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April 6, 2012 at 6:00 AM

“C’est Cheese!” Artisan Washington Cheese Festival joins lineup

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Photo: Rolling along with the Calf and Kid cheese shop, one festival sponsor. Ken Lambert/The Seattle Times

It’s National Cheese Month!, No, wait, it’s only National Grilled Cheese Month. That’s still enough excuse to get to the Washington Artisan Cheesemakers Festival scheduled from noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday (April 7) at the Seattle Design Center in Georgetown, 5701 6th Ave. S.

The 21-and-over event (ID required) will feature cheeses and cheesemakers from around Washington state, including soft-ripened, fresh, raw milk, and blue. Organizers hope it’ll be a chance to learn about how to choose, store and pair cheeses as well as an opportunity to nibble samples and expand their dairy horizons. They’ll also have locally produced foods and drinks on hand, from Deluxe Foods jam to Jonboy caramels to Tieton cider and McCrea Cellars syrah. There will be a festival cheese shop (warning: cash only.)

But wait, you might say. Isn’t that cheese festival usually at Pike Place Market? No, you’re thinking of our other cheese celebration, the Seattle Cheese Festival in May, with more than 200 local and international cheeses, plus seminars and cheese demos and a mac and cheese recipe contest.

I asked the Washington Artisan Cheese Festival folks, did we need a second cheese party?

Organizer Lisa Miyashita, a familiar name from the Washington Beer Commission/Brewers

Guild and Cask Festival, said she wantd to do an event that focused on Washington alone.

“I love cheese and learned at some point last year that thre are over 40 cheesemakers in the state of Washington but there’s really nothing happening to showcase them,” she said. With the Seattle Cheese Festival featuring both local, national, and international cheeses, but fewer on the local end, she said she thought the two events would complement each other well.

“We want folks to learn about cheese, and maybe try something they have never tried before and find their new favorites. We also put a spotlight on the cheesemakers themselves as much as on their products,” she said in an email. “We want people to get to know them and what it takes to make those fabulous cheeses (lots of work, passion and dedication!). The cheesemaking industry is growing but most cheesemakers are still small operations and face many challenges that small businesses often have to deal with,” she said.

“It is our ultimate goal to help cheesemakers grow their businesses in a manageable, sustainable way.” The event’s a benefit for the Cascade Harvest Coalition.

Advance tickets (including all cheese samples and three tasting tickets for beer wine, and hard cider) are $35 over here, as well as at Beecher’s and The Calf and Kid. It’s $40 at the door.

Sample all you like, you’ll still have room for the next festival (with kids allowed, no entrance fee) when its 8th annual event comes around May 19-20. Which one sounds better to you? Or will you try them both?

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