If your love of cheese easily exceeds “connoisseur” status, you’re lucky to be in Chester County. The region has its own cheese alliance — the Chester County Cheese Artisans – and you’re able to sample creamy, cheesy pleasures right where they are produced.
Better yet, some restaurateurs focus on always being “farm-fresh and farm-forward,” and this includes Restaurant Alba’s chef Sean Weinberg. Last month, Weinberg hosted his first artisan cheese dinner. Inviting guests to enjoy six courses that showcased a variety of cheeses made from all types of milk (goat, sheep, cow), the chef/owner and his wife, Kelly, crafted an innovative experience for everyone.
Patrons were also educated by the dairy farmers that were on hand: Birchrun Hills Farm’s Sue and Ron Miller; Amazing Acres Goat Dairy’s Debbie Mikulak and Fred Bloom; Highland Farm’s Martha & Verry Pisano; Yellow Springs Farm’s Al and Catherine Renzi; and Shellbark Hollow Farm’s Peter Demchur.
Each course featured a different locally produced cheese, as well as a briefing on how it was made. “All of these cheeses are good on their own,” Weinberg said as he introduced his meal to his Sunday evening guests. “But to make all of them savory is a challenge.”
As guests enjoyed the antipasto course, he displayed a trio of Shellbark Hollow’s Goat Cheese with Asian pear and oak-smoked salmon; caramelized kabocha squash topped with Yellow Springs Farm’s nutcracker and spiced pumpkin seeds; and Birchrun Hills’ blue cheese panada with roasted beets, arugula and quince vinaigrette. Each plate pinpointed perfect pairings of hometown cheeses with locally sourced ingredients. The Amazing Acres Sea Smoke display — with wood-roasted, locally foraged mushrooms — could possibly have been the best of the dinner.
The fourth course, of Yellow Springs’ Bliss and Highland Farm’s Sheep’s Milk Blue with sweet-and-sour figs, was light and decadent, and ideal before the dessert. The finale was Amazing Acres’ Pumpkin Fromagina with a rich pound cake topped with homemade apricot jam and clouds of cream. The Sunday supper was a satisfying symphony of sweet and savory, with the best of Chester County flavors.
Restaurant Alba regularly offers themed meals. Visit www.restaurantalba.com to save your spot at the next food-savvy feast. Click here to view a slideshow of the entire evening.