next table in the series and repeat the exercise until the end of the session.

Not every cheese maker featured a new cheese; some had cheeses that they were already making that they felt could be tweaked to either improve that cheese in particular, or else allow them to fork a tweaked version into a new product for them.For example, at my first table — Neals Yard Dairy — they were tweaking the aging of Kirkham’s Lancashire cheese. It is typically a mild example of the British cheese style (with Cheddar it’s most famous representative) with a light crumbly texture and a nice subtle grassy sour milk flavor. Typically they age this cheese at “cellar” temperature, but they began to realize that when they left the cheese out at “room temperature” overnight the flavor deepened text began to be more creamy. And historically theses cheeses were aged up in the farmers attic rather than in a cellar below ground, so they wondered what would happen if they aged the cheese at a bit of a warmer temperature, say 16degC (about 60degF). The result is a much richer cheese with amore aggressive nutty flavor and more pasty texture. 

We tried three examples: A) one typical cheese kept refrigerated until just before the tasting; B) one typical cheese that had been left at room temp overnight; and C) one of their experimental wheels aged at a higher temp through out the aging. Despite coming from the same wheel, A was different than B, with B noticably softer textured and a little “stronger” flavored. Then C was totally different, even though it was from the same cheese batch as the wheel that was made into A and B. Very much nuttier and richer and creamier on the palatte. Still the “normal” Kirkham’s is the cheese they’ve been selling for several decades and is one of their most popular cheeses, so they didn’t feel right transitioning new aging method for all of their Kirkham’s wheels, so they have begun selling them both while explaining the difference.  Neals Yard expected that many consumers would start buying the new version, which would shrink the sales of the old version, but surprisingly they now sell more of the old version, as well as a good amount of the new version.

Next we switched to a table with Old Chatham Sheepherds cheeses where they had three different cheese for us to try and wanted our feedback on: a goats milk blue, a Jersey cows milk alpine style, and a pure sheep milk feta. Eric, the representative from Old Chatham said that the blue was “just past peak” at five months, but it did not come across as too peppery or bitter the way older blues sometimes can. It was very nice with a definite but not too strong goat note. The alpine style was aged 18 months and you could tell by the little tyrosine crystals that had formed in the firm yellow paste that featured tiny gas bubbles. The feta was incredibly mild, mostly with a soft brine and acid flavor. Interestingly it didn’t even have a creamy texture that I would have expected of a full sheep milk feta. Eric sais that they were still working on the feta and expected to start experimenting with whey brines in the future.

Jasper Hill held our next table and featured two different cheeses, one from their Creamery and one from their Cellars. We first tried one of their first products from their Cellars, the Cabot Clothbound Cheddar. In this case they were taking an existing product and beginning a program that would sort the CCC into categories based on four different flavor profiles that they typically found in different batches: Umami Caramel, Chicken Broth Pineapple, Yolky and Bright, and Brown Butter and Toast. The sorting initially during initial tasting helps them with their different customers who each preferred a different profile for their customers, and now can order batches based on the profile. Then, depending on the aging characteristics they find in each batch they will hold back certain batches that appear to be fit for longer aging, and now they have developed a new line of the CCC called Black Label Select to market these “ideal” versions of each tasting profile. We tasted only one of the BLS profiles, their Umamai Caramel, and it was like a light brown miso drizzled with burnt sugar. It was balanced but powerful. I can’t wait to taste the other profiles.

The other Jasper Hill cheese was something they have been working on for years. I was first introduced to it at the 2015 ACS conference in Providence where, almost as an afterthought in a session dedicated to defining “When Is Cheese Ripe” (answer: whenever you like to eat it) the speaker from Jasper Hill let us taste a really new cheese they were working on that was an acid set version of a bloomy rind, otherwise exactly the same as their Moses Sleeper cheese which is rennet set and “stabilized” with thermo cultures. He wanted feedback on the difference between it and their Moses Sleeper.

