Although we had met many Northern California cheese world personalities in the last year and a half, Laura Werlin was one that we had somehow missed. Accordingly, when we were looking over the Cheese School’s course offering for this term, last Thursday’s class – “Laura Werlin’s Favorites” – caught our eye. Laura was certainly someone we had heard about, and as suggested by her Cheese School faculty bio, she seems to know something about cheese:
“Laura Werlin is positively passionate about cheese and has written four highly acclaimed books on the subject: Cheese Essentials (2007), Great Grilled Cheese: 50 Innovative Recipes for Stovetop, Sandwich Maker, and Grill (2004), The All American Cheese and Wine Book (2003), and the pioneering The New American Cheese (2000). Her passion and expertise on these topics have landed her on The CBS Early Show, the Television Food Network, Martha Stewart Living Television, and numerous local television and radio segments from coast to coast. She also writes for national magazines including Food & Wine, Fine Cooking, Saveur, Cooking Pleasures, Cooking Light, and Country Livingand several others. Laura is on the board of the American Cheese Society and is an active member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals, Women Chefs & Restaurateurs, the James Beard Foundation, and the San Francisco Professional Food Society.”We were greeting upon our arrival at the Cheese School on Thursday night by the School’s Director, Sara Vivenzio, and her staff, Abby Ward and Ariel Clute. Sara introduced Laura at the start of the program and Abby and Ariel kept our glasses filled during the course of the evening.
Eleven (!!) cheeses awaited us on our plates, which I think may be the largest number we have seen before in a single class. Laura confessed at the beginning of her presentation that those cheeses were in fact not necessarily her 11 favorite cheeses of all time – perhaps a meaningless concept – but rather a group of exceptional cheeses which she felt were representative of a wide range of styles and of which excellent representatives were available at this time. That was fine with us!
Laura selected the following cheeses for the evening:
Name – Producer – Provenance – Milk Type
1. Crescenza – BelGioioso – USA (Denmark, WI) – Cow (pasteurized);
2. Chèvre/ “Humbug Mt.” – Rivers Edge Chèvre (Three Ring Farm) – USA (Legsden, OR) – Goat (pasteurized);
3. Chèvre/ “Sunset Bay” – Rivers Edge Chèvre (Three Ring Farm) – USA (Legsden, OR) – Goat (pasteurized);
4. Green Hill – Sweet Grass Dairy – USA (Thomasville, GA) – Cow (pasteurized);
5. Clothbound Cheddar – Cabot Creamery [cave-aged at Jasper Hill Farm] – USA (Cabot, VT) – Cow (pasteurized);
6. Pleasant Ridge Reserve – Uplands Cheese Co. – USA (Dodgeville, WI) – Cow (raw);
7. Comtè – Marcel Petite (Daphne Zepos selection) – France (Jura/Franche-Comtè) – Cow (raw);
8. Raspberry BellaVitano – Satori Foods – USA (Antigo, WI) – Cow (pasteurized);
9. Moliterno al Tartufo – Italy (Sardegna) – Sheep (raw);
10. Testun al Barolo – Occelli Agrinatura (Beppino Occelli) - Italy (Piemonte) – Mixed;
11. Caveman Blue – Rogue Creamery – USA (Central Point, OR) – Cow (raw).
After 20 classes we have found that there does begin to be some duplication of the cheeses presented in different classes, but in fact I believe we had had only one of the cheeses before - Marcel Petite’s Comtè (actually the first time at our very first class at the Cheese School), although it is one of our own favorites so we did not mind at all.
Although there was European representation (two from Italy and one from France), most of the cheeses were from the US and none from California: Oregon (3), Wisconsin (3), Vermont (1) and even Georgia (1).
The cheeses were accompanied by three wines:
~ Chardonnay - 2006 - Liberty School - Paso Robles, California;
~ “Bricco del Cucù” – Dolcetto di Dogliani – 2006 - Azienda Agricola Bricco del Cucù di Sciolla Dario – Piemonte, Italy; and
~ Vidal Gold Ice Wine – 2006 - Inniskillin – Ontario, Canada
We enjoyed the Liberty School Chardonnay, but did not care as much for either the Dolcetto di Dogliani or the Inniskillin Ice Wine. My preference for similar wines would have been for a Barbera d’Alba for the red, and the Rivesaltes Ambré Domaine Fontanel “rancio” wine we had at a class with Janet Fletcher for the dessert wine (that would have been fabulous with both the Pleasant Ridge Reserve and the Comté).
Although our tastes often diverge, Alex, Cass and I were fairly close this time on our favorites for the evening. The Green Hill from Sweet Grass Dairy was on all of our “top 3” lists. Alex and I also both picked the Pleasant Ridge Reserve, and Alex and Cass picked the Clothbound Cheddar from Cabot Creamery. I also had the Comté on my top 3 list and Cass selected the Sunset Bay (with its vein of paprika running down the middle) for Rivers Edge Chèvre - perhaps I have mentioned in earlier posts Cass’ love of goat cheeses? (incidentally, for some cute shots of baby goats I recommend the Rivers Edge website). As always Sara and her staff at the Cheese School had done a great job of procuring cheeses that were just at the peak of perfection and it particularly showed in the ones we picked as our favorites.
We enjoyed Laura’s class and look forward to future events where she will be presenting, including at the 3rd annual California's Artisan Cheese Festival in Petaluma March 20-23.