Much Ado About Cheese- A North Carolina Cheese Festival
First and foremost, I should apologize for the delay in posting this review. With the holidays on the horizon and new restaurants popping up all over the place, I’ve been so busy trying out new places that I’ve barely had time to write. That being said, here is my account of the Durham Cheese Festival.
A couple of Sundays ago, Durham hosted a cheese fest at the beautiful Cotton Room on Main St. I was so excited in the days leading up to the event that I forgot to check and see what the event space looked like and how many people were scheduled to show up. Boy, I wish I had paid closer attention.
The building was gorgeous, inside and out. It’s an old warehouse, huge windows, lots of light…perfect for a crowd of people. Outside, there were three of my favorite food trucks waiting to serve us a pre-cheese lunch of…more cheese! We decided to eat a grilled cheese sandwich from American Meltdown. I, of course, ordered the Pigs and Figs which was delicious. And a great base for the other delightful items.
The other options were Only Burger and Porchetta. I haven’t ever tried either of them, but with all the cheese we thought we were about to enjoy, a whole burger seemed over the top and nothing on the Porchetta menu jumped out as much as creamy goat cheese, luscious figs and decadent speck all rolled into one delicious sandwich.
Inside the Cotton Room we found complete and utter chaos. There were some lines for wine and cheese, but it was nearly impossible to tell where one ended and the other began. On top of that, people were just reaching over those of us who decided to wait in line to grab the cheese. No one stopped them. But, there wasn’t any real “rule” that stated you needed to wait in line, so after a while everyone just went rogue and started grabbing at plates of cheese.
We visited several of the cheese tables, not all. By the time we finished waiting in the 40 minute line for the first piece of cheese, I was nearly done. And the bloody mary I ordered for $9.00 was not something I could finish. It tasted more like cocktail sauce due to the thickness. They served it without ice, with a slice of bacon and two olives that sunk down to the bottom. I finished about 1/2 then threw it away.
The first of the tables we visited was called Grafton Village. The sharp cheddar was nice and salty with a hint of dryness. The other cheeses were very forgettable, especially considering that we waited over 45 minutes for what turned out to be 3 small squares of cheese. I asked the guy serving the cheese if they knew whether or not we were supposed to wait in line or just grab in-between people and he basically said he didn’t care and that he figured it was pretty much every man for himself.
Chapel Hill creamery was next to the Grafton booth, which meant either another super long wait, or pushing our way through a jumbled up mess. We waited. As we approached, we noticed that they had crackers sitting next to the soft cheese and knives to spread with. So, after all that waiting, we had to push through people in order to spread crumbly messy cheese on crackers. It was such a mess, but the cheeses were good – there were three options – one sweet and two savory. I enjoyed them.
The next cheese we sampled was from Paradox Farms Creamery. These were nice and smooth, very creamy cheeses. The Cheese Louise had a nice jalapeño flavor, but wasn’t as bold as I would have hoped. I think the serving situation here was much better than some of the others, where the people in line were expected to spread the cheese on the crackers with all the shoving and pushing around. They had the cheese already spread on the crackers. Helped move things around a bit quicker.
Prodigal Farms was another vendor at the event. Their cheeses were very good, but the portions were small. The blue was my favorite, however I thought it was going to be a little stronger than it was.
My favorite cheese vendor of the event was Goat Lady Cheese. Not only were the goat lady staff super friendly, they also were spreading cheese and handing out the crackers to guests as they walked up.
All said and done, I probably won’t go back next year. Unless I hear that they have gotten their act together and created a better system. I did hear a few people say that this was exactly what had happened last year. I was extremely overwhelmed. So much so, that I almost didn’t stay after I got my first cheese. On top of that, the cheeses that were there are all available at your local Whole Foods. Oh, and the vendors I considered purchasing cheese from did not accept credit cards. Bummer.