Tag Archives: cheese and wine

2008 South African Cheese Festival My Life 04 MAY 2008

So as I reported earlier, Saturday the 26th of April saw Chantelle and me attending the annual South African Cheese Festival, held on the Bien Donne farm just outside of Franschhoek. This was the seventh year of this sophisticated cheese and wine showcase’s existence and it ran from the 25th to the 28th of April.

Based on the weather reports for the week, we were pretty gloomy at the prospect of attending this cheese and wine extravaganza, because as the experts would have it, we would be standing knee deep in mud and soaked to the bone should there be no cover under which to seek shelter. As it turned out, the weather played along perfectly and was simply fantastic for this kind of outing.

The event itself has grown tremendously since its initial run and the farm now caters for literally thousands and thousands of visitors who come from far and wide (a huge percentage of which are Stellenbosch and UCT students, I am sure of it!) to partake in the festivities. The idea for the festival is that it is a showcase for all the local winemakers and cheese producers of the region to have a place to show off their wares and hopefully attract some more business in the process.

The method is pretty simple. Have a couple of huge tents standing around, put down a fake carpet flooring and then set up literally hundreds of little stalls for all the producers to take over and make their own. Alongside this, establish a huge outdoor area for relaxation purposes that is lined with tons of specialised food/restaurant stalls to feed the hungering masses who might grow tired of consuming just wine and cheese all day. And of course, to keep the spirit of this whole commercial venture a little more festival like, you need to organise a bit of entertainment in the form of live music as well, just to keep the crowd happy.

This is pretty much the recipe that the organisers decided to follow and all I can say is that it was indeed a good recipe to stick to. They managed to create a vibrant, bustling festival vibe in which everyone was having a good time and there was in the end very little to complain about. The producers were all getting a good traffic throughput and the exchange of money was fast and furious. What more could they ask for?

Being primarily a cheese festival you go there expecting to eat lots of cheese (like I was) and thankfully the festival certainly didn’t skimp on this facet. There were literally hundreds of cheese producers on display, from the big name players like Clover and Parmalat to the smaller, more specialised cheese houses. Of course with this much cheese to sample a person quickly needs a drink in hand, and that is where the brilliant decision to share the space equally amongst cheese and wine producers comes to the fore. You literally walk to one stall, grab some cheese and then walk to the stall next to it and stock up on some wine for ‘tasting’ purposes. Of course, the idea is if you really like something you will buy it, and as always Chantelle was immediately suckered into purchasing (when I say she purchased I mean I paid for it) some sort of fancy Simonsberg Camembert Madagascar Green Pepper that is basically a small cut of cheese stuffed into a fancy box. I on the other hand was there to sample as much cheese as possible, which would explain why I was dragging Chantelle mercilessly from stall to stall without giving her time to actually savour what she was trying.

On the wine front though, I do have to admit to sampling some fantastic wines and truly there was something of everything to be had. Although I didn’t actually end up purchasing anything, I must have at least ended up drinking a bottle or two of all the assorted alcohol that I tasted! My only real astute observation on the wine front ended up being that as a male it must be dangerous to work on the Zevenwacht Estate – every single male on their team was bald! This is obviously a sign that I should stop drinking Zevenwacht, even if they happened to be the venue at which my sister previously got married.

Of course, specialised producers like honey and nougat makers didn’t want to be left out of the party either, so alongside all of the cheese and wine you would often find yourself stumbling on a very specialised little outfit like a tofu or chocolate salami manufacturer. Chantelle nearly wet herself when she discovered the Wedgewood Nougat group was present as well, so inevitably we ended up buying some of their wares as well.

As for the entertainment, in all honesty the organisers could have gone for something a little more high profile than what they did, but seeing as the age group at which this festival is actually targeted at, the cheesy bands putting out all the old classics was probably the most suitable in the end. Actually, the best entertainment was to be had at the big Checkers display where they pulled out all the stops, organising many cooking demonstrations from various famous celebrity chefs, entertaining with the fabulous Sterling trio of girls who play the electronic forms of the violin and cello, and trying to pull in all the TV fans by having Egoli star David Vlok as host.

The festival also put on a couple of its own cooking shows, the most notable of which was the shows by Nataniel which surprisingly enough were all sold out the minute the tickets went up for grabs. Luckily for me and unluckily for the rest of the Montgomery clan, we didn’t get to see any of his shows thanks to the fact that we had pitched up a little later than originally planned!

