Showing posts with label Cheese Tasting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cheese Tasting. Show all posts

Monday, September 7, 2015

Slow Cheese 2013 ~ Bra Italy

Slow Cheese may be the most tasteful festival on Earth. A cornerstone of the Slow Food movement, this biennial event, next scheduled for September 18-21, 2015, takes place at its headquarters in Bra, Italy. Aside from travel and lodging expenses, this sumptuous celebration is free and open to the public. Slow Cheese 2013 was my last stop on a month long self-guided tour of Italy’s Emilia Romagna and Piedmonte regions and it nearly convinced me to cancel my return flight and take up residence there.

Started in 1997 when Slow Food founder, Carlo Petrini, first brought together a small band of local dairy farmers, attendance is now approaching the 200,000 mark. Hotel accommodation in the region is at a premium and usually booked several years in advance. For that reason and the fact that I love to mingle in local atmosphere, I stayed in a modestly priced Turin hotel about thirty miles from Bra and took the train back and forth. Round trip was 15 Euros and lasted about an hour each way with stops at every village along the route. Since trains run at thirty minute intervals throughout the day, I took breaks to explore these villages on my return trip. Trofarello, Vallongo, Morello, Oselle, Carmagnola, Bandito, and even Alba down the line from Bra, all have a place in my mindscape now.

My first trip to Bra was the day before the festival opened and I recommend doing this if at all possible. It is an opportunity to enjoy this delicate village for its own sake as its ancient cobblestone streets are still relatively empty of outsiders. And it is thrilling to observe the focused intensity that brings this enormous festival together from all parts of the world, often with less than a day of on site construction.

Bra, Italy

Preparation Day

Chaos turns to ecstasy overnight. Mishaps become happy accidents in a way that only the Italians have mastered.  Most notable for me was locating a pairing workshop I purchased as an additional event. As a side note, all the special workshops are affordable and rewarding.

This particular workshop was a high profile vertical tasting of Parmesan cheeses ranging in age from six months to ten years, paired with French champagnes aged three to fifteen years. Not finding the venue on the official Slow Cheese map, I went to a Help tent where the guides, after extensive consultation among themselves, realized that the venue hadn't been included on the map. Va bene! They quickly improvised a sketched addition to my map and I came away with a personal experience of Italian perspective.

Slow Cheese is a distillation of all that is essential to human culture.  Those with the good fortune of being there know what a sensuous treasure that is.

Slow Cheese 2013

Friday, December 12, 2014

Spreading the Curd in Montana

Regan deVictoria and Cheese!
When I suggested Gordon Edgar's book “Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge” as a summer reading selection at the Butte-Silver Bow Public Library, I never imagined it would lead to a small scale artisan cheese festival.

An Overflow Crowd Attended
Regan deVictoria, the library’s programming manager, ran with the suggestion. So on August 16th, Butte hosted the largest celebration of handmade cheese ever held in Montana. More than eighty people (double the expected number) enjoyed nearly four hours of curd related talk, tasting and making in the main lobby of the public library.

Matt Moore ~ Cheesemaking
The event opened with a local home cheesemaker, Matt Moore, demonstrating a mozzarella make. Matt started by saying he became a cheesemaker after reading a book he got at the library, Ricki Carroll’s Home Cheese Making. Matt has been up to his elbows in curd ever since. Some type of cheese sandwich accompanies his toddler son’s every meal.

Close Up of a Tasting Tray
Next the crowd indulged in tasting twenty-two cheeses that I brought from the American Cheese Society Conference sale in Madison, WI.

For many people in the audience, it was the first time they had tasted goat or sheep milk cheeses. Regan herself is now a goat cheese evangelist. With cheese taste and talk still swirling on their tongues, the audience then become absorbed in an hour long conversation, storytelling and QA session with Gordon Edgar.

We connected with Gordon through Skype as he sat in his San Francisco apartment and felt entirely at home with him, as though we were all in the same room.

Live Skype Session with Gordon
Thanks to the effort of many good people, the entire event worked like magic. On a Friday night in an historic hard rock mining town, an admiration for handmade food was reborn.

Twenty-two Handmade Cheeses
Cheese and tech geeks together in the open ferment of ideas in a public library...the perfect recipe for enchantment.

Samples Included a First Place Blue