We got to prepare for the annual Festival Foods Cheesefest by spending time with one of the best cheesemakers in the world based right here in Wisconsin. The expert craftsmen at BelGioioso showed us around their facility in Pulaski where they make their award winning American Grana Extra Aged Parmesan Cheese, one of the most popular selections among our artisan cheeses. Just walking into the facility, the smell alone makes you want to find a cutting board, grab some crackers and a uncork a lovely bottle of wine. The nutty oak-y smell of the Parmesan is absolutely intoxicating.
These master cheesemakers talk about their trade with the utmost respect both for their profession as well as their commitment to making their product perfect for your dinner table. Master cheesemaker Gianni Toffolon refers to each of the heavy wheels not as cheese, but as his babies. That's because they're organic; they're changing all the time as they age on wooden racks. And then Gianni showed us how the experts listen to the cheese for imperfections.
Of course Festival Foods wants to select the very best for our annual cheesefest. Deli Supervisor Michael Losiniecki looked over the racks of cheese and talked with Gianni about the lengthy cheesemaking process. And Gianni noted, "We don't go by time, we go by 'Is the cheese ready to come out?' ... You don't want to be rough with it. This is all about being gentle."
That gentleness appears to be working. BelGioioso's American Grana Extra Aged Parmesan Cheese took First Place -- Best of Class in last year's World Championship Cheese Contest. It also was named First Place Best of Class in this year's U.S. Championship Cheese Contest. It doesn't just taste good, it's super fresh. The cheese is picked up daily from BelGioioso facilities across the state, making it super fresh when it gets to our stores.
Festival Foods' Cheesefest runs from Thursday, Nov. 5, to Wednesday, Nov. 11, in our Janesville, Fort Atkinson, Mount Pleasant, Kenosha and Marshfield stores. The rest of our locations will start celebrating all things cheese on Sunday, Nov. 8, all the way through Saturday, Nov. 14. And what is any Festival Foods' 'fest' without cheese samplings? Definitely not a fest we like! Cheese samples will be available between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. daily.