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Monday, July 28, 2008

The Festival of Cheese

Have you ever witnessed people at a conference that just seems totally dull? Like, you are walking through a big hotel, and a crowd of people walk buy with name tags that say "10th Annual Office Supply Conference," or "Accounting World 2008."

I am lucky when it comes to conferences. For work each year, I get to attend the annual conference of the International Association of Culinary Professionals and BlogHer. What I love about these conferences is that not only are the sessions interesting, but the people are interesting too. I get to meet and network with people who fascinate me.

About 10 years ago (oy, I'm old), I was a cheese buyer at a small gourmet market/produce store in Ann Arbor. I love cheese, but I was NOT good at this job. I am just too stubborn, and I insisted on buying really expensive artisanal cheeses, when most of my customers just wanted the simple stuff. The end result was a lot of cheese going bad in our back cooler and me moving back to a career at an interactive agency.

BUT, during my short tenure at the store, I did manage to go to the annual conference of the American Cheese Society. Wow, was that a great conference. We made cheese, we talked about cheese, we ate a LOT of cheese. It was just awesome. I haven't managed to make it back to that conference since, but this year, since it was held in Chicago, I was able to make it to the big Saturday night shindig!

Michael came with, of course, but so did Megen (my beloved sister-in-law) and my father-in-law (aka Poppy). It was a good group for the event. Michael was able to instantly scout out the availability of Matilda (one of my favorite beers). Poppy was kind of like Homer Simpson at an all-you-can-eat buffet. He made it to every single table, and would report back on the highlights. He was especially fond of the specialty tables along the edges of the room (the pates, the salamis, etc.).

Megen is, quite simply, my partner-in-crime. She and I ate as much as we could, but I tell you, it was tough. There were well over 1,000 types of cheeses, and after an hour or so, we started to feel a bit ill. We probably should have been a bit more strategic in our eating, but we were troopers. Towards the end of the evening, we came across the magically-named Table of Aged Goat Cheese, and I almost cried when I realized I was too full to try any of it.  Highlights of the night included the Butter Table (goat milk butter is a beautiful thing) and a lovely conversation with the famous Paula Lambert.

After we waddled out of the festival, we went to our local pub for some more beer:

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