Get Cheesy in Sacramento at the 31st Annual American Cheese Society Conference and Competition, July 29 – Aug. 1.
Or go anytime and visit these great cheese shops.
By Teri Tith Concannon
The draught is much on our minds, and the school season has drawn to a close once again, yet we can all still hear September’s big question off in the distance: “What did you do last summer?” Now is the time to make some fun plans, and wouldn’t it be something to be able to say, “I attended the 31st Annual American Cheese Society (ACS) Conference and Competition” in Sacramento this year.
It is a unique opportunity, as this “main event” of U.S. cheese has not taken place in California for more than a decade. Last year, it was held in Wisconsin, another region of our country known for great cheese traditions. This year’s theme is “Celebrating the American Cheese Plate,” and it will take place July 29 – Aug. 1 at the Sacramento Convention Center plus various locations around the state capital.
The four-day ACS Conference provides an opportunity for attendees to enjoy unparalleled educational, tasting, and networking opportunities with industry leaders from around the world. The ACS Conference also hosts the Third annual Certified Cheese Professional Exam, the only exam of its kind, which encourages improved standards of comprehensive cheese knowledge and service throughout the industry.
Last year, more than 1,700 American cheeses were entered to compete for the coveted “best of show” award. A cheese must first take top prize in its own category to advance to the final level of competition. The ACS is a 1,500-member organization that provides advocacy, education, business development, and networking opportunities for cheesemakers, retailers, cheese industry professionals and enthusiasts.
Try a Sacramento Culinary Tour
An affordable approach, if you are not an industry pro and willing to shell out the full conference fee, is to explore the lighter side of the conference and partake in just one or two segments, which are ticketed separately. Try “Tour No. 6,” which will visit Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates and Old Soul Coffee Roasters, then sit down for some wonderful cheese pairings at The Rind. Be sure to wear comfy shoes.
Artisanal Samples at the Festival of Cheese
Another good option for cheese aficionados is the “Festival of Cheese” on Friday, Aug. 1, where you can sample more than 1,700 competition cheeses plus artisanal foods from across the United States.
On an even tighter budget? The particularly motivated cheese lovers can sign up to volunteer. Check the website for their online volunteer sign up form. You get a cool shirt and a pass to the Festival of Cheese event for your time donated.
Sacramento Cheese Shops to Visit Anytime
Whether attending all four days of cheese industry fun, or just a day, it may be helpful to know about a couple of good places to enjoy cheese, or simply where you can buy some to take home when in the State Capitol. Two such places are The Rind and The Cultured & The Cured.
Sara Arbabian, owner of The Rind is a former HR corporate professional who has had a lifelong love of cheese. As a child, she remembers the fresh cheeses and yogurt that were made in her home kitchen. Sara likes to tell the story that the first meal she ever made was “mac and cheese!”
She is finally pursuing this passion in a serious way with a cheese, beer and wine bar located 1801 L Street, Suite 40, in Sacramento. The Rind is in a hip neighborhood cozied up to hip lofts, a chocolatier, and a yogurt shop.
Each Sunday, they present a Wine Flight featuring the winemaker from a local winery for a wine and cheese pairing. Sara donates 10 percent of the night’s proceeds to a local charity. Coming soon, they will have weekly Fondue Nights, so check back on their website so you can plan your visit.
The Cultured & The Cured
Chef Andrew Hillman opened The Cultured & The Cured last year. Parking is easy in his neighborhood, and you can tell by the cheesy creations on the menu that a trained culinary professional is at the helm. His cheese case features West Coast stand outs from California and Oregon, and other U.S. cheesemakers primarily. He likes to point out that he is doing his part to keep the carbon footprint down with this business strategy.
In addition to the cheeses and the charcuterie, which is all domestically sourced though European in style, they carry an assortment of specialty foods that complement or enhance the cheese board. Potter’s Crackers are very popular. Also, the line of pickled vegetables, hot sauces and Bloody-Mary mix by Preservation & Company, both are local-area companies. The Cultured & The Cured is located at 3644 J Street in Sacramento.
Register for the ACS Conference
Registration for the ACS Conference & Cheese Competition opened on May 5, 2014. To learn more please visit their website. http://www.cheesesociety.org/conference/2014-conference/