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Artisan Cheese hangover

She’s press, she’s not just weird,’ apologized my friend as I was hunched awkwardly over a plate of cheese stuffed pork, trying to get an elusive shot for my personal pork photo collection. The chef backed away slowly. I’m not sure I blamed her.

Food is a passion for many. But at this weekend’s First Annual Artisan Cheese Festival in Petaluma, it was a downright obsession, as hundreds (including me) stuffed themselves silly with the stinkiest, runniest, most insanely delightful cheeses from SoCo and beyond. Okay, yes, we’re an odd bunch. But come on. It’s the cheese.

I just might need a few days to recover. Hold the chevre.

Top 10 moments from the weekend:

1. Most hilariously domestic demonstration: Nancy Oakes (chef at Boulevard) and Bruce Aidells (the former Sausage King) trying to get through Sunday’s cooking demonstration. We know who wears the chef’s toque in this relationship. And she doesn’t have a beard.

2. Most klepto moment: Stealing a bottle of McEvoy Ranch olive oil from my dinner table.

3. Best use of goat’s milk (not in cheese): Bodega Goat Cheese’s Natilla. A creamy, molasses dessert that had us swooning. For $4!

4. Best entrée at the gala dinner: Midnight Moon poached lobster, crab cake Oscar, lemongrass orange ginger vinaigrette and celery root mash with Keller Estate Chardonnay. For 150. Chef Jesss Llapitan of SF’s Palace Hotel wowed the crowd. So, uh, can we get the recipe for those crab cakes?

5. Most starstruck moment II: Meeting the cowgirls, Sue Conley and Peggy Smith, of Cowgirl Creamery. Don’t miss their limited edition Pierce Pt, made from Straus Family whole milk, washed in muscato wine and rolled in dried herbs from the Tomales Bay coastal region.

6. Favorite sommelier: Chris Sawyer, who discussed Petaluma Gap wines, is our absolute wine hero.

7. Wines that wowed: Keller Estate’s Oro de Plato, Black Kite’s Pinot Noirs, Mount Tamalpais Vineyards Merlot

8. Best right-place, right-time moment: Having Nancy Oakes give us a pound of St. George fonduta. Oh my god.

9. Best non-California cheese: Mt. Townsend Seastack–A hand-ladled cheese rolled in vegetable ash and sea salt from Washington state.

10. Cheesiest MC: Joey Altman. Need we say more.

See you next year!

(photos, clockwise from top left: Gary Danko’s cheese cart, the Danko cheese tasting, Sommelier Chris Sawyer, Petaluma360.com Meloni Courtway holding the fonduta, Gary Danko, strolling accordianist, Bruce Aidells next to wife, Nancy Oakes, the lobster from the Gala Dinner)

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