A festival for the love of cheeses

Posted 10/28/10

Cheese — derived from the Latin “caseus” — is as ubiquitous as any food in the human experience. Be it fondue, fettuccini alfredo or the …

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A festival for the love of cheeses


Cheese — derived from the Latin “caseus” — is as ubiquitous as any food in the human experience. Be it fondue, fettuccini alfredo or the simple marriage of cheese and crackers, the world has had a love affair with cheese for centuries.

Historians are not certain where the intentional coagulation of milk protein first began. Its earliest depictions can be found on ancient Egyptian tomb murals.

Experts think the invention likely happened by accident when primitive man stored milk in a container made of a cow’s stomach and sometime later stumbled on the resulting, but unexpected taste treat.

Whatever its origins, cheese has through the centuries become among the most versatile food staples of the human experience — touching everything from fine French cuisine to pizza and cheeseburgers.

Cheese in all its glories will be celebrated Nov. 6-7 at the Colorado Cheese Festival held at at the Embassy Suites DTC, 10250 E. Costilla Ave. in Centennial.

Jackie Rebideau, head cheese at Fromage to Yours, a Centennial artisan cheese shop, has organized the second annual event as a celebration of all things cheesy.

Colorado Community Newspapers asked Rebideau, the City of Centennial’s 2009 Entrepreneur of the Year, for an overview of the upcoming festival and her musings on cheese.

CCN: Why does Colorado need a festival devoted to cheese?

Rebideau: I came up with it because there are cheese festivals in other states and we didn’t have anything like it here. People don’t even know that we have cheese makers in Colorado. I’m bringing in cheese makers from out of state as well.

CCN: What does one actually do at a cheese festival?

Rebideau: With general admission, you come in and sample over 100 different cheeses. In addition to that, there is a mozzarella-making demonstration. If you want to do the all-inclusive package, it includes three breakout sessions talking about different pairings with cheeses and being in the audience for the grilled cheese challenge.

CCN: Do festival-goers get to sample the grilled cheese sandwich entries?

Rebideau: You don’t necessarily sample the grilled cheese. All chefs are making some small hors d’oeuvres for everybody. But the winner from last year, [former Littleton’s Opus chef] Michael Long, made a $17 grilled cheese and he wasn’t going to serve that to 200 people.

CCN: That has to be some kind of grilled cheese sandwich for $17.

Rebideau: The dungeness crab knocked it over the top.

CCN: What’s the best cheese for fondue?

Rebideau: It depends on the fondue. If you’re doing a beer base, a sharp cheddar is fabulous. You should do a mix of cheese, though. If you’re doing a wine base, you need a Swiss.

CCN: What’s best for a grilled cheese sandwich?

Rebideau: Brie and pesto, or camembert.

CCN: How about for macaroni and cheese?

Rebideau: I like to do three quarters of regular Monterey Jack with one quarter of Habanero Jack, which is really spicy and has a kick to it. But you can’t do 100 percent Habanero.

CCN: Cheese is part and parcel of the diet. Why?

Rebideau: It’s versatile and there are so many different types of cheese. If there was just one type of cheese, I think we’d get sick of it. My buddies at Grafton Village Cheese have their 1, 2, 3 and 4-year-old cheddars. They sometimes make a 5-year-old cheddar. All of them are so very different from each other within the same cheese company and within the same cheese. A Vermont cheddar is completely different from a Wisconsin cheddar. I could go on forever.

CCN: I found some aged cheese in the back of my fridge. How old is too old?

Rebideau: When they age it in a cheese company, it’s not the same as having it sit in your fridge. They vacuum-seal them. Once a month, they go in and test certain ones to see if they’re ready. If not, they’ll-vacuum-seal it and test it again in a month.

There are other cheeses you wouldn’t want to watch being made. They can look ugly if they’re not in these vacuum-sealed bags — like cheese in the back of your fridge. You don’t want to know what it looks like prior to leaving the factory.

CCN: Cheese may be the greatest threat to veganism. When I talk to former vegans, they always say they couldn’t live without cheese.

Rebideau: The reason I’m not vegan is cheese. I could give up anything else. Daniel Asher, the chef at Root Down restaurant in the Highlands, was in the grilled cheese challenge last year. He was a vegan. One day, he just needed cheese. So he went to Whole Foods and bought three pounds of cheese. He sat in his car in the parking lot and just devoured it.

CCN: Ever find a good vegan cheese?

Rebideau: No.

CCN: Do you think you ever will?

Rebideau: No.

CCN: You specialize in vegetarian cheese. Isn’t all cheese vegetarian?

Rebideau: Vegetarian cheese is not made from what’s called veal rennet. In traditional cheese, after calves are slaughtered, there’s an enzyme taken from the stomach of the calf. That’s what’s put in the milk to create the curds and whey. The curds are what’s pressed and made into cheese. There’s actually a rennet now made out of vegetables.

CCN: What’s the worst cheese you’ve ever had?

Rebideau: I’m going to upset my Wisconsin friends, but it was an aged brick. Basically, only people in Wisconsin eat it. That’s another one that you wouldn’t want to even look at. It’s not pretty even when it’s out of the cheese company. Just the smell of it — eah!

CCN: A recent study found eating cheese can improve one’s sleep. Any thoughts?

Rebideau: I don’t sleep that well [laughs]. But honestly, I don’t eat all that much cheese because I have to sample it it at work all the time.

CCN: How’s your cholesterol?

Rebideau: Well, I have to admit I haven’t had it checked since I opened my cheese shop. Prior to that, it was wonderful because I’m a strict vegetarian. But I have had two customers come in whose doctors both told them to cut back on cheese. They were eating a lot of cheese so it’s not great financially for me. Then again, dead customers aren’t really good for me either [laughs].

Show me the whey

The second annual Colorado Cheese Festival will be held Nov. 6-7 at Embassy Suites DTC, 10250 E. Costilla Ave. in Centennial.

General Admission is $25 per day or $40 for both days. Two-day all-inclusive tickets are available for $100.

For tickets or more information, visit cocheesefest.com.


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