In Sept Jim Wallace (our cheese specialist) spent another 2 weeks visiting traditional cheese makers in France and Italy, spending several days in the Piemonte region visiting this grand celebration of cheese. Here he shares the excitement of it all with us.
First off we need to say that there is never too much good cheese, but then again this event was pretty close to being over the top.
Citte de Bra Cheese 2007 in its sixth edition is four days of cheese, wine and food bliss in the small town of Bra, Italy. Located in the province of Cuneo, just south of Turin, Bra is the headquarters for Slow Food International.
An estimated total of 150,000 people wandered through the streets and piazzas: looking, tasting, learning, chatting with cheesemakers or listening to one of the many concerts. Almost one-third of the visitors came from outside Italy, highlighting the international nature of the festival,
It was like hitting upon the international mother lode carefully stacked mounds, numerous racks, and endless displays. Absolute heaven for anyone with a strong passion for all things 'Cheese'.
Upon arriving at this festival for the first time at what I felt to be very early, it became quickly apparent that others idea of early is very different than mine. Parking was anywhere you could squeeze in but I was fortunate to find something a few blocks out.
Although Italy is known for it's quiet piazzas, narrow streets, gardens, and general laid back life style. Yes there were those moments here, but it became quite apparent that where cheese was involved this would not be the case. I arrived with some pretty grand expectations of scale but very quickly had to ramp that up substantially. This festival extended throughout the streets of this ancient Italian town, a good thing because the crowds did come and keep coming.
This event is broken up into several aspects:
- The tasting tent for Slow Foods 'Presidium Cheese'(cheese worth protecting) and wine.
- The 'Avenue of the Shepherd' where you will find the cheese makers from small villages throughout Europe featuring their cheeses.
- The 'Cheese Market' where you can find the cheese merchants from all regions of Europe with their products for sale.
- In addition to all of this there are scheduled tastings and seminars on all aspects of cheese making throughout the world.
- Oh yes, and lets not forget the incredible wines and beers available during the festival plus all of the specialties found in the small shops and cafes just for the festival.
For many visitors the highlight was the tasting tent, set up to showcase the 'Presidium Cheeses' of Slow Foods available for everyone to taste.
For 1 Euro each you could select your own tasting samples each coming with a brief description, and find a spot to sit and relax, comparing your cheeses with others. Oh yes, and to wash it down there were over 1500 wines open to sample ... I do believe some people never left this tent
The 'Enoteca' at close to 1500 open bottles of wine was truly a major attraction, as was the Bierra.
As we all know it is also the people that make an event what it is and there were many cheese makers of note from around the world in attendance. An enthusiastic cheese maker from Abruzza, Val Bines, noted cheese maker and teacher from England, Mary Quickes of Cheddar Cheese fame, Cheese makers representing a small goat coop in France...
A smile says it all, cheese makers from Bosnia representing their region, Herve Mons, noted French Affineur, The Swiss Cheesemakers Chorus...
I joined Carey Bryant and David Gremmels from Rogue Creamery and Jeff Roberts from Vermont at this mini presentation on the foods, wine, and cheese from the Valtellina region. Alberto Angelini was an enthusiastic host and will be my connection for future cheese visits to that region.
Cheese makers brought their implements to demonstrate their craft, and the many illustrations to convey their involvement in their craft
There were the many people exploring cheese, cutting it, tasting it, talking about it and washing it down with wine.
And then there was the cheese, oh yes, lots and lots of cheese. This is the part that puts this festival over the top. The many cheeses from small producers being displayed, small village cooperatives, families from the small alpages/malga in the mountains and plateaus, as well grand scale affineurs. I particularly enjoyed this dry Ricotta Salata style absorbing it's special biere flavor
The cheeses from Britain featuring the Somerset Cheddars
This pile of Stilton reduced to a single layer by Sunday with still 2 days to go.
The Basket Cheeses 'Canestrato' of southern Italy.
,The art of the craft, hand carved and molded examples of pasta filata.
The beautifully crafted Cavallo cheeses.
The golden aged cheeses of Ragusano, a story in itself on succesfully preserving a cheese, and a lifestyle in modern times. Thank you Giuseppe Licitra.
Along with Polish Oscypek cheese.
Romanian Branza de Burduf, which is matured in bark.
Simplicity and the materials at hand, in the traditional way.
Hard cheeses from the North, Cheeses with wine, 'Ubriaco' the drunken cheese of Italy and goat's milk Blue covered with crushed blackberries.
Cheese packaging and presentation as art.
So many ways to coat, wrap, and add flavor, presentation brought to a new level.
And then we have cheese as cheese, nothing fancy just the way it leaves the cave after a long aging. Maybe we spend too much time worrying about pretty rinds, lets just say 'Rustico' just let Mother Nature have at it.