|Worst picture ever taken of Elena Hovagimian!|
There are very few regional cheese competitions held in this country for one very good reason-it’s a LOT of hard work!
That’s why it’s amazing to me that the Agriculture Department of the Eastern States Exposition (The Big E) took this on five years ago and made it an annual event. The Director, Elena Hovagimian has accomplished this with humor and grace every time, including the contest which was judged last week.
Entries from all over New England were sent to the fairground (in Agawam, MA). There were 130 cheeses this year, sorted into categories and judged (on their own merits-not against each other). The winning cheeses will be displayed at the Cheese Shoppe and Garden during the 17 days of the Big E. This year, that will be from September 12-28th.
|The Agriculture office in the Mallory Complex|
The winners from the first 4 years are posted on the Big E website (click here). The winners from this year will be posted soon, but I can tell you this- the Best of Show went to Spring Brook Farm’s Tarentaise,
an Alpine cheese made in copper vats. It’s an amazing cheese from an amazing place –
Spring Brook Farm in Reading, Vermont is owned by the Farms For City Kids Foundation. Every cent made by the sale of Tarentaise goes to the foundation.
I volunteered to help with the judging this year. It was an exciting experience and I highly recommend it. I was assigned the job of steward for one of the tables of judges. My job was to make sure the judges had palette refreshers and drinks, and to clean the cutting boards, cutting knives and triers between cheeses. I took a few pictures during the day so you could see the event, which is not open to the public:
|Mary Pouliot from Table & Vine had sorted the cheeses the day before (an important job) and she was back at the judging in case there were issues about categories.|
|Organizers conferred about the placement of the tables.|
|Name tags and aprons were ready for the volunteers.|
|In the back room volunteers prepared to cut and wrap the cheeses.|
|Elena instructed the volunteers before the judging started.|
|Bonnie Burr, Assistant Dairy Superintendent|
|Meg Hall, volunteer coordinator|
|One of many tables set up for the judges|
|Timekeeper – Jay Moeck|
|Technical Judge- John Miller, Guest Judge- James Wilson, Aesthetic Judge- Kate Feuer|
|Technical Judge- Tripp Nichols, Aesthetic Judge- Brian Wasik|
|Technical Judge- Sarah Spira, Guest Judge- Marc Tansey, Aesthetic Judge- Brad Jones|
|Betsy Booth, “yakking it up” with the judges|
|Coffee was available outside and a lovely lunch was served there, as well.|
|Things were hectic in the back room.|
|The organizers kept an eye on things.|
|At the end of the day, the winners in each of the categories were brought out so the judges could pick the Best of Show.|
|The votes were tallied by Elena and the winners were announced.|