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Holy Cheese, It’s A Cheese Festival

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A Tour of Tastes at the 12th Annual Oregon Cheese Festival  

If you’re looking for a little slice of Havarti heaven, or have been searching for god in your Gouda—look no further than the Rogue Valley Creamery on Saturday, March 19. The Central Point shop and the Oregon Cheese Guild are hosting the 12th Annual Oregon Cheese Festival, where 20 cheese-makers from across the state will be bringing their artisan cheeses to taste. And, if a day full of cheese isn’t enough of a mouth-watering prospect, add local offerings of wine and beer to the culinary excitement. Or, maybe make it to one of the classes the festival offers and take on the title “Connoisseur of Cheesy Decadence.”

One connoisseur in particular, Chef Damon from Inn at the Commons in Medford, is crafting an impressive menu for a Cheese Makers Dinner on Friday, March 18. The dishes will pair with select Oregon cheeses. And, wines from Southern Oregon vineyards will complement. Also, at each table you’ll find yourself elbow to elbow with one of the cheesemakers or winemakers. Special guests, and cheese celebrities, Lassa Skinner and Gordon Edgar, will be tour guides to culinary bliss for the night—talking to guests about the cheese, wine, and food pairings for the four-course meal.

Edgar is author of Cheesemonger: A Life on The Wedge, which is part memoir, part artisan cheese education. Edgar is a cheesemonger at San Francisco’s Rainbow Grocery Cooperative, and has roots in punk-rock activism. His knowledge of cheese profiles is extensive, and he is an activist for business ethics, animal rights, and happy taste buds. Equally prolific in the cheese world, Lassa Skinner is the owner and co-founder of Culture, a cheese magazine for any level cheese lover. Her list of achievements includes: training at Formaggio Kitchen in Boston, starting the cheese program at Tra Vigne restaurant, and opening the Oxbow Cheese Merchant in downtown Napa. Together, Edgar and Lassa bring over 45 years combined knowledge, and love, of all things cheese.  

The hosts of the festival, the Oregon Cheese Guild, are tremendous supporters of local food and thriving farms. The Oregon Cheese Guild puts on deliciously wonderful events, like the Oregon Cheese Festival and The Wedge. They are also a unique cooperative that allows Oregon cheese-makers to connect and share resources. The festival this year is a celebration of fine cheeses and a benefit for the guild, which is a non-profit organization. Attending Oregon Cheese Guild events is a wonderful way to interact with, and become educated about farms in your backyard. There are twenty-one farms that make up the guild of cheese-makers, all from Oregon, artisan, and making outstanding cheeses. At the festival this Saturday, some featured Oregon creameries will be Briar Rose, By George, Face Rock, Portland Creamery, Rivers Edge, and much, much more. What better way to tour the state than through cheese?

When asked why not to miss out on attending the Oregon Cheese Festival, Francis Plowman, from the Oregon Cheese Guild, says, because there will be “100 vendors under 15,000 square feet of tented space…twenty cheesemakers from the finest Northwest creameries, twenty-five wine, beer, cider, and spirit vendors sampling and selling their products, and thirty-five specialty food vendors in attendance; with many vendors prepared to demonstrate how their wonderful products pair with the amazing cheese this festival celebrates.” Plowman also points out the attendance of some adorable “crowd pleasers”—baby cows. He says, “a calf petting area [will] showcase the beginnings of great milk producers.” For kids, and adventurous adults, there will also be face painting and a photobooth.


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