This past Saturday, my son and I trekked up to Fairfield for Jungle Jim’s International Market’s Big Cheese Festival 2014. More than 80 cheese companies were present, as well as a handful of (primarily domestic) cured meat producers. Our top tastes were Rogue Creamery’s Smokey Blue from Oregon and Kenny’s Farmhouse Cheese’s Kentucky Rose from Barren County, Kentucky. In the charcuterie camp, my son was a big fan of Brooklyn-based Trois Petits Cochons’ Rillettes de Canard (shredded duck confit), while I favored Olli Salumeria’s Applewood-smoked wild boar salame. Although I passed on the adult beverages (11 am is still a little early, even for me) a wide variety of wines and beers were available for purchase by the glass.
Curd nerds who missed the festival needn’t feel bad: It sold out quickly. Don’t weep into your Humboldt Fog. Many of the products represented at the festival are available at Jungle Jim’s (and remember, if the Fairfield mothership is too far, the Eastgate location should suffice).
Is your interest in cheese crossing the line toward love? While we’re on the subject, I’d like to suggest a wonderful book I’m reading right now: The Whole Fromage. Author Kathe Lison chronicles her full-on obsession with a dairy product that does much to define the nation of France (with more than 650 varieties, not to mention specific regional interpretations) from cultural, historical, and even political standpoints. This delightful read is chock-full of well-turned stories and amusing anecdotes about some of the most fascinating cheese-making characters and their carefully tended products that will entertain even cautious eaters. But be forewarned, if you aren’t overspending on cheese just yet, you will be soon.