Cheese! Every other year, Slow Food’s International Cheese Festival takes place in my home town Bra. Since it draws people in from all over the world, it means absolute chaos in and around town.For this reason, I actually had to work extra hours for the strays who wanted to go wine tasting. However, I did get to walk around Friday night to feel the buzz in the air for the first night. At the peak hour for dinner, we joined the long line at the Napoletana pizza stand for a taste of some mozzarella di bufala. My wine friend Robbin was in town just for the event so it was a great chance to hang out with her, even though we had little time.

She nonchalantly got me into a press tasting on Sunday where we were lucky to taste all kinds of amazing new Spanish cheeses.  Surprisingly, local Spanish ciders were paired together with some of these pungent and sometimes sharp cheeses. Both Robbin and I loved the plain Rey Silo, soft with a distinctly shaded crust as well as the bright orange spicy red pepper version. They were deliciously buttery, delicate and tasty all at the same time with the tangy ciders cutting it just perfectly.

We also went to some other free conferences which were held at various venues throughout the town like the Bettelmatt soft cheese coming from Ossola Valley in the Piemontese Alps. You know you are getting north when you have names like Bettelmatt! Nutty and soft, it would make a good pre-dinner snacking cheese. Going back down “south” to the Garofolo stand, we even got free pasta. You can imagine the Italian elbowing and fighting to get our pastas while it was hot!

There were huge tents full of incredible cheeses from all over Italy and I was going to wait until Monday (the last day to get a hold of the best deals, away from the huge crowds) to buy the leftover cheese. Well, two hours till closing time, I checked out the Italian tent and many had already closed up shop! I was mostly disappointed about the Campania stand being cleared out… no bufala:( Determined to pick up something, I got some Pecorino Romano, local fresh toma made from buffalo’s milk, and explored the international tent. Almost everything had been closed down except for the extremely friendly and lively Spanish stand. Unfortunately they were all out of the Rey Silo but nicely gave me some of their version of Roquefert cheese and a creamy sample of some more stinky cheese. I couldn’t resist the beer stand so I moseyed on over to the UK area to pick up some of my favorite Scottish IPA, Brewdog, which I had coincidentally tried on my recent trip there. Yes, I splurged on 3 euros for a can, but it was definitely worth it and made Claudio a happy man when I got home.

Cheese is an amazing event but you have to be patient and ready to spend some big bucks. My compliments to the organization and all the vendors for sharing their high quality products with us!