And recently Jasper Hill creamery has been talking about their efforts to identify the indigenous cheese cultures they find in their raw milk in an attempt to create their own cultures from their own microflora. Now I had a chance to try their lactic set bloomy disc again, two years into this experiment. First they pointed out two tell-tale visual clues that you have a local culture lactic set bloomy disc: there is a SHARP rind corner around the top and bottom of the disk, and you can also see that the outer edge of the disk looks slightly “crumpled” which is what happens as the acid keeps developing in the mold and the curds begin to really shrink in on themselves. She also warned us that the cheese we would be tasting was a bit young (4 weeks) and was more bitter than they liked. You could see there was still a solid center in the cheese (another sign of a lactic set since “stabilized” bloomies tend to ripen very evenly through the paste) but it wasn’t chalky, and the surrounding paste was soft. There was a bitter component that I tasted, but it was very pleasant, not harsh at all, and there was SO MUCH other flavor and complexity going on around that bitterness that you couldn’t focus on the bitterness. She told us that when they have a good batch there is a “clams in cream sauce” heavy umami flavor that comes out, and I could begin to sense that as the cheese lingered and warmed up on my tongue. Really good! I look forward to tasting “one of the good batches.”

Sweetgrass Dairy is in southern Georgia near the Florida line where the same family has raised and milked Jersey cows for generations. The newest generation has moved on into cheese making as a way to diversify and they now have six regular cheeses that they make and they are developing two more, which we tasted.

The first was a beautiful natural rind cheese that started out as a tomme style but they really wanted to pair this cheese with a local beer and started washing the rind with beer hoping that it would translate to the flavor of the cheese. While they got a beautiful washed rind for their efforts, the beer flavors remained absent inside. So they got creative and decided to edge the cheese make more toward a gouda or havarti and wash the curds, but with 110degF beer instead of water. Now you’re talking. They also were shooting for a higher moisture cheese that would age quickly because where they live the water table is right up at the surface so basements, let alone cheese caves, aren’t possible to bury, and because of the climate mechanical cooling can get quite expensive over time. Therefore they’ve developed something they call Griffin which was creamy smooth, balanced, and had a nice rich flavor with just a hint of the malty porter they use to wash the curds. Interestingly it had The Most Beautiful Rind and others besides me noticed that as well.

Their other trial cheese they’re calling Anders and it’s a two month old washed rind cheese that looks like a funky camembert, but tastes a lot like a funky buttery Harbison, and the paste of the ones we tried were definitely “spoonable” like the Harbison. They call it a “butter bomb” and I concur, really featuring that rich Jersey milk, but there was balance and complexity as well. I think they have two winners.

At my final table at the tasting we met Flora, a new ashed aged goat cheese from Capriole in Indiana. The most distinctive “feature” of this new cheese for them is the size, which is just under a pound in a camembert like disk. They also switched up their normal culture mix to create a more lemony acid-forward flavor. The examples we were trying were a big younger than what they would typically ship — two weeks — but ideally they’d like the cheese to arrive at a cheese shop at four weeks at which point it would then have about a forty day shelf life near peak flavor and texture. The cheese we tasted was still on the chalk side but it definitely featured that light citrus element mixing nicely with the salt and the goaty flavor. It was really really good. And a good cheese to end our R & D adventure on.


I was typing away during most of the lunch break, wanting to post something, so I missed most of the ACS Business Meeting, but others in the Maine contingent were there for that and could report on any significant news that came up.

However I joined the Maine contingent in time to see the ceremony awarding a Lifetime Achievement award to Sue Conley and Peggy Smith who founded and still run Cow Girl Creamery based in San Francisco. It’s hard to believe that anyone who likes good cheese hasn’t heard of CGC let alone tried some of their outstanding (and outstandingly consistent) cheeses. I briefly lived in San Francisco, but Alison and I have had close family members living there since the 1980s so we have been out there often, and we have eaten our fair share of CGC cheese over the many years we’ve visted. During the presentation I learned that not only did they found a seminal and ground-breaking American cheese company, but earlier than that they were both involved in the Food Revolution that took hold in the Bay Area in the 1960s and 1970s, working at institutions like Chez Panisse and Betty’s Oceanside Diner as well as partnering with Strauss Family Dairy, one of the spiritual leaders of the organic movement. It was great to see them, and to see them being recognized.


