Friday, October 4, 2013

Name Your Favorite Cheese at the Weekly Open Thread

Posted By on Fri, Oct 4, 2013 at 5:51 AM

Mountain Maid from Blackberry Farm
  • Mountain Maid from Blackberry Farm
When not caught in the frenzy of putting together this week's biggest-ever Best of Nashville issue, we here at Bites found ourselves fondly recalling the goodies we enjoyed at last weekend's Southern Artisan Cheese Festival.

The third installment of the homage to fromage organized by Kathleen Cotter of The Bloomy Rind was the best yet.

The new venue, the former factory garage at the Neuhoff complex in Germantown, lent itself well to the flow of the festival. Lines at the vendor tables seemed to move smoothly with hardly any backups.

The lineup of vendors was impressive, with local and regional cheeses, artisan foods and craft beers, plus cheese-friendly wines selected by Woodland Wine Merchant.

The bounty was too vast to describe here, but a few things that come to mind were the house-made roast beef from Nashville's Porter Road Butcher; the spectacular platters of charcuterie from The Spotted Trotter in Atlanta; Tennessee's own Noble Springs goat cheese; the spread from Tennessee's Sequatchie Cove Creamery, including the acclaimed Dancing Fern; and my colleague Jack Silverman's favorite, the Green Hill, a soft-ripened double-cream from Sweet Grass Dairy in Georgia.

Blackberry Farm, the famous resort in Walland, Tenn., deployed its head cheesemaker, Ryan Burger, to the festival. He brought along a wide selection of cheeses, charcuterie, pickles and preserves. He was selling the impressive wares at a substantial discount over mail-order prices, and found many takers.

One of the biggest hits of the afternoon was Legato Gelato. Apparently lots of folks hadn't yet heard of the cheerful shop in Edgehill Village that produces excellent handmade gelato.

The beer selection was another high point. Locals Yazoo, Jackalope, Calfkiller and Fat Bottom were represented, along with some regional folks, including new-to-our market Duck Rabbit from North Carolina, which offered a delicious, creamy milk stout. As the season turns, it was nice to taste the hearty darker beers: Jackalope showed off a luscious dunkelweizen.

The only minor glitch with the Neuhoff location was that the room was slightly hot when the crowd was at its height. (It was the opposite of last year, when a blustery, wet wind pestered attendees in the outdoor shed at the Nashville Farmers' Market.)

Unfortunately ot all the windows in the vintage garage were open; it looked like some were broken and stuck in a closed position. If the venue remains the same next year, maybe some TLC on the windows could create a better cross breeze.

One of the nice benefits of the cheese fest is that some of the proceeds go to its partner nonprofit, Community Food Advocates. (Thank you, executive director Megan Morton for kindly letting me steal your glass for beverage sampling.)

One of the big questions that circulated avidly among the crowd at the festival was, "What did you buy?" I picked up a wheel of Mountain Maid, an ash-ripened sheep’s milk cheese from Blackberry Farm, along with a jar of their pumpkin butter. The cheese combines mild creaminess and a hint of sharpness from the ash. It makes a great combo with the pumpkin butter.

That got me thinking. What do I like in a cheese? A good balance of tangy and creamy is key. What are your favorite cheeses, Bites readers? Did you make it to the festival?

And since this is the Open Thread, what else is going on in that big, delicious, soft-ripened wheel of cheese called Nashville? Share your thoughts and questions here.

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