We at Hot Dish love our cheese. We've been known to wander into Beecher's Handmade Cheese or the Spanish Table for fromage on occasion, but when it's time to really spruce up a wine-and-cheese party, you can find us at the DeLaurenti cheese counter, which we lovingly refer to as the Cheese Museum. And it really is like a museum: Israeli feta, English country cheddar, and Spanish manchego are our favorite permanent exhibits. It makes sense, then, for Pike Place Market's leading cheesemonger to organize the Seattle Cheese Festival, scheduled for mid-May of next year. Anne Theisen of DeLaurenti shares owner Pat McCarthy's hope that the store—which also deals in European foodstuffs like olive oil, herring, chocolate, and marinated veggies—will evolve into "more of a presence regarding cheese and cheese education" as a result of the inaugural fest. Groups like the American Cheese Society and Slow Food will help DeLaurenti include as many cheese producers as possible, including farmers from what Theisen calls "smaller niche markets" (Wisconsin and Vermont) as well as up-and-coming California artisans. As it stands, the first day of the fest will be devoted primarily to industry seminars, while the following day will focus on folks outside the cheese biz. Accordingly, free samples will abound, so you can test-drive each cheese—hard or soft, foreign or domestic—on your palate before making a purchase. If gray skies and cold weather have you dreading winter, the bright promise of an upcoming foray into cheese mania—just eight months away!—should help you get through it in one psychological piece. Infinite wasabi When eight of the most popular Japanese restaurants in town combine forces to celebrate both traditional and innovative sushi, seafood-loving Seattleites are bound to pay attention. For the third year in a row, the Japanese American Chamber of Commerce is hosting a Sushi and Sake Fest at the Grand Hyatt Seattle, and many predict that it'll be an early sell-out this year—so if you're interested, you'd better buy tickets soon. Participating restaurants include Yamashiro (recently reviewed in these pages), Ginza Restaurant, Nishino, Rice 'n' Roll, Sushiman, and various others. Each eatery will set up a booth in the Leonesa and Princessa rooms of the hotel. Tickets are $50 per person and include an endless supply of freshly made sushi, with each chef contributing two varieties of sushi (one fish, one vegetarian). Sake will also be served, as will Japanese beer, ice cream, and some kind of tofu dessert. In an effort to promote increased understanding of Japanese-American culture, the fest will also host numerous vendors to encourage fans of all things Nipponese to get an early start on their holiday shopping. Among the merchants scheduled to appear are Japanese calligraphy artists, glass artists, and painters. Also planned: a small silent auction, to take place during the celebration. Just make sure not to overdo the sake before you start bidding! Food and/or beverage news? E-mail Hot Dish at email@example.com.