Wednesday, August 26, 2009

New Pairing

This week we are featuring Big Woods Blue from Shepherd's Way Farms in Minnesota and Matilda from Goose Island Brewery right here in Chicago.

A Belgian-style pale ale, Matilda has a clean, hoppy and slightly spicy flavor profile with an almost floral aroma. Good with Gouda, washed rind cheese, and of course our blue cheese feature.

Big Woods Blue is a big, beefy, creamy blue cheese made from sheep's milk. It has a sharpness like many blue cheeses, but the sheep's' milk gives this cheese a rich creaminess sure to please everyone at your gathering.

In 2005 tragedy struck the folks at Shepherd's Way Farms. A fire went through their birthing barn and a lot of their flock was lost. Many of the ewes that remained were traumatized by the event. Through an outpouring of support from their community and other national organizations the family, farm, and flock are slowly recovering.

Although there are many tough times still ahead for them, and production is slow going, we are happy to see them persevere and proud to carry their delicious cheese in our store.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Vermont Cheesemaker's Festival

I just came back with a cooler full of goodies from the Vermont Cheesemaker's Festival which was held at Shelburne Farms this past Sunday. You didn't make it out this year? Don't worry, I ate enough cheese for all of us. Vermont has more artisan cheesemaker's than any other state and those cheesemaker's make some very fine products.

If you think Vermont is just about Cheddar, you've got another think coming. Camemberts, blues, lovely stinky washed rind cheeses, Alpine style, goat, ash-ripened...the list goes on and on. Vermont has wonderful cheese and the festival is a great opportunity to experience a small fraction of what the Green Mountain State has to offer.

In addition to fabulous cheese, the festival also offered demos including cheesemaking 101, seminars like Cheddar and beer pairing and great food outside of the main festival building. Vermont also has a great beer and wine industry and those folks were at the festival to give everyone a little taste.

The Grafton Truckle is a Vermont treat that has been seen, tasted and devoured right here at Pastoral. The Spring Brook Farm Tarentaise won 1st place in the farmstead category at this year's ACS competition. I had an opportunity to go to the farm while in VT and talk to cheesemaker Tom. Wonderful cheese, great cheesemaker and an exceptional cause!

The Ascutney Mountain and the Vermont Ayr have both seen some time in our case here in Chicago as well. Never in our case for long as they are both hot sellers.

This is one of the many gorgeous views in Vermont (5 minutes before a torrential downpour). This one just happens to be at Jasper Hill Farm. Mateo gave a few of us a seriously extensive tour of the cellars and cheesemaking facility. He showed us a few new cheeses and let us taste, taste, taste. Outstanding day!

This year's festival was sold out and I heard there were tickets on Craigslist for $250! Next year's promises to be another bang-up year for the event. Send an email to get on the list for a first crack at next year's tickets! Great article form the Burlington Free Press about the festival.