There’s cheese tastings…and then there’s the Festival of Cheese, at the American Cheese Society Rally in Raleigh 2012, the annual cheese industry conference which draws cheese makers, mongers and enthusiasts from all over North America (US, Canada and Mexico). 1700+ cheeses were submitted to the competition, and after the winners were announced on Friday, Saturday saw the Festival, at which conference-goers and the general public get to actually taste all those cheeses.
The event was held in a large ballroom, with a dozen or so expansive buffets, organized by category (eg Soft-Ripened, Washed Rind, Farmstead, Blue, etc), each loaded down with a dizzying array of cheeses. The sheer volume of cheese is hard to explain, actually — the choice can be a little overwhelming (I spent a few minutes wandering around trying to figure out where to even start), but once you dive in, it’s an incredible — and completely unique — opportunity toget a snapshot of the state of cheese making today (and engage in extreme cheese consumption at the same time!).
The next ACS Conference will be in Madison, WI, so put it on your calendar!