Sunday, May 20, 2007

Seattle Cheese Festival

On Saturday Steven and I revisited Pike Place Market with camera, water bottle, and crackers in tow for the third annual Seattle Cheese Festival. The festival showcases over 200 varieties of international and domestic artisanal cheeses. In addition there are wine tastings, cooking demonstrations, seminars, and scavenger hunts for the kids. Best of all, cheese sampling and most of the activities (with the exception of the seminars) are free! I was afraid it would rain since the weather report predicted AM showers, but it turned out to be a beautiful day so I couldn’t have been happier.

I never found out what this big cheese was.

We wanted to get there before 10 to see the cheese race where local restaurant owners roll cheese down the cobblestone streets of the market but we ran a little late and just missed it. Maybe next year.

The tables were lined with cheese after cheese; it was a plethora of cheese as far as the eye could see. There were imported cheeses from all over Europe including France, England, Ireland, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, and domestic ones from Washington, Oregon, California, Utah, and Montana. There were cheeses made from cow’s milk, sheep’s milk, and goat’s milk and cheese of all shapes, sizes, colors, smells, and textures, from nutty hard cheeses, smooth soft cheeses, to stinky runny cheese.

Do you dare try the Stilton?

How about the intimidating Roquefort?

Off the top of my head, I recall we tried about 2 or 3 Stiltons, some Roquefort after rallying up our courage, 4 delicious Goudas, an amazing smoked Cheddar, cave-aged Cheddar with lots of crystals, an odd Fontina that left a bitter aftertaste, Comte, Asiago, 3 or 4 goat cheeses, delicious Irish cheese that reminded us of Parmesan, Camembert, and dozens more that I can’t remember. I discovered I’m not the biggest fan of goat cheese. We loved one of the Goudas so we purchased some along with some blue cheese.

Eventually, the little cubes of cheese add up! After sampling over 40 varieties of cheese, Steven and I were full of cheese, crackers, and delicious local bread. I don’t know how we would manage to sample all 200 plus varieties.

The festival is over for this year but I think it will be back next year. It's a lot of cheese and a lot of fun! Cheese sampling goes from 10 am to 5pm but it's best to get there early because the lines get longer and longer. There are sometimes crackers and breads available with the cheese but it's a good idea to bring some crackers with you so you can clear your palate occasionally (you never know when you'll taste a really strong cheese). Also bring a water bottle because you might get thirsty.

As we were leaving, we met an adorable African Gray Parrot, Phineas, and his trainer. Phineas was so sweet and intelligent (about the intelligence of a 7 year old his trainer says). If you point your finger at him and say "Bang!" he swings back and dangles from the trainer's finger. Phineas also did a handstand and back sommersault for us and calmly rested on my palm while I petted his head.

And a trip to Pike Place wouldn't be complete without getting some more Daily Dozen Doughnuts. See more photos here (no smell-o-vision I'm afraid).


Rachel said...

i am insanely jealous!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Wow, that must have been a great festival! I love cheese and would be happy if there would be a similar event here in Switzerland...

Bettina said...

whoa! cheese race!! cool!!! aww...yummy!!

Wandering Chopsticks said...

Haha. I find it hilarious that you brought your own crackers. Should have brought a bottle of wine too. :)

sailor said...

The first big cheese is Comte, a french cows milk cheese.

Unknown said...

I went to the Cheese Festival last year and really wished I had crackers so I made sure we brought some. Otherwise it can be hard to appreciate some of the subtler flavors after things like that roquefort.

Anonymous said...

I can't never remember all the different names of cheeses. I do like the "typical" blue different is that from a stilton ?

SteamyKitchen said...

If I was there, I'd be bringing along a BIG sample for my sample for the backpack so I can eat tomorrow!

Amy said...

We're so very lucky that Seattle has this great event. I've been looking forward to it all year.

It was really awesome. It's too bad there's nothing similiar in Switzerland. :(

I *think* they use brooms and sweep the cheese down the street since I saw a bunch of people standing around with brooms and a cheese getting their pics taken.

Haha that was Steven's idea. :P Though the wine may be a bit difficult to fit in my purse.

Oh thanks! I guess they had multiple Comte cheeses there too.


Blue cheese is an overarching category that includes dozens of cheeses from different regions. Specific cheeses like Roquefort, Gorgonzola, and Stilton must be made in a certain region in order to carry that name. Stilton also has a distinct flavor profile, it's more intense than typical blue cheeses, creamier than Danish blues, but is not as strong as Gorgonzola.

Lol! I'm picturing a backpack filled with cubes of cheese. It's a hilarious mental image, you wouldn't know which cheese is which. Hopefully the soft cheese didn't smear on anything. :D


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