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American Cheese Society 29th annual conference and competition in Raleigh features locals, includes cheese sampling and sale; inspires cheese festivities at Raleigh Downtown Farmers Market and A Southern Season (Aug. 1-5)

Cheese takes over the Triangle 

The American Cheese Society (cheesesociety.org) will hold its 29th annual conference and competition Aug. 1–4 at the Raleigh Convention Center. More than 800 people are expected to attend the event, which includes panel discussions and tastings as well as a cheese competition. Several companies from the Triangle will participate in the presentations and tastings, including Maximilian Kast of Fearrington House Restaurant, Lem Butler of Counter Culture Coffee and Jay Pierce of Lucky 32.

Although geared toward professionals in the cheese industry, the conference includes two events for which attendance by the general public is encouraged.

Between 7 and 9:30 p.m. on Aug. 4, ACS will host its Festival of Cheese to reveal winners from the conference's competition. More than 1,700 artisan, farmstead and specialty cheeses will be available for sampling. "You're never going to see so many varieties of cheese in one room," says Rebecca Sherman, marketing and communications manger for ACS.

The festival isn't solely dedicated to cheese, however. There will plenty of pairings, too—from craft beer and cured meats to chutney and crackers. The event will also have a cash bar. Tickets to the festival—available on the ACS website or at the event—are $55 per person and include unlimited samples.

The following day, 11 a.m.–2 p.m., dozens of cheeses from the festival will be for sale. "It's a great chance to pick up some great cheeses at a great price," Sherman says. Most cheese will be $5 per pound, and cash is preferred.

If you can't make it to the official ACS events, several spots around the Triangle are hosting cheese festivities to coincide with the conference. As ACS attendees arrive on Aug. 1, the Raleigh Downtown Farmers Market (godowntownraleigh.com/farmers-market) will host "Cheese Please!" between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Local cheesemakers Calico Farmstead Cheese, Chapel Hill Creamery, Goat Lady Dairy, Hillsborough Cheese Company and Holly Grove Farm will be on hand. In addition, buku, Busy Bee Cafe, Capital Club 16, Gravy, Market Restaurant and Zely & Ritz will participate in a Grilled Cheese Cook Off. For $2, marketgoers can sample each grilled cheese entry and complete a ballot to vote for the best.

Cheese activities continue in Chapel Hill at A Southern Season (southernseason.com). The store's resident cheesemonger, Alexander Kast, has scheduled a number of cheesemakers to visit and offer free samples. Aug. 3 will feature Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery (2–4 p.m.), Sequatchie Cove Farm and Consider Bardwell Farm (both 3–5 p.m.). On Aug. 4 you'll find samples from Meadow Creek Dairy, Uplands Farm, Pleasant Ridge and Jasper Hill (3–5 p.m.).

Lastly, on Aug. 3, the store will present several cheese and wine pairings as part of its Fridays Uncorked series. The 5–8 p.m. event will celebrate Kast, who was selected to serve as one of two official cheesemongers for the American Cheese Society's conference. Tickets to the tasting are $15 and can be purchased at the store's website.

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