My next session was also a tasting (which is why I didn’t need to rush to lunch!), this time cheese and beer. The title is more marketing that it is meaningful except for this tasting it was to be focused specifically on the two elements of beer — malt and hops — and comparing how those elements pair well (or not so well) with different cheeses. It also featured one of my favorite cheese writers, Janet Fletcher (whose cheese blog “Planet Cheese” is fantastic and is a must read for anyone interested in cheese), as well as a beer expert from the US Brewers Association.

We were limited to two beers — one malt forward brown ale, and one hop forward IPA — and then we tasted five cheeses with both beers and voted on which one we thought paired better. They purposefully chose “middle of the road” versions of each style, so the malt forward beer was not syrupy sweet, and the IPA was not puckerworthy.

And, in the first time I’ve experienced this they used a TXT based voting app to capture everyone’s opinion immediately and then display the votes up on the big screen for everyone to see. It was startlingly easy to use (all you needed was any mobile phone to TXT your vote to a specific number) and best of all it worked flawlessly.

The votes showed something I’ve always thought about beer-cheese pairings: hops are really hard to pair with. I find that malt forward beers, like a Bass Ale or a Belgian style beer, are much easier to pair with cheeses than hops forward beers like IPAs, especially American IPAs that end to be Smackdown Hops Bombs…anyway, below is a list of the cheeses that we sampled and how the pairings were voted.

Bonne Bouche: most of you probably know that this is an ash aged lactic goat cheese of medium form. And the version that we were given was perfectly a pointe — buttery, smooth, slighlty goaty and salty and very umami. I voted for the IPA with this one because it kind of cut through the richness, but I thought it was good with both beers, actually. The crowd at the tasting mostly agreed but leaned toward the malty beer:
56% Brown Beer

Farmstead Toma: this is a very light and supple cheese from Point Reyes Cheese with a milky flavor, very mild. I also voted for the IPA because I knew it wouldn’t get much love in the tasting, but again I thought it could go well with both beers. An interesting aspect is how the fat in this cheese kind of coated your tongue allowing you to taste more and different flavors in both beers, but this was pronounced because it kind of nullified the hops assault in the IPA. Again the crowd went mezza mezza:
56% Brown Beer

Queso de Mano: this is a hard goat cheese from Colorado’s own Haystack Mountain Creamery. Typically it’s sold at 4 months when its still supple, but this was a “special wheel” that the cheese maker set aside just for this tasting, and it was a year old and quite brittle. But with that age came the caramel complexity that you get in good aged cheeses, and that pushed the vote farther into the Brown Ale’s corner:
60% Brown Beer

Grand Cru Surchoix: On to a true aged alpine style cheese (from Emmi Roth) that was terribly emblematic of its style: nutty, brothy, balanced. Again, those caramel tones paired perfectly with the Brown Ale and we’re looking at a runaway lead in the “Smackdown”:
64% Brown Beer

Tumbleweed Cheddar: by this point our presenters were dispairing about the IPA “losses” even though it showed a good portion of these food professionals (who had, one would imagine, veteran palates) were picking the IPA, just not overwhelmingly. So there was some heavy lobbying going one while this cheese (from 5 Spoke) was passed around each table. Our table’s chunk of cheese actually had quite a bit of incidental blue veining, which I thought would make it difficult for an IPA vote, but the cheese itself was quite “bright” and light for a cheddar, and the acidity in the cheese was picked up by the acidity in the IPA as the hops were toned down by the fatty cheese on the tongue:
66% IPA

Bayley Hazen Blue: This extreme cheese at the end of our tasting was never going to bend the IPAs way no matter what, but then this sample of Jasper Hill’s flagship blue cheese was also perfectly a pointe, a cream brothy bluey deep dark balanced bacony bomb on the palate. I voted for the Brown Ale but still the IPA performed respectively:
65% Brown Beer

Fletcher reminded us that they had “pared this pairing down” to just malt v. hops, but there is another style of beer which is YEAST forward beers such as Belgian Wit, or the summer Saisson or Farmhouse style beers. She recommended serving soft ripened cheeses like bloomies, or Geos.

Fletcher was asked about the newly popular sour beers and how to pair with those styles. She recommended a good stinky washed rind cheese with those, thought she didn’t think any good cheese would pair well with some of the beers that can end up tasting like raspberry vinegar…maybe at the next ACS there will be another Smackdown to settle that question?

