Sunday, May 20, 2007

Seattle Cheese Festival

On Saturday Steven and I revisited Pike Place Market with camera, water bottle, and crackers in tow for the third annual Seattle Cheese Festival. The festival showcases over 200 varieties of international and domestic artisanal cheeses. In addition there are wine tastings, cooking demonstrations, seminars, and scavenger hunts for the kids. Best of all, cheese sampling and most of the activities (with the exception of the seminars) are free! I was afraid it would rain since the weather report predicted AM showers, but it turned out to be a beautiful day so I couldn’t have been happier.

I never found out what this big cheese was.

We wanted to get there before 10 to see the cheese race where local restaurant owners roll cheese down the cobblestone streets of the market but we ran a little late and just missed it. Maybe next year.

The tables were lined with cheese after cheese; it was a plethora of cheese as far as the eye could see. There were imported cheeses from all over Europe including France, England, Ireland, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, and domestic ones from Washington, Oregon, California, Utah, and Montana. There were cheeses made from cow’s milk, sheep’s milk, and goat’s milk and cheese of all shapes, sizes, colors, smells, and textures, from nutty hard cheeses, smooth soft cheeses, to stinky runny cheese.

Do you dare try the Stilton?

How about the intimidating Roquefort?

Off the top of my head, I recall we tried about 2 or 3 Stiltons, some Roquefort after rallying up our courage, 4 delicious Goudas, an amazing smoked Cheddar, cave-aged Cheddar with lots of crystals, an odd Fontina that left a bitter aftertaste, Comte, Asiago, 3 or 4 goat cheeses, delicious Irish cheese that reminded us of Parmesan, Camembert, and dozens more that I can’t remember. I discovered I’m not the biggest fan of goat cheese. We loved one of the Goudas so we purchased some along with some blue cheese.

Eventually, the little cubes of cheese add up! After sampling over 40 varieties of cheese, Steven and I were full of cheese, crackers, and delicious local bread. I don’t know how we would manage to sample all 200 plus varieties.

The festival is over for this year but I think it will be back next year. It's a lot of cheese and a lot of fun! Cheese sampling goes from 10 am to 5pm but it's best to get there early because the lines get longer and longer. There are sometimes crackers and breads available with the cheese but it's a good idea to bring some crackers with you so you can clear your palate occasionally (you never know when you'll taste a really strong cheese). Also bring a water bottle because you might get thirsty.

As we were leaving, we met an adorable African Gray Parrot, Phineas, and his trainer. Phineas was so sweet and intelligent (about the intelligence of a 7 year old his trainer says). If you point your finger at him and say "Bang!" he swings back and dangles from the trainer's finger. Phineas also did a handstand and back sommersault for us and calmly rested on my palm while I petted his head.

And a trip to Pike Place wouldn't be complete without getting some more Daily Dozen Doughnuts. See more photos here (no smell-o-vision I'm afraid).

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