Cheeseheads: Artisanal Cheese Festival in Petaluma, March 20-23

Categories: Cheese
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Sonoma will be ground zero for aficionados of California's artisan cheese producers. The third annual Artisan Cheese Festival, held at the Sheraton Sonoma County - Petaluma, will run from Friday, March 20, through Monday, March 23.  

The festivities begin with a Meet the Artisans welcome reception and tasting, hosted by the California Artisan Cheese Guild, on Friday night. That night you can dine at local restaurants featuring special cheese dishes on their menus.

Saturday is devoted to seminars led by cheesemakers and experts such as restaurant consultant Clark Wolf, Sue Conley and Peggy Smith of Cowgirl Creamery, Jill Giacomini Basch and Lynn Giacomini Stray of Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company, Juliana Uruburu of Oakland's Market Hall Pasta Shop, the San Francisco Chronicle's Janet Fletcher, and Jacquelyn Buchanan of Laurel Chenel Goat Cheese. Our neighbors from up north will be represented at a special panel entitled Traveling the Oregon Cheese Trail.
Saturday night there's a cheese-centric five-course gala dinner (and pricey, at $170 per), with each course paired with wine and cheese, cooked by five different noted local chefs, including John Ash, on the faculty of the Culinary Institute at Greystone, and Michelin-starred Joseph Humphrey.

Sunday offers an Artisan Cheese Marketplace from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., with cheese purveyors joined by other artisanal food producers including vintners and brewers, offering tastings and purchases of their wares. The Chef Stage will feature cooking and cheesemaking demonstrations from such notables as Joey Altman and Chris Jones of The Girl and the Fig. And there's a Cheese Cafe hosted by Bay Area cheesemongers Doralice Handal of the Cheese Shop Healdsburg and Ray Blair of San Francisco's Cheese Plus. A special seminar is scheduled on Sunday with Michael Tusk of San Francisco's famed Quince restaurant about cheese and wine pairing, as well as his philosophy on sourcing local foods for his kitchen.

Monday features three separate field trips to local artisans, including creameries, vineyards, and oyster beds, which always sell out early, at $50 each (which includes a box lunch).

Go forth, ye cheese heads, and sample (judiciously. Or injudiciously, if you prefer. It's a Festival!).

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