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Finger Lakes Cheese Festival

Early on a warm Saturday morning in July, I set out on a journey into the countryside to the Sunset View Creamery in Odessa, NY for the fifth anniversary of the Finger Lakes Cheese Festival. This would be my first trip out to the celebration, and I was thrilled to see what was in store. I came across the festival when doing research on local cheese producers in New York State for my business. The event was being put on by the Finger Lakes Cheese Alliance. I had felt like I struck gold. Venturing out to attend the festival was going to be the perfect chance to connect with people and find the key elements to building my first package for my catering company. To accomplish this, I was prepared to sample everything and experience the soul and connect with people and find the key elements for building my first package for my catering essence of the finger lakes through the foods created by the hands of its artisans.

I made the most of the day by packing myself up for the adventure with curiosity, note paper, and my husband as my note taker. He was along as company, to share in the fun and to help me write. With my disability writing gets to be too much for me to keep up with and I can get a lot of pain in my hands very fast and, if you can imagine writing with one finger, it makes it hard to have the neatest handwriting. So, a right-hand man or woman is a must. I also brought with me; business cards, a few snacks for the car and an insulated tote with a cooler pack, so that I could be ready to bring home cheeses, wines and any other special treats that I might find.

My game plan was simple. First I would sign up for a few classes that I could take throughout the day. The wine, beer, and cheese pairing seminars were at the top of my list and then it would be on to excite my senses with food, drink, and music. In my usual style, I took a walk through of the whole event getting a lay of the land and an idea of the types of cheeses and products available that day. I do this to help me get organized and make the most of the time that I have by being able to focus my attentions on just want I want to do. That way I get to experience everything that I want to.

With each stop, I enjoyed chatting with farmers and producers about how their products, stories of their beginnings and the passion and love for their craft. I tasted all of the delicious flavors of the region from the buttery alpine style cheeses, the fresh, bright tang of the goats’ milk cheeses, sharp and bold cheddar's, to the toothsome and salty traditional Italian style cheeses. With each sample, I excitedly added another cheese to my bag to take home.

When it was time to attend the wine, beer and cheese pairings classes I did not hesitate to get a seat front and center. So not to miss a word about the nuances of in flavors, aromas, and textures. In each class, there were six different combinations with all of the selections being available to purchase during the event. One by one I inhaled the aroma and let the flavor of the beer or wine roll over my tongue, noting the characteristics when enjoyed on its own. Then, allowing the cheese to melt over my pallet, I took another sip from my cup letting the two melt together. With each sample, I could begin to experience just how foods that are grown and crafted from the same soil complement each other for a perfect pairing.

My time at the festival went by in a flash, and my bag filled with wines, brews, cheese and a pocket filled with business cards from the new relationships that I was forming. I had accomplished what I set out to do. To better understand the foods’ connection to the land. To experience the very essence of the Finger Lakes through it’s food and people and find just the right elements to begin creating my signature Experience New York catering package for my company and making work a pleasure.

A few of my favorite combinations from the classes were;

Wagner Brewing Summer Sail Hefeweizen paired with the Crosswinds Farm Creamery Butternut Swiss. Stever Hill Vineyards Old Barn Red with the Shtayburne Farm Italian Herb Jack cheese. Blue Toad ROC Hard Amber, Sparkling Hard Cider with Heaven Scent Farm Devilish Jack. Americana Vineyards Americana Blush with Finger Lakes Dexter Creamery LLC. Kefir cheese. Hector Wine Company Pinot Blanc with Side Hill Acres Dairy Goat Farm Italian Herb Chevre.

When you truly Live, Eat and Love well every day, wonderful things can happen.

Wishing You Joy, from the Fingerless Kitchen ~ Bryony Grealish Syracuse, NY


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