Reasons to Kick Yourself #1: Pastoral Artisanal Producer Festival

Yearly free event showcases artisan cheese, bread, beer, wine, and charcuterie.

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By David Hammond

Writing about food events is difficult.

It's hard to write about food events before the fact, particularly if you haven't been there before, because all you can do is reiterate the promotional information you've received, which is bogus newswriting at its worst.

It's hard to write about food events after the fact because, as the event is past, all the reader can do is kick him/herself for missing it.

In today and tomorrow's posts, I've taken the latter route. Sorry.

The Pastoral Artisanal Producer Festival, now in its third year, is held at the French Market (131 N. Clinton). Organized by Greg O'Neill and the Pastoral cheese shops, the purpose of this yearly free event is to showcase the producers of artisan cheese, bread, beer, wine, charcuterie, confections, and other food stuffs.

As part of this event, which took place last Saturday, April 27, I was asked to judge this year's participants based on a number of criteria, including Most Likely to Become a Trend, Most Innovative Product and Best-in-Show. Here were my choices.

The product most likely to become a trend is Uncle John's Hard Cider. Cider is, actually, already trending, but John's version was not at all sweet, containing simply Michigan apples with no sugar added. The crisp tartness of this beverage brings out the best in cheese, and I could see it as a perfect complement to fish dishes. Cider is giving beer and wine some competition as the beverage of choice with meals. Cider drinks like a wine, and although the apple seems to yield somewhat less complexity than the grape, it is a hugely refreshing and a fine addition to any beverage list.

The most innovative product, at least according to me, was Stu's Bloody Mary Mix, which contains no alcohol or tomato juice: it's just an deeply piquant mixer to which you add your booze and juice. It's shelf-stable and delicious. The secret? Sour pickle juice.

Best-in-Show, for me, were the Capriole Goat Cheeses. There were a lot of good goat cheeses at this event, but cheesemaker Judy Schad of Indiana turns out such lush and varied versions that I had to give her and her product line the nod. Her cheeses are available at the Pastoral cheese shopes -- as well as our local Marion Street Cheese Market -- and my favorite of her collection probably remains the Wabash Cannonball – a classic of modern American cheese making.

So that's what you missed. Sorry! Next year, I'll give you a heads-up and then link to this post so that you'll remember why you want to go.

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