Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Kathy in Cheeseland

 Usually a cheesy weekend might involve Vegas, a Bachelor Party, Zack Galifinakis and Mike Tysons' pet tiger. At least that's what I'd think if someone mentioned their big fat cheesy weekend to me. Real cheese would be the last thing on my mind. It's not that I don't love cheese. Cheese and I have a had a "thing" for quite a number of years. I have loved cheese since I was a little tiny kid and stood barely reaching the counter of Hermans' Delicatessen on Geary Street in San Francisco and watched the counterman slice the thick soft milky Teleme just for me. Since I ran home from school to cut a big slice of Monterey Jack to go with a crisp Gravenstein apple and do my long division. Since I bought my first wedge of Gruyere and a pair of of Palazzo pants and threw my first Fondue party back in the 70's.  I am a cheese-eater through and through. However Cheese is not something that crops up frequently in Indian cooking, at least cheese that's not paneer or chenna cheese.
 Imagine my delight when my pal  Cheesemaker Sheana Davis invited Alan and me to the Winter Artisan Cheese Fair here in Sonoma. Did I want to go?? Hay-yell yeah I did!

 Sheana Davis is the chef/owner of the Epicurean Connection  and the maker and creator of Delice de la Vallee cheese. She is also a very good friend and my main cheese connection.
 So there I was on a rainy drizzly Sunday in Sonoma heading for  Mac Arthur Place and more cheese than I could shake a bread stick at.

I actually was wearing a skirt  and heels to be more cheese presentable. I rummaged through my bureau before leaving the house search for  a pair of panty hose to really look like a "lady" (which turned out to be another adventure altogether). Let me be clear. I have one skirt. I'm always in jeans and boots because I live in the country now. All my Stuart Weitzman and Casa Dei heels are packed in the closet to be looked at and admired occasionally, but I'm not in LA anymore Dorothy. Boots are the thing here. But there I was.  I dutifully dressed up in my hose and heels to go to cheese-fest out of respect for the cheese-makers and mongers, vintners and brewers who had converged on my tiny town from all over the country to  bring the delicious!
 Once inside Mac Arthur Place's Saddles Restaurant I looked around. Cheese, as far as the eye could see!!

There were also tables of wine from some of the best wineries,  Porter, Stout and Ale including one manned by this guy from Uncommon Brewers..
    ( Alex Stefansky Uncommon Brewers)
from Santa Cruz California, made with Bacon!!!
      Another brewed with lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and Indian coriander .

And of course Saddles galore! Cause it's called Saddles' ...get it???
And what would be Cheese Fest without a life size model plastic horse surveying the surroundings??!

      "Wiiiiiillllllbur, where is my Cheese?"
There were Cheese makers as far as the eye could see and they were all more than willing to have us sample their tasty wares.

There were goat, cow and sheeps' milk cheeses. There was even the famous Black Pig Bacon from chefs Duskie Estes and Jon Stewart of Zazu Restaurant off the Guerneville Road in Santa Rosa, and Bovolo Restaurant in Healdsburg. I'd actually seen these guys on The TV and here they were, (at least one of them) up close and personal.
 (above) Chef Jon Stewart of Black Pig Bacon and Zazu

They incorporated it into a delightful warm salad involving brussels sprouts and what else? Cheese.

 Even the kids got into the act.
While we stuffed our faces and tasted everything, the cheese makers got acquainted with each other

swapped stories,
  (above (L) Sheana Davis (R). Chef Sangeev of Mac Arthur Place)
posed for cheese groupies (people like me)
(Cheesemasters Daphne Zepos, Janet Fletcher, Max Mac Calman, Sheana Davis)

 and sat down for a radio chat with their hostess .
                       ( Max mac Calman and Sheana Davis)
 Now in the middle of all this cheesy frivolity I had my own cheesy moment. I had a panty hose malfunction. In short, they began to slowly set in the West.  Even I, who so rarely have a need for panty hose knew that I was in big big trouble.
  It was in the middle of the afternoon, I still had a cheese-makers reception and cheese-makers dinner to go to that evening, and here I was about to drop my drawers in the middle of the Winter Artisan Cheese Fair. Not cool.
  Slowly and carefully I scrabbled  my way to the car and hurried over to the nearest pharmacy for a new pair of L'eggs.
Then with stockings no longer at half mast,  I sailed off with my driver/ photographer  Alan, to the Cheese-makers reception and dinner at Rocket Cafe.
  While there, I got to chat with another Sheana,  artisanal cheese-maker Seana Doughty of Bleating Heart Cheese, who we like to call "Seana 10 Sheep" since that is what she has in her back yard and since we know a lot of Sheanas and happen to like the sound of that name, it's gangsta.
                                                  (Seana 10 Sheep milking sheep)
                                    (Seana 10 Sheep when she is Not millking sheep)
Seana had brought along some of her excellent Fat Bottom Girl sheep milk cheese. Between that and Sheana Davis' delicate creamy Delice de la Vallee cheese and some of the most brilliant artisanal cheeses in the whole US of A, we were in hog (or cheese) heaven.

  My sister- in- law who got me started on Indian food 20 years ago and who we call the Queen of Cheese because of her love of all things rennety, would have been out of her blooming mind over all the goodies we got to eat in this one day. You see Elizabeth, that is what you get for living in New York City!
 My thanks to Sheana Davis who invited us to step through the looking glass and see what's on the other side of the udder.


  1. wow - a whole event involving cheese - I need to go to something like this! and I hate malfunctions of those kinds!

  2. What an awesome event! That creamy Delice de la Vallee looks especially good!

  3. What a wonderful experience, I love all the pics and info!!I'm loving your blog-followed ya!!


  4. Sounds like fun, so which one was your favorite? I think I need to come up to Sonoma more often!

  5. Wow Kathy! That was the place to be!
    Have a giveaway at my blog, do check it out.

  6. That looks like an amazing get-together. I've always wanted to make my own cheese. But, like learning latin and adding a beehive to the garden, it's still on the to-do list.

  7. Anyone who can mention palazzo pants and L'eggs in the same post is okay by me. Hilarious. And what an awesome event. I too have a love affair with cheese.

  8. Now that's my kind of event! I love cheese, I mean really love it. In fact Red(my son) and I snacked down a pound plus the other night. Wish I was there with you, great post!

  9. Just had to check out that Black Pig link.

    Looks like a nice time. I just love cheese. I am in a Gruyere mood lately.

  10. @Lori,
    yes, my husband brought home a pound of Black Pig Bacon..good stuff!



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