This time of year is probably my favourite in Cape Town. I like summer, but I love autumn. Crisp, sunny days abound (in between downpours) and whole new round of food festivals line up, one after the other, waiting to be investigated.
My favourite of these is the annual Cheese Festival. Perhaps it’s because it’s outdoors, where many food festivals are not, or maybe it’s because of its very specific focus – I’m not sure, but I enjoy it immensely every time.
And, now that the event has moved to its new home at Sandringham (on the N1 about half way between Cape Town and Paarl), there’s much more space and it doesn’t get quite as cramped as it used to at Bien Donne. It’s also much closer. I like the new venue – even though it’s not as cosy as Bien Donne, the sight of cows meandering about in the distance really adds to the ambience, in my opinion.
As always, there are several sections of the festival, dedicated to different aspects of cheese. If you like learning how to cook with and prepare cheese, head for the DStv Food Network Theatre where local chefs and food bloggers will be sharing their tips and recipes (some with a focus on Meat Free Mondays, interestingly).
I particularly like the sound of Puglia Cheese’s ‘101 ways with mozzarella‘ workshop/talk, and the unusually named ‘Karoo Guitar Cheese‘ session held by Alet Erasmus (Creative Pantry Cuisine) and Karoo Goats Milk Products with Randall Wicomb.
Dairy Square is cheese central, with cheese-makers large and small showing off their wares and offering generous tastings. Alongside it, the Checkers Cheese Theatre pays homage to all the many ways in which cheese can be made into gourmet creations (to be honest, I’ve never been in there, but it seems popular!).
This year, in addition to all the usual entertainments and bigger cheese producers there will be some new artisan cheese-makers showcasing their wares. I’ll be writing about them separately, as I’ve done before. These guys are always the highlight for me: small producers who take immense pride in their work, and have something very special to offer. It’s worth seeking them out early, to hear their stories and taste their hand-crafted cheeses before the masses arrive and you have to jostle for position.
And, if you have kids, a visit to the Agriculture Milk Factory is a must. Every kid (and adult) should know where milk comes from, and maybe even give milking a try to see how hard it can be!
I can’t wait! The festival runs from Friday 27th to Monday 30th April. As usual, I will be crowd-avoiding and heading out to the festival on its first day as early as possible. Bring a cooler box, bring a tasting glass, bring an appetite – I’ll see y’all there.
SA Cheese Festival 2-12 – Event Details
Sandringham (half way between Cape Town and Paarl on the N1)
Friday 27 to Monday 30 April 2012
Friday to Sunday 10am to 6pm / Monday 10am to 5pm
Tickets: R110 pp per day – includes entry to this fabulous festival, a shopping bag, festival programme, tastings and inspirational demonstrations by some of South Africa’s top food icons. Senior citizens discount: R90 pp per day. FREE entry for children 13 years and under. Available via Computicket. NO TICKETS AT THE GATE.