The Scoop Series: DNC SchmeeNC—The American Cheese Society 25th Anniversary Conference, with Forward Foods’ Steve “Wampus” Reynolds
Certainly Steve Reynolds is a solid fixture in my old hometown, cheered on in high school for various ingenious & occasionally illicit stunts detailed here, then for his winning turn on Jeopardy, & now for Forward Foods, the gourmet shop he runs with his charming wife Suzy Thompson, which is as fine as any I’ve frequented in Boston or Denver, boasting a luscious cheese selection & gastronomic curios galore, like
When Steve told me he had just returned from the American Cheese Society’s annual conference, I pressured him to dish until he caved:
What’s all this about? I assume there’s a tasting floor and also seminars and so forth? Do people dress up like dancing cheeses?
The ACS was in Chicago this year (last year, Burlington). It’s attended by cheesemakers, cheese & specialty-food wholesalers, cheese retailers, consultants, dairy scientists, a bunch of people who say they’re writers and others I’m forgetting. There are a couple of seminars a day and they’re aimed at different people—I wasn’t the target for “Demystifying Rennet and Coagulants.” [Other tempting topics: “Understanding Butter Flavor”; “Sell It or Smell It: Extending the Life of a Bloomy Soft Ripened Cheese.”]
Before the first seminars, different groups—Wisconsin cheesemakers, California cheese groups, wholesalers—laid out a spread for people. No one dressed up like a dancing cheese, pervert. Some folks did wear cow-spotted overalls and hard hats when they fashioned the Chicago skyline out of cheese. The Sears Tower was probably six feet tall. It looked to be all cheddar and jack. You don’t want a ten-grand Roquefort Carles sculpture.
If you ever want to feel more grossly full than you’ve ever felt in your life, go to the Festival of Cheese—1000 different cheeses laid out with beer & wine & all the condiments. Ugh. It’s sushi for me for awhile.
What was the coolest seminar you attended?
There was one seminar where Chicago chefs made courses with American artisanal cheeses (side note: HUGE circular debates about the word “artisanal” abounded). We ate double macaroons with a triple crème Fleur de Teche from Bittersweet Plantation, a savory pannacotta with Humboldt Fog & a melted Hudson Valley Camembert on brioche. They all RAWKED.
What was the weirdest or dumbest thing you encountered there?
Cranberry-chipotle flavored cheese. Enough said.
If you could only eat 1 kind of cheese for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
WHY DO YOU PRESENT THIS NIGHTMARE!?! I guess I would do a gouda or cheddar– something versatile, but I would miss the blues fo sho. You know how when you have a perfect bite at a great restaurant that makes you close your eyes? So many cheeses deliver that.