Weekend update: from fish to fromage

Side-by-side salmon and hot-dog fundraisers, then a wealth of American cheeses (and not the kind that comes sliced in plastic wrap).
Crosscut archive image.

Cheeses at Cheese-a-Topia

Side-by-side salmon and hot-dog fundraisers, then a wealth of American cheeses (and not the kind that comes sliced in plastic wrap).

It's only fair that, having teased your palate with previews of two Seattle culinary events, we now return to tell you what actually happened.

First, the Salmon-Chanted Evening event at Victor Steinbrueck Park. At one end, Team Douglas and their fish. At the other, Team Homeless, and their hot dogs. Had we not known for the past couple of months that the two were mortal (and almost moral) enemies with widely divergent views on what constitutes acceptable conduct in public places, we would have thought them great friends.

Salmon and grilled corn prepared by General Douglas himself for those with $15 to spend on dinner; a brace of hot dogs dispensed by volunteers for $4 (the cost of a shelter bed for the night). Both teams raised money to serve the needy, and it was too nice a night to attempt parsing the precise niche of the recipient charities. Seattle's scruffiest and Seattle's finest both get the same grade: plays well with others.

On to Cheese-a-Topia, the annual conference of the American Cheese Society. Over 1,400 cheeses entered in the country's largest competition.

Conference co-chair was Seattle's Kurt Beecher Dammeier, whose 4-year-old cheddar won a blue ribbon. Two blue ribbons for Oregon's Rogue Creamery, two for Mt. Townsend Creamery just outside Port Townsend, multiple prizes for Estrella Family Creamery in Montesano and Samish Bay Cheese in Bow, as well.

The grand prize went to Uplands Cheese Company of southwest Wisconsin, for the only cheese they make: a washed-rind wheel called Pleasant Ridge Reserve. It's the third time they've won, a testament to the Gingriches and the Patenaudes, next-door neighbors who merged their operations in 1994 to make a single gruyere-style cheese using only the raw milk from their grass-fed cows.

The society's executive director, Nora Weiser, spoke sensually of the amazing growth in the U.S. of gooey, stinky, oozy cheese. We emerged from the awards ceremony into the grand lobby of Benaroya Hall to the lactic, cheesy aroma of all 1,432 entries, carefully mounded and ready for sampling: raw milk, sheep and goat milk.

Conference scholar-in-residence was Roland Barthélemy, as the leading cheesemonger in France, member of the Legion of Honor and head of the worldwide Guilde des Fromagers. His massive book, Fromages du Monde is both indispensable reference and personal memoir; 10 years ago, he could find only a handful of American cheese worth including. Now he signs my copy "to our friendship and to the glory of cheese."


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About the Authors & Contributors

Ronald Holden

Ronald Holden

Ronald Holden is a regular Crosscut contributor. His new book, published this month, is titled “HOME GROWN Seattle: 101 True Tales of Local Food & Drink." (Belltown Media. $17.95).