Cheesemongers’ Duel: Tasty Petaluma Showdown

Cuisine pros will take an assigned cheese and make a bite for the ages.

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BUILD THE PERFECT BITE: Many of us are mad for cooking shows, especially those where a chef is handed a single thing -- an ingredient, a vegetable, a kitchen implement -- and told to make it sing, somehow. They're tasked with creating the perfect drink, the perfect casserole, the perfectly sliced carrot, and they've got to do it before our admiring eyes. To see such a thing in person is fun, and perhaps a little intense, and the notion that it might involve cheese, Everybody's Favorite Food Pretty Much (tm), only ups the intrigue. California's Artisan Cheese Festival, which will piquant-up Petaluma from March 18 through 20, is going to open the creamy proceedings on Friday night with a Cheesemongers' Duel. If you think that experts who know their blues and Bries are going to go slicer to slicer, all to pursue the creation of The Best Bite, well, you'd be entirely correct. And if you're full of hope that you can, for the price of entry, watch it all go down, without a screen in the middle or a remote control, you'd be right again. The duel is set to be a...

"LIGHT-HEARTED YET ENERGETIC COMPETITION"... built around creating the perfect cheesy bite. It'll need to be created with a Golden State cheese -- no surprise there -- and "additional ingredients" may be used to enhance the tasty tidbit. But cheese assignments won't be sprung upon the cheesemongers then and there; they'll have had three weeks to think about what they're going to put together in front of the cheese-obsessed crowd. Who's up on the stage? Diane's Sweet Heat, Rustic Bakery, Friend in Cheeses, and a number of other pros'll be wielding the slice-able blocks and wheels.

ARTISAN CHEESE TASTING AND MARKETPLACE: If you're hanging around past Friday, best make it to Sunday, when this mega taster of a to-do goes under the big top at the Sheraton Sonoma County. Can you snack upon 90 different cheeses at once? Well, maybe not, but trying a dozen or two may lead you to a fresh find.

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