Just this past week I attended the 30th anniversary of the American Cheese Society (ACS) Conference in Madison, WI. Okay, so maybe it’s not technically “Paradise,” but it is quite a lively and happening little town. Especially since I had the chance to hang with people who are just like me: Cheese People.
This was my 7th time attending the ACS conference, and it never gets old. On the contrary, there is always something new to learn, a new cheese to taste, a new contact to make. For people in the industry (and cheese enthusiasts), it is the event of the year. This is where the cheese buyers at Heinen’s find all the really cool American artisan cheeses that we carry in our stores. I have been so fortunate to taste some world-class, award-winning cheeses and to meet the folks that make them. They toil. They’re so passionate about what they’re doing, and the cheeses they make are like their babies. Get one of them talking about their craft, and it’s mesmerizing. At least to me.
And so, the same thing happened to me that always happens to me: I’m shot out of a cannon and I want it all!! Now, I’m a fairly reasonable person, but when I try great cheeses that I think my customers will like, I want to carry them. Like, now.
But, back to the conference….
My favorite event is Meet the Cheesemaker. This is where buyers have the opportunity to meet cheesemakers and taste their cheeses. I tasted some amazing cheeses that I’m chomping at the bit for. I won’t name them specifically, but these are the producers: Homestead Creamery (MO), Cellars at Jasper Hill (VT), Haystack Mountain (CO) and Cooperstown Creamery (NY), just to name a few.
Each ACS Conference culminates in the Festival of Cheese. This is where all of the cheeses that were submitted into the competition are showcased. This year there were over 1700 cheeses in competition. All entrants are judge by a technical judge and an aesthetic judge. It’s really a fascinating process, and one I’m trying to worm my way into. In the meantime, I just enjoy. This year’s Best of Show is a washed rind little gem called Winnimere by the Cellars at Jasper Hill Farm. Demand for this cheese will increase, but Heinen’s cheese buyers will work tirelessly to get their hands on some for you.
I can’t make any promises about which new cheeses we’ll be bringing in, but I can say that there will be some new and exciting (and award-winning) cheeses that will grace our counters and our cases. Keep your eyes peeled; we’ll denote them on signage in our stores that say “ACS Award Winner”.