Tis the season of fall festivals and family fun. If you are not at the coast enjoying the NC Seafood Festival in Morehead City this weekend, I’ve got a recommendation for you. Plan to take in a great little one-day festival on Sunday Oct 8, 2023. It’s the Carolina Mountain Cheese Festival aka the WNC Cheesefest. Fall in love with all the cheesy goodness, and lots of other local offerings. The festival takes place from 1 – 5 pm at Oak and Grist Distillery, 1556 Grovestone Road in Black Mountain, NC
Here’s What you Need to Know to attend the 2023 WNC Cheesefest
The annual Carolina Mountain Cheese Fest is a fundraiser to support the WNC Cheese Trail. The Cheese Trail supports and promotes artisan and farmstead cheeses made in Western North Carolina
The WNC Cheesefest takes place, rain or shine. General Admission Tickets will be available at the door and are $25 each. Cheeses and other great local food products and beverages will also be available for tasting and purchase. Plan to bring a market bag or two and maybe a cooler for the car. Be prepared to bring some of the cheesy-deliciousness home. I know you’ll enjoy it all. Not just for the day on Sunday; but in the days and weeks ahead, as well.
Celebrating Cheeses from the WNC Cheese Trail
Last month, it was my pleasure to host the GotToBeNC cooking stage at the NC Mountain State Fair. One of our demos focused on cooking with cheeses from the WNC Cheese Trail. I was delighted to share the stage with Carolyn Kinneen. Carolyn is the Executive Director of the WNC Cheese Trail.
Carolyn brought a variety of local cheeses with her for us to use in the demo. Thefolks in the photo above, all fair-goers who opted to spend some time with us onstage as guests at our Chef’s Table, were happy to be there to taste and try.
Proud to Feature These WNC Cheesefest cheeses on the GotToBeNC Cooking Stage
- Aged Asiago from: Blue Ridge Mountain Creamery, Fairview NC. Made using a traditional Italian recipe and technique, this cow’s milk cheese is cave-aged for 10 months. It is full flavored and sharp and perfect for a cheese board or to add to any cheese sauce. Use it to “coat the dishes” as I did and make the crusty edges in the cheese souffle recipe I demo’d onstage and served to our Chef’s Table guests. You’ll find the recipe so you can make it at home, at the end of this post.
- Mild and Creamy Chevre from: Round Mountain Creamery, Black Mountain NC. This fresh goat’s milk cheese is a great addition to a wide range of dishes. It has a gentle and creamy flavor profile, the result of a slow milk pasteurization process. It’s perfect in the puff pastry cheese and pesto crescent I made in my onstage cooking demo. I shared in this cheese appetizer post last holiday season. Instead of shaping the puff pastry into a Christmas Tree, this time of year, I shaped it into a crescent as shown in this photo. use this Chevre in place of the cream cheese; and then, consider this recipe a go to for all of your fall entertaining.
But that’s not all
Carolyn also brought these cheeses for us to cook with on the NC Mountain State Fair cooking stage:
- Magnolia Cheese from: Looking Glass Creamery, Columbus NC. Magnolia is Looking Glass Creamery’s take on a traditional gouda cheese. I’ve written about Looking Glass before and love all they do. Magnolia is an aged cow’s milk cheese with a rich and buttery flavor profile. I suggest you use it as the featured cheese in the recipe pictured above. These are “Cheese Dreams”, a super easy open-faced sandwich. The recipe is one of the first I ever learned to cook. The original version comes from the Betty Crocker Boys and Girl’s Cookbook and calls for bacon and tomato on an English muffin. Then, top the with a slice or two of cheese, and run under the broiler until the cheese is melted and starts to turn golden brown. In place of the bacon, here, I kept it meatless this time used Miso Master Chickpea Miso as a spread on the muffin. Then, top it with the tomato and cheese with delicious results.
