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We Have a Winner
Emailed on August 6, 2014
ACS - Best of Show
Pure gold: Spring Brook Farm Tarentaise takes Best of Show
Vermont’s Tarentaise Reserve took top honors at the American Cheese Society’s annual competition last week, surpassing 1,684 other cheeses to earn the prestigious “Best of Show.” I served as a judge and concur that this awesome two-year-old wheel deserved the recognition. It was my first choice. (Judges taste blind, but the distinctive concave rim of this 20-pound wheel gives it away.) Honestly, though, I tasted at least a half-dozen other cheeses that I would have been happy to see at the top. That’s a testament to the growing prowess of America’s cheesemakers.

Tarentaise Reserve is an alpine-style cow’s milk cheese similar to France’s Beaufort and Abondance. Spring Brook Farm, which makes the cheese from its own raw milk, saves the Reserve designation for wheels aged at least 18 months; most of the wheels are released after about 6 months. The winning cheese had a deep-gold interior (the signature of milk from pasture-fed animals), appetizing aromas of toasted hazelnuts and brown butter, and a silky texture interrupted by crunchy protein crystals. I don’t know how it could have been any better.

Spring Brook’s cheesemaker, Jeremy Stephenson, tells me that he typically sets aside 10 to 15 wheels a month for the Reserve program. “Obviously, we’re going to increase that,” he says. Learning that the prizewinner had been made in July 2012, I wondered if summer pasture contributed much to the outcome. “I don’t think that’s the determining factor,” Stephenson said, adding that he finds well-balanced wheels in every season. The farm’s regular Tarentaise, made from winter milk, also took a blue ribbon in its category. (Don’t ask how the same cheese can be entered in two different categories. It’s complicated.)
Admirably, Spring Brook Farm is a philanthropic endeavor, run by the Farms for City Kids Foundation.
Seana Doughty
Each year, the farm hosts about 750 urban fifth- and sixth-graders for a free week-long camp that integrates academics with farm chores and activities. Revenue from the cheese helps fund this program, so it’s especially satisfying to see Tarentaise do well.
Some observations on other blue-ribbon winners:

The Vermont Creamery feta that I showcased in last week’s Planet Cheese took first place for goat feta. Great for the creamery, bummer for me as it will now be even scarcer.

Bay Blue from Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese took second place overall, right behind Tarentaise Reserve. How sweet it was to see longtime California dairyman Bob Giacomini climb onstage.  His daughters run the business, but they wanted him to claim the ribbon.

Sebastopol cheesemaker Seana Doughty (pictured above) nailed not one, but two blue ribbons: for Ewelicious Blue and Fat Bottom Girl, both sheep’s milk cheeses from her Bleating Heart creamery. Not bad for a newbie.
This Book Needs You
If you enjoy raw-milk cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano, for one), take a look at this current Kickstarter campaign: Bronwen Percival, who works for the esteemed Neal’s Yard Dairy in London, is trying to fund the English translation of a major book on raw-milk microbiology written by French researchers. For American cheesemakers who want to make raw-milk cheese safely, this scholarly work could be a huge assist. If you’ve never made a Kickstarter donation (I hadn’t), it’s easy. For big donors, Percival promises some enticing perks. The rest of us have the satisfaction of helping fund a critical need.
Janet Fletcher
Welcome to my world: a fragrant, fascinating universe devoted to great cheese. In this and future issues of Planet Cheese, you’ll find profiles of the world’s best cheeses plus insights into everything cheese: shops, recipes, interviews, pairing discoveries, classes, videos, travel. If you haven’t already done so, sign up here - it’s complimentary - and join me in learning something new about cheese every week.
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September 2:
What’s Up With That Rind?

October 7:
American Cheese Society Blue Ribbon Winners

November 4:
Italy Off the Beaten Path
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