When Dee asked if I would accept any awards Harley Farms might win at the American Cheese Society awards ceremony I was honored. I mean sure, geographically I was probably the person at the conference closest to Pescadero, but Harley Farms cheeses are some of my favorite local varieties and Dee Harley is one of my favorite cheese people anywhere.
But it was even a bigger deal than I thought. The ACS awards are moving up in the world. This year, they were in the 'historic' Merle Reskin Theater in downtown Chicago. Stage lighting, big video screen, hundreds of cheese fans, can the Food Network televising this event be far behind?
I had barely gotten into my seat when the Harley Farms name was first called and I got to step onto the stage from which stars such as Peter Falk, Henry Fonda, Uta Hagen, Katharine Hepburn, Dustin Hoffman, Lena Horne, James Earl Jones, Vivien Leigh, Myrna Loy, Joe Mantegna, Geraldine Page, Tyrone Power, Basil Rathbone, Jessica Tandy and Studs Terkel performed.
Third place for Fresh, Unripened Goat Cheese for the Harley Ricotta. Bright lights. Applause. Cheers from cheesemakers, other cheesemongers and cheese fans. I was proud to take the stage for Dee but sad she couldn't be there. Then before I could get settled in another award was announced: Third Place for Goat Feta.
That's when I started feeling sheepish. I don't work for Harley; I sell cheese in San Francisco, but everyone was slapping my back and giving me congratulations. I felt like a fraud! Dee, the other Harley folks, and the goats did all the work! I didn't want to get up to accept the next award but my travel companion smacked my head and ordered me to go up.
Third Place in the Marinated Farmstead Goat Cheese category for the Chevre in Oil. I thought to myself, 'My work here must be close to done. How many awards can Dee win?'
The biggest came next. In the Open Farmstead Category, against cheese of any milk, the Monet won first place against all other flavor-added cheeses. That's right, not only is it one of the prettiest cheeses on the market, it was judged as the best for any cheesemaker who uses only milk from their own animals. This is incredibly prestigious in our cheese world. I tried to call Dee from the theater so she could hear the applause but I couldn't get any reception. Sorry, Dee.
I started to get into it with the next award. First Place for Harley Fromage Blanc in the Cultured Goat Cheese category! I got to stand up on stage with two of the best goat cheese people in the country: Jennifer Bice of Redwood Hill and Mary Keehn of Cypress Grove. I pumped my fist and yelled 'Whoo-hoo! California sweep! That wouldn't have sounded the same with Dee's cute little English accent.
What a night for Harley Farms. With over 1100 cheeses entered from all over the US and Canada, little Harley Farms won: First Place: Monet First Place: Fromage Blanc Third Place: Goat Feta Third Place: Chevre in Oil Third Place:Ricotta That's like a ribbon for every 25 goats!