And then there were of course the food stalls. A number of well known restaurants from the area all had a stall there and you could literally get anything your heart desired for lunch which would explain why we ended up with Boerewors rolls and pancakes as a snack once Chantelle finally tired of the whole wine and cheese business. Admittedly, it was difficult to fit the pancakes and Boerewors roll in past all the blocks of cheddar that I had squashed in there with my dual toothpick technique, but I managed in the end.

Overall I must say that this festival can only be described as being an absolute success. Flawlessly organised, from the parking to the purchase of branded glasses on your entrance, everything ran as smoothly as a good sauvignon blanc down your throat and I am pretty sure that everyone who loves cheese, wine and a little bit of culture had a pretty good experience. As it was, the actual venue was so big that we in fact ended up missing out on the entire ABSA wine route tent!

It was a fun experience marred only by our own stupidity when at the end of it all, we ended up walking down the entirely wrong road to exit the farm, forcing us to turn back and walk a couple of hundred kilometres (well it felt like it) back to get to the ride road to get to the car!

And just to prove that I am not just making this mini report up and was in fact hobnobbing with all those other wine-loving, cheese-tasting people, here are some pictures snapped with Chantelle’s ever handy little phone:

[subvertedgallery link=”file” columns=”7″ ids=”42582,42583,42584,42585,42586,42587,42588,42589″]

See, I told you so! :P

Related Link: South African Cheese Festival

Weekend in Review (25-27 April) My Life 28 APR 2008

Cheese FestivalYet another Friday of dragging myself out of bed at the ungodly hour of 05:00, getting ready and driving through to UCT, listening to the absolute drivel that 5FM puts out nowadays. I swear, from 05:30 to 06:00, all this moron named KB played on the radio was Shaggy-style Caribbean annoyances, making me almost chew off my fingers in desperation and anger that I had forgotten to burn a new MP3 CD for the car. Luckily it wasn’t all that bad news because once again, this Friday I only had to stay at work until just after 12:00, thereafter having been invited out to lunch with Kyle and Gino by the guys from TsiBA for whom I had set up a lecturer evaluation system.

The venue for lunch was a little place in Pinelands called Magica Roma, and authentic Italian restaurant offering the finest of Italian cuisine, a pleasant Italianian-inspired atmosphere and actually run by two, believe it or not, Italian brothers. It was the first time I could put faces to names of the TSiBA lot, and the lunch was a pleasant affair, even if I had to spend a good deal of time trying to decipher what the Italian menu was offering me! The only weird thing about the whole affair that in the end, I was the only one drinking any alcohol on the day!

Unfortunately Kyle called my bluff and once lunch was done, sent me back to the office for the last hour until 15:00 which unfortunately is my designated home time. Bugger. Anyway, on the way home I dropped in at the pet store to pick up a little surprise for C – four new fishies for our fish tank! This time I didn’t even consider those short-lived speckled buggers and went straight for those hardy little common goldfish – which seem capable of surviving whatever we throw at them :)

As it turned out, Chantelle was more than thrilled at the surprise when she got home (even if I had to hint to get her to look a little more closely at the fish tank), which made me feel all the much better after having wasted the entire afternoon by playing The Godfather again! We were in the mood for a movie and after catching a glimpse of the ad for Run Fat Boy, Run with Simon Pegg and directed by David Schwimmer (Ross from Friends), I immediately pleaded with C to go and catch that one. Thankfully she agreed to my request, citing that it was my turn anyway to pick a movie and she desperately wants me to go watch Untraceable with her, a movie I am not exactly looking forward to viewing!

Unfortunately for us though, on arrival at Somerset Mall we were once again greeted by pitch black darkness and enquiring by one of the staff members inside Pick ‘n Pay (they were still running off a generator), we learned that the area surrounding the mall is in the unfortunate position of being load-shed Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 18:00 to 20:00! So with that little spanner in our plans, we quickly regrouped and came up with a new one – to Tallahassee Spur we go!

What we didn’t bargain on though was the fact that everyone else in the vicinity knows that they run off a generator too, meaning we happily had to stand in a fairly long queue just to get inside. Once inside, deciding what to eat was a breeze – waiting for it however was not. Thankfully after our long, long wait once the food did eventually arrive, it was absolutely delicious and we actually ended up staying for dessert, making the entire supper experience last well until 22:00 (and we had arrived at the mall before 19:00!) – Talk about a long dinner date!

