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An actual CHEESE Festival? Why yes there is! Escondido (north county San Diego) produces the Wedge Cheese Festival, a glorious event of cheesy goodness paired with beer and wine. I heard about it after attending the Escondido Chocolate Festival in February and knew we'd have to check it out as well!
This year's event was on October 25 between 1-5pm and tickets were $35 presale or $40 at the door. It included food as well as 10 alcohol samplings, depending on your age of course. There's also a DD ticket which is a little cheaper.
This event is sponsored by Real California Milk. When you think about it, that makes complete sense since you can't have typical cheese without milk! There was even a real cow there! Adorable!
Obviously there were LOTS of cheeses to try at this festival.
The Sierra Nevada Garlic Herb Jack was creamy with a noticable garlic taste. A great first sampler.
We also tried the traditional Sierra Nevada Jack cheese, which was also nice.
The Central Coast Creamery’s Big Rock Blue Cheese was as good as I expected bleu cheese to be.
The Distefan Mozzarella came in a bowl. By itself was a little bland, but I think we are used to having it with olive oil or other things.
I thought the Bravo Farms Chipotle Cheddar could have had a little more bite since it was labeled chipotle cheddar.
We missed out on Mike's Beer cheese but they did sub Central Coast Creamery Holy Cow Swiss. I'm not always a fan of swiss but I loved the creamy strong flavor.
The Bravo Farms White Cheddar was nice.
The Marin French Brie, triple cream was indeed creamy and also mild. I love brie!
The Nicasio San Geronimo Wash Rind Organic cheese had quite a strong taste even though it was creamy. It stuck to my tongue afterwards and the words "Stinky Cheese" popped into my head. Then I found out that it really was that! Thank goodness those strawberry finishers helped with the sticky taste left in my mouth. Perhaps not a taste for everyone...
The Point Reyes Toma cheese was also creamy and tasty.
The Bearflag Montery dry jack cheese reminded me of gouda cheese.
The Bellwether Farms Carmody Cheese is a drier, crumblier type of cheese so it was more at the bottom of my list.
The participating restaurants got to choose their own sampler for the event, with cheese inspiration!
Vinz Wine Bar tried something different: wasabi goat cheese over kiwi with sweet peruvian pepper. It was interesting to say the least.
Escogelato had Apricot Goat Cheese gelato. I asked them if this was specially created for the festival but they said it was one of their signature flavors! The goat cheese base and in-house apricot jam made me think of cheesecake without being cheesecake… super light.
O'Sullivan's Irish Pub & Restaurant served shepherds pie, same as the Escondido Chocolate Festival. Luckily it was as good as before!
A Delight of France served their almond pastry which has a noticeable almond taste with a soft creamy like inside and a flakey crust.
The California Avocado Grill had a yummy cheese dip. You could taste a light jalapeno infusion without being overly spicy. I asked about the ingredients which include sharp cheddar, avocado, mayonnaise and roasted red pepper. Time to find a recipe!
La Tapatia Mexican Restaurant served quesadillas. The slightly sweet creamy melted oxaca cheese was perfect with the soft fresh tortilla and salsa. The margaritas were excellent with the perfect blend of sweet and sour and tequila.
Joe's Italian was one of my favorite samples: a delicious manicotti. Even though we got the last of the batch, it was still excellent! The cheese was flavorful with the pop of the fresh tomatoes. I hope they add it to their menu! It was also 100% vegetarian.
The Grand Tea Room served dainty desserts just right for a ... tea party! I liked the dessert with chocolate on top and the pumpkin cake on the right.
Intertwined Bistro and Wine had a chutney cheese cup. The flavors exploded in your mouth. The phyllo cup was crispy and the sweetness and spice of the fruit chutney and the mild subtle cheese worked inside.
Plan 9 Alehouse had their house cured smoked bacon, very juicy hot brown sugar with some other yum. They even provided house made pickle for vegetarians (quite thoughtful). We asked where the “cheese influence.” They figured everyone would have plenty of cheese elsewhere so they wanted to be different. I am down with that!
Beer and Wine
I think I'm starting to get a little better with beer but I'm a work in progress! As for wine, I'm a lover of sweet but my palate is still growing. I was delighted to taste plenty of samples at this event.
I think my favorites were the Robert Hall wines: I found two wines that I like, their Viognier Chardonnay and their Pino flavor, which were a little bit of fruity without being sweet. At the end, I came back to use the last of my drink tickets there.
This was the locally brewed IPA at Plan 9 Alehouse. Nice citrus notes and nice smell and not hoppy. Double IPA.
I don’t usually comment too much on the alcohols but wow, the Fume Blanc wine from BK Sellers was dry and completely bland.
Lost Abby’s Lost and Found Ale and the Mad River beers were alright.
Offbeat Brewery had their 49 Double IPA - Collab, a special release with u.k., not too dry and bitter aftertaste but maltier than some.
Iron Fist Brewing Co. sampled their Hired Hand beer.
They had Stone Brewery Go To IPA, Levitation and Coffee Milk Stout. The stout almost like a coffee taste without being too strong.
Here's Roadrunner Ridge & Winery with the PMS (red rhone blend) and Cing Blanc (white rhone blend). I thought the white had more flavor than some of the other wines I had tried.
These Hangar 24 Craft Brewery beer bottles were very pretty with their orchard theme. We noticed you got particulates from the bottom of the bottle, ie extra flavor. The first two had that beer taste afterwards but the Orange Wheat was pretty good.
The Bernardo Winery burgandy red wine was nice.
Prankster has strong beer carbonation but was not overly powerful. I'm not one for bubbily though.
The Vesper Winery bottles had an earthy flavor. It was also a little better than some of the others.
Blue-Merle Winery and Coyote Oaks Vineyards
Cordiano Winery. I preferred the red while Dennis preferred the white.
It's the Anniversary beer from Iron Fist Brewery, created for a homebrew competition. I remember raspberry and chocolate notes and not hoppy. For a beer, I thought this was pretty good.
Stehleon Vinyards. The rusty horizon red ale was toasty in the middle and dry at the end.
Aloha Maui Brewing Co! We were full at this point so a picture will suffice for us "non-beer drinkers."
At the end, a food coma was already hitting us. This festival is nice for introducing you to different varieties of gourmet cheese as well as some local Escondido restaurants but it is a little more expensive than some of the other food tasting events we've been to. Still, the neighborhood around here has some restaurant gems that we want to come back to explore. Alcohol is just a bonus!
Disclaimer: we were provided tickets for this event but the opinions are strictly our own.