The almost-most wonderful time of year is when the Oregon Cheese Festival rolls around. This Rogue Valley event — which kicked off with a Cheese Makers Dinner in Ashland — attracts many of Oregon’s best food and beverage artisans and farmers. My Oregon emissary Robin attended this year’s event, and here’s what really caught her palate:
- Zella Hazelnuts out of Bend, OR was sampling delicious dry roasted hazelnuts made by generations of hazelnut growers. An interesting tidbit: The farmers switched from calling the nuts filberts to hazelnuts when they realized that no one knew what filberts were. (Here’s what the Oregon Hazelnut Marketing Board has to say about that.)
- Zorba’s Chocolates out of Ashland, OR uses raw, unroasted cacao beans in their chocolate making to be as close to “fresh off the tree” as possible. Their chocolate was intense dark, and the espresso and plain ganache truffles struck me as delicious.
- Aside from local favorite Rogue Creamery, some interesting “new to me” cheese makers I look forward to exploring more in the future included Tumalo Farms from Bend; La Mariposa cows milk cheese made by an Argentinian transplant in Albany, OR; Portland Creamery; Briar Rose Creamery from Dundee, OR.
- I also had a wonderful locally made lavender jelly from L’Islandoux made by a delightful French woman.
- And to top it all of, fantastically fluffy marshmallows from Marshmallow Heaven from Rogue River.
See who else was there — a long list of fabulous food worth pursuing next year!