Anyway, Saturday morning the two of us were up and early once more, trying to finish up all the little things that we needed to get done before Cheryl and Monty arrived to join us in our trip to the Franschhhoek Cheese and Wine Festival. This is the seventh year that this festival is being run and has turned into one absolutely huge event. It is held on the Bien Donné farm just outside of Franshhoek and has become one of those events were all the people who love cheese, wine and a little bit of culture meet up for some fun in the sun.

Despite the weather reports that had predicted doom and gloom for the day, the weather actually held out perfectly making for a great day out. As it is, most of the exhibitors and stalls are all under roof, but it was nice to be able to get out and sit under the sky for some fresh air after breathing in the bustling atmosphere tinged with wine and cheese all around you for so long.

As expected, I gorged myself on all manner of cheeses and wines, shying away only from the honey and olive stands by choice. The Wedgewood nougat stand I was forced to stand aside when a ravenous nougat-loving Chantelle dived into the samples, but other than that I tasted just about everything we passed, sounding an absolute expert in cheese all the way I tell you! :) It had a really busy, bustling, good vibe going and you couldn’t help but wear a smile and simply enjoy yourself. There was some live entertainment outside in the meeting and eating grounds as well as a fantastic display by the electronic violin and cello playing Sterling trio to keep everyone happy. Heck, Checkers even roped in David Vlok from Egoli fame as their spokesperson!

We met up with Monty and Cheryl halfway through our visit for a bit of a pitstop and boerwors roll energising session, though Chantelle and I did supplement this with a couple of pancakes just in case. However, eventually enough was enough and wine, cheese and nougat were forgotten and it was finally time for home. Chantelle and I trundled out of the grounds, walking the extremely lengthy road out of the farm… only to realise a very good distance out that we were in fact walking the wrong road! Sheepishly turning around, it was a long way back and then a long search for the right road out before we finally reunited with the folks at the car and hit the long road home to Gordon’s Bay (which would explain why the ever so slightly irritated Chantelle promptly slept the whole way home!)

Tired from all the walking done for the day, Saturday night was a far quieter affair with Chantelle passing out on the couch for most of the evening and me cracking some heads in The Godfather once again. Man, I just don’t seem to get tired of that game! :)

Sunday morning, and yup, it was once more up bright and early as we rushed around like mad chickens to get everything sorted out, cleaned (thanks bokkie for your hard work!) and prepared for our guests of the day who were coming through to our little ‘flat warming’ braai. Actually, we were slap bang on schedule and would have ended up perfectly on time and ready for our guests if it hadn’t been for the doorbell ringing at 12:45, a whole 45 minutes before the scheduled meeting time! And yes, lo and behold, it was indeed Dean and Zania who once more were particularly quick on the draw.

I let them in as Chantelle zipped around the corner to quickly get dressed and pretty soon we were all comfortable seated as I prepared to start the braai. Well kind of. Having successfully tested out our ever so slightly rusted braai standing in the backyard last week, I was confident of setting up another stellar braai in it for this occasion – except that the braai wasn’t having any of it. Before my very eyes, the base completely disintegrated into a gigantic black hole, leaving us no option but to transfer its contents into the now very overloaded Weber that we had loaned from Monty and go on from there.

It wasn’t too long before Terrance and Ryan joined us, rugby ball in hand and following them, Retha and Claire, completing the posse for this once again gorgeous Sunday afternoon. As always, stage fright took a hold and my resulting braai was less that spectacular, but it has been worse and this was at least edible (apart from Ryan’s one pork shoulder) and together with all the salads we had prepared, everyone ended up eating their fill and enjoying it. Ice cream and chocolate sauce completed the meal, leaving a very stuffed crowd in its wake.

But not for long. You see, where there is a rugby ball there are people who want to pass it around and pretty soon we were all standing out there like mad nutters, spending the rest of the afternoon, and well into the evening, sumo wrestling, hopping around on one leg, passing the ball around and even playing ‘Pig in the Middle’ of all things! In the end it was an absolutely fantastic day with everyone having a blast and I hope, glad that they came through all the way to Gordon’s Bay.

Chantelle and I both had a great day and we have to say thanks to each and every one of you who showed up – thanks guys for coming! (and thanks for our pressies!) Anyway, eventually enough was enough and we booted everyone out, retreating back into our castle and chowing down on leftovers for supper while snuggling up in front of the TV to watch Speed 2 and in so doing end the night on a blissfully sleep-filled note :)