Sorry. I couldn’t resist these last few shots of the night closing in on downtown Denver:

ACS 2017 Denver Day 0

Approaching Denver by air from the East you see the vast end of the Great Plains neatly divided into squares of various shades from green to brown with the occasional vericose lump of houses and buildings swelling around one of the ruler straight highways. We descended into squares squares squares until we were quite low when all of a sudden the sprawl of the city simply began like a gray stain on those Plains.

The Denver Airport is located a good distance from the City, and I took the new direct train into the City Center, terminating at Denver’s Union Station, one of the many original Gateways to the American West. All the way in the view from the train was of shipping containers and truck frames lined up in massive yards, sometimes with a long low warehouse at one end. It reminded me that Denver is a shipping hub as much as it is the literal End of the Great Plains. From Denver’s sky scrapers the Rocky Mountains dominate the western horizon.

Having never been to Denver before I found a shiny new city poking up from an ancient and important trading post. Once you arrive downtown the newness of this phase of Denver is sparkling clear. Most of this sits just south of the historic Union Station in a small “square” of the city plan that suddenly veers diagonally compared to most of the rest of the city which is hard set to the north-south-east-west grid, just as all those green and brown squares I saw in the Plains flying in. And in the southwestern corner of that off-kilter downtown grid sits the Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel where this year’s American Cheese Society conference — “Cheese with an Altitude” — will be held beginning tomorrow.

Having chosen not to test the Fates of Modern Travel, I arranged to arrive early the day before the conference. Having satisfactorily mollified those Fates my trip to Denver was without serious delay, allowing me some time to explore the city beyond my initial trip from the airport and then finding my AirBnB. I decided to walk six miles south between downtown toward the University of Denver campus. It took over two hours, but the forecast rain never arrived — it was actually quite sunny most of the way — and I was pleased to run into several beautiful parks and greenways along the way that made the walking very pleasant. I was most pleased to find a Farmers Market in progress in the neighborhood of Cherry Creek. It sets up in the corner of a huge shopping center, but their corner is bounded by a greenway on one end, and a nicely landscaped city street on another, so it did not feel connected to the vast and soulless parking lot beyond that surrounded each mega-chain’s megastore.

The Cherry Creek Farmers Market sets up twice a week from 9am to 1pm — Wednesdays and Saturdays. It was about the same size as the Belfast Farmers Market where I set up, but it had a different variety of items available beyond four veg and fruit producers. Most unusual was a vendor called Chaos and Cream that “cooked up” ice cream with your choice of mix-ins to order using an unusual device. In the place of what might be a “griddle” they used a large round plate that was super chilled. They ladeled ice cream base onto the plate as if it were pancake or crepe batter, sprinkled on the chosen “mix-ins” and then went to work scraping and chopping the congealing ice cream mixture, presumably incorporating enough air to make it “ice cream” as opposed to custard cubes. That was fun to see.

one perfect peachI decided to have lunch there as well, finding one single perfectly ripe peach from one of the fruit farmers, and then complementing that with two “Brunch Tacos” with different fillings. They both contained scrambled eggs in their filling, which seems to be what added the “brunch” qualifier.

There were less pretty stretches of my walk, which sometimes entered shopping strips with eight lanes of traffic, or some areas that were more industrial/transportation focused. But my other main takeaway is that Denver is a city of people who enjoy the outdoors,and I was impressed by the number of people who were walking/running/biking all over the City. Given the proximity to the mountains that shouldn’t have been a surprise.

BACK TO THE CONFERENCE: After my walk I picked up my conference gear in preparation for everything kicking off first thing Thursday morning. I am scheduled for two “Sensory Sessions” (aka Tastings) on Thursday — “Cheese R&D Comes Out From Behind The Curtain” and “Hops vs. Malt: A Smackdown With Cheese” — and I will be reporting on that and more soon. Also of interest to me will be FDA Update and Lunch on Friday, as well as “A Survivors Guide to the PC Rule” as our FSMA implementation clock gets ever closer to December 2018. Until then: Please Cheese Responsibly.