Autumn Leaves Cheese Festival

Did everyone survive Monday? I did, and was glad to come home after a nice elliptical/Group Power session and feast on a classic dad-grilled meal and watch the last ep of SNL. Did anyone else see it? Reviews I’ve read are hatin’ on Ben Stiller and saying he can’t top Melissa McCarthy’s AKA the original Sookie (none of this True Blood business, GG all the way!), but I actually thought her hosting job was completely lackluster and I barely laughed during her episode, whereas last night my dad and I were absolutely cracking up. And ZOOLANDER made an appearance? How can you not love it?

I also love how in last night’s class, I increased my weights during both the triceps and shoulder tracks. And I’m not dying nearly as much in the bicep track (definitely my toughest muscle group to improve in)! The day I increase the weight on that one will be an exciting day indeed, but I think I’ll make that my next Group Power mini-goal. Do you set mini-goals for yourself when you work out? I find them more fun because you usually conquer them sooner 🙂

I have been seriously slacking on both food and fashion photos, and I swear I will post them soon, but for now I’d love to recap the Autumn Leaves Cheese Festival that I ended this past Sunday at Beltane Farms.

I arrived and made a beeline for the wine tasting table (priorities, people) hosted by Priam Vineyards.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that most of the wines were different than the ones I sampled at my first tasting there! I love how I’m expanding into whites lately too. My very favorite wine that I tried was the Salmon River Red, and the woman running the booth even gave me an extra pour. I think she could tell I would appreciate it! The wines that were being sampled were of a nice variety and no two wines I tasted were alike. That is just the way I prefer my tastings!

Next I headed to Savor, LLC of Waterbury’s table to try some of the most unique cookie flavors I’ve ever heard of! The seasonal smoked red onion contained, you guessed it, smoked red onions, which were a great contrast of flavors with the sweet, shortbread-like cookie. They were also selling lavendar and roasted leek varieties! Their website has a black olive flavor – now that I’ve gotta try. I’m an olive freak!

There was also a nutty fudge from Harbor Candy Shop in Maine out for sampling that was so tasty. Definitely not too rich like you often see with fudge.

Two thumbs up to Savor! Their packaging was adorable too – little things like that make a huge difference.

Next it was time for something salty – Appalachian Naturals sauces and spreads on tortilla chips!

Pictured above is the cilantro lime vinaigrette, which was a bit hard to sample since the oil kept sliding off the spoon before it could get onto my chip (I didn’t want to dip). Still, what I tasted was very good. I also am a cilantro freak, so anything cilantro I am bound to love. There were other dressings (ginger miso, which tasted exactly like miso soup) as well as some awesome chipotle honey mustard and a sundried tomato horseradish (definitely my favorite).

Now time for something sweet from Peace Tree Desserts! These guys are all about organic, sustainable food, as well as making what I can honestly call the best caramel sauce I have ever tasted. It’s made with goat’s milk and has a Mexican dulce de leche (founder Robyn Ead’s words) vibe to it. The particular type of caramel is called cajeta caramel and Peace Tree makes applejack, curry, rosemary, cinnamon, and lemon flavors.

Isn’t Robyn’s apron beyond cute? Her friend made it for her!

Next I spoke with a nice man, Ron Pinto of Winding Drive Jams & Jellies. I was pleased to hear that he gets a good portion of his ingredients from farms in my town! He and his wife make marmalade, jams, and jellies by hand. I sampled the Pear Eau de Vie jam (Bartlett pears and French pear brandy). It was delicious! If only it had been made with Bosc pears, my one true love…well, after pickles and cilantro and olives.

Other notable flavors I’d love to try next time I see Ron at an event: Strawberry Pinot Noir, Roasted Garlic (AH another love) & Caramelized Onion, and Mint Rosemary! I have a feeling the Roasted Garlic & Caramelized Onion could be a future purchase for use on the many meats we are always grilling.

I tried some of the best feta (seriously, I need to stop proclaiming I love things in this post, but oh how I love feta) at the booth run by Taylor Farm Cheese of Vermont.

Holy cow (see photo on the packaging) there is nothing like fresh-made cheese. After this event I am thoroughly convinced that I can never eat non-local cheese again.

Aren’t they pretty? Almost too pretty to unwrap – but too tasty NOT to. I encountered a cheese-tease when I sampled Vermont Ayr, a Crawford Family Farm creation. There was none available to buy, hence the tease comment, but I think I could have eaten an entire block. With some Ritz crackers, please and thank you.

I was pleasantly surprised to see Phyllis of Mariah’s Chow Chow Relish again! My mom and I fell in love with her Sweet & Spicy relish after I purchased some at the Coventry Farmer’s Market, and this time I sampled the Sweet & Hot. It was the perfect amount of hot, and I’m pretty sensitive to spicy foods. Phyllis was kind enough to give me a jar to take home and enjoy – thank you Phyllis! I can’t wait to open it once we finish the first jar!

Thanks Mariah’s Relish for the image!

Though I’ve already tried Beltane Farms fresh chevre (I had some of the chive flavor on my english muffin this morning in fact), I was excited to try many new varieties of chevre and other cheeses. The garlic herb chevre, paired with crackers, was awesome.

Another reason I love these types of events, besides tasting all the food and supporting the local businesses, is getting to expand my own palate! Danse de la lune (French ripened cheese with brie rind), Harvest Moon (hard, nutty cheese), and vespers (French ripened cheese) are all cheeses I never tried before and realized I love. I also sampled the ricotta, but was not a huge fan (never have been though).

Artisan Food Store of Southbury, CT helped put on this event, but they also were selling their cheeses and had a generous number of samples to hand out – I must have tried almost 10 varieties at their booth! I bought some cheese and was reminded that their next event, the CT Cheese & Wine Festival, is in just a couple of weeks – woo hoo! More cheese and wine!

I stopped by The Farmer’s Cow to pick up a free carton of fresh skim. They also were giving out apple cider (not my thing) and selling farm-fresh ice cream for just $1! Most people that came by seemed to be choosing the coffee flavor – can’t blame them.

Ladies of Lebanon (no photo – sorry!) offered me some of their chive cottage cheese. It was delicious, but I actually prefer 1% cottage cheese to the 4% because due to the lower fat content, it is easier for me to dip my veggie chips into it (veggie chips and chive cottage cheese are one of my favorite snacks). I was lucky enough to purchase their last fresh greek yogurt. I had some last night for dessert and it was very decadent, but very good. Just a little bit was enough to satisfy me!

I unintentionally saved what ended up being my favorite part of the festival for last. Rachel LaPorte, a chef and teacher at Windham Tech High School, whipped up goat cheese and swiss chard crepes for us! I know this is a sin, but I’ve never had a sweet OR savory crepe. The reason I know this is a sin is because after trying this thing, I was in disbelief. It was AMAZING! The swiss chard was sauteed and so fresh. She used only ingredients, with flour being the exception, that had come from Beltane Farm. I could taste the difference!

Now I’m craving one all over again, and it doesn’t help that I’ve been snacky all day (thank you strength training). I may try to recreate something similar to this at home, since a co-worker was kind enough to give me some swiss chard from his garden yesterday. If that isn’t fate I don’t know what is. Not sure if I could master a crepe, but maybe an omelette would be a good breakfast option for this weekend. We’ll see!

Don’t worry, that is not what I paid for that cheese!

Thank you to Artisan Foods and Beltane Farm for putting on such an awesome event!

What’s your favorite cheese? What’s the best crepe combo you’ve ever had?

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