Many familiar faces made this year's list of James Beard Award nominees.
Restaurateurs Michelle Gayer of "Salty Tart" and Jack Riebel of "Butcher & the Boar" - both in Minneapolis - will go head to head in the category "Best Chef: Midwest."
Local luminary Andrew Zimmern is nominated in two categories for his show "Bizarre Foods America" (Television Program, On Location and Outstanding Personality/Host
Daniel Klein and Mirra Fine are nominated in the "Video Webcast, On Location" category for their web series "The Perennial Plate" which got its start in Minnesota but this past year went on a world tour.
Food writer Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl is nominated once again for her lusciously written food reviews. This time, it's for her profile of LoveTree Farmstead in Mpls/St.Paul magazine. Here's a sample to give you some flavour:
When Mary shapes her individual cheeses, she brings them to her cave to age. (The whey from the cheese production is also blended into the guard dogs' food, perhaps strengthening the dogs' attachment to their flock.) Many of Mary's cheeses are pure sheep's milk, but some are a blend of sheep's milk and her outdoor-pastured cows' milk. The cows are descended from a Scottish Highland-Angus-Jersey cross and are majestic animals with soaring horns that make them look like bulls, but they're actually milkable ladies. In the cave, the young cheeses are hand-rubbed--a treatment that encourages a rind to form on the outside--and are then flipped every day or so, sometimes for weeks, sometimes for many months, depending on Mary's own personal sense of when a cheese is ready. It is inside this humid, refrigerator-like, woods-connected silo of a cave that the cheeses become what they will become.0 Comments)
What they become is absolutely unique, a true American original cheese unlike anything that has ever been made, or tasted, on earth. Her Trade Lake Cedar looks like a rock or mushroom; the rind tastes earthy and ashy, an umami non-fruit world of hay and mineral, whereas the interior is tangy and chalky and meadow-like. Her dry Gabrielson Lake tastes a little like Parmigiano-Reggiano, but is freaked with little crystals of concentration and tiny red lace points of mold.
On Sunday, June 3 the Minnesota State Fair Grounds will host the first annual Minnesota Cheese Festival. The event will feature professional cheesemakers, home cheesemakers, chefs and wine-pairing experts.
Bent River cheese
Image courtesy Whitne McChane
Festival organizer Whitney McChane says while Wisconsin is best known for its thriving cheese-making industry, Minnesota is in fact the No. 6 cheese producing state in the US:
In recent years, the state's processed cheese giants have been joined by world-class artisan cheese producers - such as Caves of Faribault, Alemar Cheese Co. and Shepherd's Way Farms. Keith Adams from Alemar Cheese Co says it best: "Minnesota has a long and rich history of dairy farming, and while our output can't compete with our Eastern neighbor Wisconsin, our milk quality certainly can. And, if it isn't immediately apparent, great cheese can only be made from great milk."
As far as McChane knows, this is Minnesota's first festival entirely dedicated to cheese.
Some area foodie events are diluted with irrelevant vendors selling crafts or insurance - you absolutely will not encounter that at the Minnesota Cheese Festival. Our focus is specialty, artisan and farmstead cheeses, and the incredible food and beverage pairings that bring cheese to life. The aim of the Festival is to raise awareness for the growing cheese making community in Minnesota while creating opportunities for caseophiles (cheese lovers!) to sample and purchase new cheeses.
According to agricultural reports, Americans are consuming more specialty ("artisanal" or "farmstead") cheeses than ever before.
Image courtesy Whitne McChane
McChane says while Wisconsin has state-run programs that support the cheesemaking community, the resources for Minnesota cheesemakers are limited, and marketing often falls to the end of the "must do" list. This event is designed to support and empower the local cheesemaking community and foster a sense of pride among Minnesota residents.
The James Beard Foundation Awards have just come to a close, and while Minnesota didn't take home as many awards this year as last, it still can claim a couple of winners.
In the category of Best Chef in the Midwest region, Isaac Becker won for his restaurant, 112 Eatery.
And on Friday, Amy Thielen won in the category of Cooking, Recipes, or Instruction for her work at the Minneapolis Star Tribune, including her articles "A Good Catch," "Low-Tech Wonder," and "From the Bean Patch: Plenty."
Congrats to them both!