America’s love affair with cheese is a hallmark of its culture. With so many different varieties available, there’s likely a cheese for everybody out there, barring a medical barrier.
Many of those cheeses will be on display at the Finger Lakes Cheese Festival in Odessa, New York, which will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, July 27. The event is hosted at the Sunset View Creamery, and is sponsored by the Finger Lakes Cheese Alliance.
The festival first developed in 2011, when the alliance felt spurred to shine a spotlight on themselves and the work they were doing. While it bounced around to different farms for the first few years, it has settled at Sunset View, and has grown since its inaugural year. Carmella Hoffman, a cheesemaker herself and the owner of Sunset View, said they expect to attract around 8,000 people this year, and normally do meet that number. Despite the size of the event, Hoffman said
“It is a big event,” Hoffman said. “We bring in 70 or so vendors. [...] All of them are either homemade, home-produced or homegrown. We don’t allow any group sales.”
The event aims to promote and feature the very best in Finger Lakes cheeses, and only sells cheeses produced by members of the Finger Lakes Cheese Alliance, ensuring the products are locally created and owned. Hoffman said the festival gives cheesemakers a chance to try out new recipes or just make their own traditional cheeses. Three of the members of the 10-member cheese alliance make goat cheese, while the remaining seven use the conventional cow’s milk.
She makes cheddar, havarti, mozzarella and cheese curds. Hoffman said her favorites rotate regularly, but that right now she is favoring the smoked havarti.
Outside of cheese, activities include a wide variety of foods and a petting zoo. You can also watch a baby calf be born at the birthing center. Plus, of course, once someone has reached the fully legal age, enjoying a nice cheese with a perfectly paired wine, beer or cider is one of life’s classiest joys that also involves booze. As well as their other offerings, the FLX Cheese Festival boasts customized pairings also, not to mention cooking instructionals for properly utilizing different kinds of cheeses in one’s meal preparation. There are other seminars so that attendees can pair food and drink well among themselves. Hoffman said they have regional experts in to teach other topics, such as the history of dairy cheese in New York State.
New aspects this year will include a refined version of what the festival featured last year, which was two different stages featuring music all throughout the festival. After testing it out last year, in a manner of speaking, Hoffman said they’re excited to make it happen again this year with more experience.
“We’ve got two stages with bands on them this year, we had it last year but we didn’t really advertise it that much because we weren’t sure how we were going to make out,” Hoffman said. “This year we definitely know what we’re doing. Two stages with music that runs all day, from 10-5 we have two bands playing, a total of six bands.”