The Sonoma Valley Cheese Conference takes place Sunday, Feb. 23, through Friday, Feb. 28, at various locations
in Sonoma. The public is invited to
the cheese tasting on Sunday,
Feb. 23 at Ramekins Culinary Center. 450 W. Spain St., Sonoma. $55. 1pm. 707.935.7960.
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The professor, who was adamantly opposed to raw milk, unknowingly consumed some butter made from it. Upon being informed of this, tempers flared and punches were thrown. Since then, however, there has not been as much violence, but there has been love. "We've definitely seen friendships form, relationships form," says Davis. "We've seen people who've met [at the conference] and now are married."
The conference can have immediate impacts for local producers. When the Leveroni family's farm was threatened by eminent domain for a hospital in 2006, "the entire conference went to speak on their behalf at the city council meeting," says Davis. "It was pretty fun," she says, adding that Joe Leveroni came back in subsequent years due to popular demand to update his saga.
This year, the conference heads back to its roots at the Sonoma Valley Inn. About 125 invitations were sent out for the intimate event, though the public is welcome to an opening reception and cheese tasting (with mac 'n' cheese, sake and beer available, too) on Sunday, Feb. 23, at Ramekins Culinary Center. Keynote speakers this year include Judy and Charlie Creighton, owners of a landmark cheese shop in San Francisco, discussing the evolution of the artisan cheese movement with an official from the USDA and two cheese producers from California and Vermont. The conference also features tours, marketing consultations and presentations on leadership skills.
Davis not only runs the Epicurean Connection, mentors new businesses and makes sure the cheese conference goes smoothly, but she's also an active participant in the conference. Last year, she was so busy planning the event that her own entry in the mac 'n' cheese competition got misplaced. "How do you lose two hotel pans of mac 'n' cheese?" she asks.
Hopefully, this year's event will include her own entry, as well as a few fun shenanigans. "There's the cheese rolling," she says, "with a ramp and everything. That's the punk-rock skateboarder in me."