Sunday, March 9, 2014

What's Hot: Sonoma cheeses and cider at 8th Annual California Artisan Cheese Festival

It’s no secret – apples and cheese make great bedfellows. At the 8th Annual California Artisan Cheese Festival, held March 21 to 23, 2014 in Petaluma, chef and cheesemaker Sheana Davis of Sonoma’s The Epicurean Connection adds a new dimension to the cheese & apple get-together: cider.

Sheana Davis
Just one of the numerous seminars, tastings and dinners that are part of the three-day Cheese Festival, Davis’ seminar, Historic Cider and Honest Cheese, invites you to explore Sonoma’s terroir through a guided tasting of locally produced cheese and ciders. Her platform of flavor features Gravensteins, Sonoma’s tart, historically significant apple included in Slow Food’s Ark of Taste (a program designed to catalog foods that are in danger of extinction) and Sonoma cheeses.

Gravensteins are featured in Tilted Shed’s Gravivia! Semi-Dry Cider. Not sweet like an English cider, Graviva! is fruit-forward and drier on the palate. “Semi-dry is a great platform to showcase the unique character of the Gravenstein,” says Davis, who credits cider as the bridge between beer and champagne drinkers. The cider’s sparkle and 7% abv makes it very food friendly and Davis pairs it with milder, less funky cheeses.

Try it for yourself. At the seminar, you will taste Graviva! with:

~Crème de fromage, made by Davis, a triple cream organic cow milk fromage blanc fresh cheese
~Délice de la Vallée, made by Davis, a blend of fresh triple cream cow and fresh goat milk cheese
~Redwood Hill California Crottin, a goat milk cheese, twice voted Best Farmstead Goat Cheese by the American Cheese Society
~Valley Ford Cheese Company’s Highway 1, a raw Jersey cow milk cheese aged for at least 80 days
Sonoma cheese and cider - paired tasting

Gravenstein apples make a second appearance at the event, as a quenelle of Gravenstein compote. Developed by Davis, the simple-to-make compote (see the recipe below) adds another layer of flavor to the cheeses. taste Highway 1 by itself, for example, and you will notice the almond notes in the cheese. Add the compote and, all of a sudden, the cheese takes on a tinge of sourness. Sip the cider and the tang of fermentation ties the disparate flavors together. It all tastes right. And right at home. 

Start your own exploration of this fresh taste of Sonoma at Davis' Historic Cider and Honest Cheese event. See you there! 

Gravenstein Apple Compote

Yields 2 cups
Created by Sheana Davis, The Epicurean Connection

1 cup grated Gravenstein apples, cored and chopped fine
1/4 cup golden raisins, chopped fine
1/4 cup Gravenstein apple juice
1 tablespoon Sonoma County honey

Blend all ingredients in food processor and chop until fine.  Place in heavy bottom pot and simmer for 15 minutes or until thickened and like syrup.

Remove from heat and allow to cool.  Serve with Sonoma County cheeses, fresh bread and Gravenstein apple cider.