Mark your calendars, it’s time for the 2012 California’s Artisan Cheese Festival. The Sheraton Sonoma County in Petaluma will host the 6th annual festival between March 23rd and 25th, a weekend-long celebration and exploration of handcrafted cheeses, foods, wines and beers from California and beyond. The festival’s mission is to:
- Educate people who want to learn more about artisan cheese
- Support the artisan cheesemaking community and its sustainability, and
- Celebrate and enjoy the creations of the artisan cheesemakers
Over the weekend, you can sign up for tours of local dairy farms, seminars, cheese making workshops, and cooking and pairing demonstrations. Other weekend events available include a combination farm tours/dinner or a champagne brunch featuring bacon and cheese. The Festival’s educational seminars and tastings are led by cheese experts, cheesemakers, chefs and fromagiers from across the country, and virtually every session involves tastings and/or pairings of artisan cheeses. To learn more, and to purchase tickets, go here.
If you’re more into consuming cheese than learning how to make it, there are two key events at the 2012 California Artisan Cheese Festival you should consider attending: The Grand Tasting and Best in Cheese Competition, and the Artisan Cheese Tasting and Marketplace, both happening at the Sheraton.
Grand Tasting and Best in Cheese Competition
On Saturday, March 24th between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. is the popular Grand Tasting and Best in Cheese Competition. Chefs from more than 20 of the Bay Area’s best restaurants will vie for your affection and vote at this lighthearted competition for the Best Artisan Cheese Creation Award. Local wineries and breweries will also be on-hand to provide the wines and beers that best complement these dishes.
Some of the restaurant participants are Balboa Café Mill Valley, Corks Restaurant, Nick’s Cove, Patisserie Angelica, and Quince. Beverages will be provided by Cakebread Cellars, Dutton-Goldfield Winery, Kokomo Winery, Lagunitas Brewing Company, and the Half Moon Bay Brewing Company, among others. Tickets are $75 per person.
Artisan Cheese Tasting and Marketplace
On Sunday, March 25 from 12 noon to 4 p.m. is the Artisan Cheese Tasting and Marketplace. The Marketplace gives attendees an amazing opportunity to sample and purchase cheese from more than 20 artisan cheese producers from throughout California and neighboring states. In addition to the artisan cheeses you can taste local craft brews and wines, breads, crackers, jams, nuts and other great cheese go-withs.
Some of the California cheesemakers participating in the Festival and likely to be at the Marketplace are Achidinha Cheese Company, Barinaga Ranch, Bellwether Farms, Bleating Heart Cheese, Central Coast Creamery, Cowgirl Creamery/Tomales Bay Foods, Cypress Grove Chevre, Laura Chenel’s Chevre, Marin French Cheese Company, Nicasio Valley Cheese Company, North Bay Curds and Whey, Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company, Ramini Mozzarella, Redwood Hill Farm & Creamery, Spring Hill Jersey Cheese, Valley Ford Cheese Company, and Weirach Farm & Creamery. Tickets are $45, or only $20 for youths between 10 and 17.
Once again, you should go here to purchase tickets. Do it soon, as these events may sell out.
Whether or not you are able to attend the California Artisan Cheese Festival, there are two food establishments in the city of Petaluma we highly recommend.
Central Market is an excellent dinner-only restaurant in historic downtown Petaluma with many dishes coming out of the wood burning oven. The menu changes seasonally, but usually offers a wide range of hard-to-choose-between options. Open 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays, until 10:00 on Fridays and Saturdays, and open 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. on Sundays. 42 Petaluma Boulevard, (707) 778-9900
Petaluma Pie Company is a locally owned bakery cafe found inside the courtyard at Helen Putnam Plaza in downtown Petaluma. They use organic and local ingredients here to make their delicious sweet and savory pies. Petaluma Pie also offers salad, beer, wine, coffee, tea and more. Open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., but only until 6 p.m. on Sundays. Closed Tuesdays. 125 Petaluma Boulevard North, Suite D, (707) 766-6743
If you’re in the Petaluma area, and want to do some wine tasting, you’re only about 20-25 minutes away from some excellent wineries in the Russian River area. Go here to see our favorite tasting rooms in the area.