- Ali Rae’s Pimento – Ali Rae’s products have become stars at many WNC farmers markets. Each market week owner and operator Ali Perpal creates new flavors outside of her standard line by collaborating with other local farms and producers. On our cooking stage, Chef Reyaña Radcliff of Your Braisen Chef in Charlotte, used Ali Rae’s Pimento to make her cheesy Tidewater Rice Middlins. Serve them, as Reyaña did with marinated and grilled Shipley Beef Farm’s strip steak. Check out my cheesy rice grits recipe here. And then, stay tuned for Reyaña’s complete recipe in a follow-up post.
Ashford Cheddar from English Farmstead Dairy in Marion, NC
Asheford Cheddar offers a rich flavor profile that is perfect for sandwiches, cheese boards, or just to eat by itself. This cheese-making family, has been farming on their parcel of land in Marion, NC for 175 years. And, if you are looking, they sell cheese curds, too. I used this aged cheese to make my mornay sauce for the cheese souffle that follows. It’s a game changer!
Heidi’s Easy-Peasy Cheese Souffle
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour Or, make your recipe Gluten Free by using Tidewater Grain Company's Heirloom Rice Flour, available at TidewaterGrain.com
- 1 cup Whole Milk
- 1 cup grated cheese In the recipe I prepared on the cooking stage I grated the Ashford Cheddar from English Farmstead Dairy to use in the recipe. I suggest you do the same, or use a combo of your favorites from the WNC Cheese Trail. Soft cheeses like pimento or chevre work well, too.
- Your Favorite Finely Grated Aged Cheese I used the Aged Asiago from Blue Ridge Mountain Creamery
- 6 Local Eggs
- Heidi's Hot Pepper Spice Blend to taste – see the notes section for the "HowTo" here.
- salt to taste
Butter one large oval casserole dish or make individual souffles and use 6-8 small ramekins. First, butter the dish or each ramekin well, along the bottom and up the sides. Then dust with finely grated aged cheese; gently shake out any excess. Or keep it in. Is too much cheese ever a bad thing?
If you are using the ramekins, place them side by side in a large roasting pan, or on a large baking sheet.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in asaucepan. Add flour; whisk 1 minute to form a roux.. Add milk and whisk until mixture is thick and smooth. Now you have what is known as a bechamel sauce or basic white sauce in your saucepan. This is the first step in making the base of your souffle.
Lower the heat on the pan and slowly add in the grated or soft cheese. Whisk until all the cheese melted and the sauce is smooth. Your bechamel sauce is now what is known as a mornay or cheese sauce.
Take the pan off of the heat and whisk in egg yolks to enrich the mornay. Season with , salt and pepper to taste. Pour the mornay into a large mixing bowl and allow the sauce to cool. a bit
While the mornay is cooling, Beat the egg whites in a clean dry bowl with a hand or stand mixer. Beat them till the egg whites form stiff peaks..
Then, Gently fold whites into soufflé base.
Pro Tips Here: Scoop out 1/4 of the egg whites at a time. At first, really stir the first addition of egg whites into the mornay to lighten the sauce.
Then, take another quarter of the egg whites and now, gently fold the mornay up and over the egg whites. Do not mix until it is totally blended. For best results, you'll want to be able to see some little peices of the egg whites in the mix.
Repeat the folding process for the remainder of the egg whites.
Pour the fluffy cheese mix into the prepard dish or divide it among the prepared ramekins,
Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven until soufflés are slightly puffed and golden on top, about 15-20 minutes.
Serve immediately for the most dramatic effect, but if the souffles sit and fall a bit, don't sweat it – they are still equally delicious and full of cheesey goodness
How to Make Heidi’s Hot Pepper Blend – I use equal amounts of tellicherry, pink reunion and lampong peppercorns. Add coriander seeds for a slightly citrusy edge. The grind them all up in a coffee grinder. Note – this recipe won’t work in a table top grinder as the pink reunion peppercorns are too soft. Stick with the coffee grinder for best results. When you are done, just grind up a tablespoon or so of fresh coffee beans. Once the coffee is ground, toss it in the compost bin. Your coffee grinder will be free of any peppery residue and your ready for coffee tomorrow morning.
– Heidi Billotto