The Festival of Cheese, one of just two events in the American Cheese Society's 25th annual conference and cheese competition that’s open to the public, takes place 5:30-9 PM Saturday at the Hilton Chicago (720 S. Michigan). It features tastings of more than 1,000 artisan and specialty cheeses from producers all over North America—among them Capriole from Indiana, Everona Dairy from Virginia, Redwood Hill Farm from California, Beecher’s Handmade Cheese from Washington, and Rogue Creamery from Oregon—plus wine, beer, and specialty foods. $85.
The American Cheese Society’s cheese sale from 10 AM-1 PM Sunday at Kendall College (900 N. North Branch) will have offerings from all the producers at Saturday’s festival at what it promises will be “rock-bottom prices.”
Prefer a little less cheese and a little more beer? Rock Bottom Brewery (1 W. Grand) hosts Curds and Ale II from 2:30-5:30 PM on Sunday, with 20 American artisan cheeses (many purchased at the sale) and 20 American craft beers from breweries including Three Floyds, Two Brothers, and Dogfish Head. The focus will be on pairings of clothbound cheddars (in the tradition of English farmhouse cheddar) with British-inspired bitters and ales and stinky cheeses with wild-fermented Belgian-style beers. $35.
Pastoral Artisan Cheese's Loop location (53 E. Lake) is hosting special events to coincide with the ACS's conference. On Thursday at 3:30 PM San Francisco Chronicle cheese columnist Janet Fletcher, a CIA grad, will be signing copies of her latest book, Cheese and Wine: A Guide to Selecting, Pairing, and Enjoying; cheese and wine selections from the book will be served. On Friday at 3:30 PM sample some cow's and goat's milk cheeses from Ann Arbor's Zingerman's Creamery; Zingerman's cheese maker John Loomis will attend. Both events are free.
Slow Food Chicago hosts a four-course dinner 6 PM Monday at Uncommon Ground (1401 W. Devon) featuring fruit from Seedling fruit farm in South Haven, Michigan; each course is paired with a wine or spirit. Chilled melon soup with mint creme fraiche, for instance, comes with a shot of melon-infused North Shore vodka, while a terrine of red raspberry, black raspberry, and honey-vanilla bean gelato with peach puree is accompanied by a house-made honey-peach cordial fizz. There’ll also be a tour of the cafe’s rooftop organic garden and jazz by the Ted Sirota Trio. $65.
Evanston's Va Pensiero (1566 Oak Ave.) and the Land Connection host their Summer Abundance Dinner Saturday at 6:30 PM, featuring fresh produce from the organic and sustainable Henry's Farm, in central Illinois. The vegetarian three-course meal features a caramelized onion tart with Tallegio cheese, roasted garlic-hot pepper crostini, and a grilled vegetable napoleon with candied garlic and spicy beet puree; the cost includes wine service and an hors d'oeuvres reception. Henry Brockman, the farm's owner, will be selling produce at the dinner; his sister, Land Connection founder Terra Brockman, will discuss the group's efforts to promote sustainable farming in Illinois. Reservations required; 847-475-7779. $80.
In Fine Spirits (5420 N. Clark) hosts a second Return of the Green Fairy tasting seminar, its celebration of absinthe's recent legalization, on Tuesday from 7:30-9pm. Sonja Kassebaum of North Shore Distillery will be back to discuss the mystique surrounding absinthe as well as its history and uses. Three types of absinthe--North Shore's Sirene Absinthe Verte, Kübler Swiss Absinthe Superieure, and Saint George Spirits' Absinthe Verte--and absinthe-based cocktails will be paired with tastings. $36.