I'm convinced I need to be documenting the thrills of mongering on the road . This past weekend I attended the CA artisan cheese festival at Sheraton Sonoma County Petaluma. It was my first time attending. I was participating in the "Ultimate Best Bite Challenge", which takes place on the opening night of the 3 day festival. I never know what to expect at these events. Coming from San Diego it can be difficult getting all the necessary equipment to said locations. My aunt is usually my road dog for these adventures and there is never a dull moment between the two of us.
My Aunt Holly and Atticus at taps in Petaluma, CA
I flew from San Diego to Oakland and stayed in Dublin, CA the day before the Ultimate bite challenge. We planned to drive from Dublin to Petaluma the next day. It was raining and I was having major allergy issues. I wasn't feeling 100% ready for the day ahead of me. On top of this I was missing 3 major components to my bite that were suppose to arrive at my aunts apartment by Thursday night: 1.) A brulee torch 2.) My blue potato chips from Amazon 3.) Onion Jam. I surprisingly stayed pretty calm during the whole thing. I was just participating for fun and was trying not to stress but ultimately I knew my competitive side would creep in and still want to do a really great job. However, with my allergies I was having a hard time breathing so I was more focused on not whizzing, which was a great distraction.
It was getting late in the day and we were needing to get on the road. As we were pulling out of the apartment complex I see the mail man so I decided to get out and ask if he had any packages for my Aunts address. He was a MESS ! he was yelling at me and telling me how busy he is and that it is raining. I just killed him with kindness and kept thanking him. He was going on about how he has sooo many packages in his truck and in the future I just need to WAIT. He opens the truck door and there are literally 5 packages in there !!! and took him 1 min to find the package I was waiting for. LOL. it was worth sitting through his rant to get the Amazon package I was desperately needing. Now only two ingredients missing...
We make our way to Sur la Table for the brulee torch, which I will now be keeping at my aunt house for future Northern Californian events. In fact I have a whole box of material I kept there...I'm learning ya'll!
As we were getting the apples and fresh ingredients at wholefoods, I got news that the jams had arrived from Fed ex at my aunts door step, luckily we were close enough to go back and pick them up! THANK YOU, CHEESUS! Additionally we had more shenanigans during the weekend from our hotel overbooking rooms to a dead car battery and a flight to catch! ( note: I made it to my flight just in time!)
Now it was time to hit the road and get to Petaluma.
I made it to the location just in time to start assembling my bites. I think almost everyone else participating had helpers or a team. I was alone, literally. They put me in the upstairs kitchen ( alone, which was kind of nice in some ways) and I began to bust out these bites. I realized I might have taken on a task that might be impossible to finish in time. Luckily, towards the end of my time in the kitchen a volunteer , Jack, came up to help me!!! Thank you JACK, I seriously could not have finished with out your help.
My booth at California Artisan Cheese Festival in Petaluma, CA
Greg Drobot of Face Rock Cremaery.
At 5:30pm it was time to get out to my station. I quickly realized I needed to vamp up my station. I was across from Nugget market booth and they had beautiful greenery, Lemons and fancy boards and I had Nothing! I took out any extra cheese, fruit, jars of jams I had and tried to make my space look a quarter as beautiful as their station. I took out my monger mold and milk sign, stickers and cards and placed my bites on the board. I was exhausted from the days adventures but once people started flowing in I was AWAKE. I love interacting with the crowd. I was a one woman show! I like explaining my bite and asking where people are from and who they are. I love connecting with the cheese lovers. Like these cutie pies below!
One thing I love about these festivals and events are seeing how creative everyone is and their passion for food and cheese. I wish I had time to taste everyone's bite and chat!
One of my favorite things from the event:
One of the festival volunteers, a cute little old lady, became my BIGGEST fan. She kept showering me with compliments and saying how wonderful I am, how great I am at interacting with the people stopping by my booth, how sweet I am. I mean I need to hire her to go with me everywhere. However, she kept calling me "Jennifer" (LOL!) I didn't have it in my heart to correct her. In fact, a couple of people called me "Jennifer" at the event. I'm uses to it. Jessica and Jennifer always get mixed up, but it made me laugh.
I was totally beat by the end of the night but every time I do something new there are unexpected obstacles. I'm happy that I did it, adjusted to the situation and most importantly LEARNED from it. I did not win anything but it is not why I participated. I wanted to meet more people in the cheese community and say hello to the ones I already know. I wanted to support the California Cheese Guild and CA cheese makers and I wanted to represent Southern California. I'm not sure if there were any other representative from Southern California present at the event, but I wanted to show that we are here and love and know cheese too! I'm a Californian born and raised. I spent the first part of my life in the Bay area and now I'm spending my second part of my life in San Diego so I feel very connected to both.
The "Artisan Cheese Tasting and Marketplace" scheduled for the last day of the festival was BANANAs! It was a sold out event and the energy in the tents were ELECTRIC. It was wonderful to see so many people come out and mingle in the name of Cheese and cheese related products. The seminars I attended were informative and pleasant and FLEW by! I wish I could have attended them all.
Ultimately, I would love to bring events like the California Artisan Cheese Festival to San Diego. I know it is difficult for cheese makers to leave but even if knowledgeable mongers could rep a booth with samples and information I think the San Diego community would LOVE it. Throw in some micro brew beers, Temecula and Paso Robles wine and some Prager brother Bread and we are ready to GO!!!! The "Cheese" wheels in my head are already turning on what a San Diego Cheese festival would be like. =)