Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Amy at the American Cheese Society

What a way to spend a birthday--eating my way through 900 cheeses with a few of my favorite co-workers!

My objective as the American Cheese buyer at the American Cheese Society conference this year was to find cheeses that will add a new flair to our counter. What I realized is that Murray's is so cutting edge, that we have representation from so many states, all milk types and from dozens of producers. We are on the cutting edge! For example, we now carry 22 of the winners and more at different times of the year!

However, you can be sure that in the coming weeks, you will see a few new ones that we all agreed were outstanding among the mountains of cheese we tasted.

I was honored to be asked to represent Murray's on a panel called "Effective Packaging." Based on the success of Murray's By Mail, we were selected to represent the retail-to-customer options. The session was given to a standing room only crowd of interested participants.

Dining in Portland was top notch! The staff at Murray's was invited to a dinner sponsored by the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board that included some of the state's established and up-and-coming cheesemakers. It was great to sit down and discuss the cheeses made by these lovely folks.

Next time you are in Portland, be sure to check out Wildwood, a great restaurant that features lots of local specialties like halibut, salmon and hazelnuts and wine of many local varietals. The undulating wood ceilings made conversations flow in a magical way. Have you ever been to the whispering wall outside the Oyster Bar in Grand Central? If not, you absolutely must (and visit Murray's Grand Central while you are there!). This restaurant uses the same mastery of acoustics to carry words right to your ear. Keep an eye out for new cheeses from Wisconsin on Murray's counter.

One of the most interesting and informative sessions I attended was regarding the progress of the Cheese of Choice Coalition.

The CCC was formed when there was a threat that the laws against raw milk cheese might tighten. I recall when I first started working at Murray's in 2002, we had a list of signatures of people who supported CCC's efforts. Your voice of support was heard!

At this point, the law that states that any cheese intended for sale must be aged for 60 days or longer if it is made with raw milk. The CCC has enlisted the expertise of Dr. Catherine Donnelly, professor of Food Microbiology and specialist in food-bourne illnesses to help make a case to the FDA about the value and safety of raw milk cheese aged 60 days or longer. Not surprisingly, bureacracy has slowed progress. Dr. Donnelly's publications will be available to the public in the coming months. Stay tuned, though!

- Amy Sisti
Director, Murray's By Mail