Showing posts with label Pairing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pairing. 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

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Cheese School of San Francisco ~ Basic Primer

Cheese School of San Francisco Tasting Classroom
Cheese School of San Francisco Tasting Classroom
Founded in 2006 by Sara Vivenzio, the Cheese School of San Francisco is the only independent institution of its kind in the nation. Located at 2155 Powell Street between North Beach and Fisherman’s Wharf, the atmosphere in the school is absolutely charming.

I took the Basic Cheese Primer class taught by Judy Creighton. Judy serves as a board member for the California Artisan Cheese Guild and has a deep history in cheese appreciation. In addition to her consulting and educational work, she is also the cheese buyer at Lavender Ridge Cheese Market in Murphys, CA. Having spent many years as a French teacher, Judy’s classroom manner is engaging and the information is easily digested.
Cheese School of San Franciso Basic Primer Setting
Basic Primer Place Setting

Cheeses were arranged on individual tasting plates in a clockwise fashion. The first four were chosen as an introduction to the basic “types” from the creamy Fromage Blanc which is ready for market within minutes of being made to long-aged Grana types, including Parmigiano-Reggiano, which is often aged at least two years and sometimes more.

As we touched, smelled and tasted our way around our plates, Judy encouraged us to experiment with combining the cheese flavors with the dried fruits, nuts and wine at the table. I especially enjoyed being able to experiment with both red ( Marietta Cellars, Old Vine Red, Lot#54) and white (2009 Domaine La Hitaire, “Les Tours”, Vin de Pays de CĂ´tes de Gascogne) wine on such a wide variety of cheeses.

The whole experience was a thorough delight. Classes are often filled soon after they are posted, but if you miss out on one, there will certainly be more to come.  The Cheese School of San Francisco has become part of the city’s cultural heritage.