It’s the cheese!

It’s the cheese!

Thursday, October 10th, 2019

One day not long ago Laura sent me an email with a link for “The Cheese”. Yes both words are capitalized and the website is Italian and the rest of the language is Italian. What is going on here? Well it turns out that the little city of Bra (population 20,000) which happens to be also the headquarters of Slow Food, sponsors a festival called “The Cheese” every two years. It’s the largest exposition of cheese in the world with usually at least 200,000 attendees during the 3 day weekend. Reading about it made me really start savoring the possibility of being immersed in cheese for a day. It also made me think of Wallace and Gromit.

Wallace is a BIG cheese fan

So we went somewhere where there is cheese – and lots of it. Bra is only about 60km ( 36 miles) from Torino but we decided to take the train. Rather than the hassle of driving there was the fact that there were likely to be a LOT of visitors even though we opted to go on Friday which would surely be a significantly smaller crowd. In fact the stands for cheese and other delicacies started only a short distance from the train station.

One of the first booths near the station – meats (especially rabbit) instead of cheese
The tent “pavilion” on the left – what you cannot see from this photo that the width of this pavilion is at least 4 of those tents wide

The major part of the cheeses on display (and available for tasting) were Italian with a significant part of those from Piemonte (the region – equivalent to our states) where Bra is located. That’s not a surprise since Italy is said to have the highest number of cheeses of any country in the world and also because it is the host country for this event. Of the estimated 2500 different cheeses in Italy there are 500 commercialized and of those 300 with protected origin status (think parmigiano-reggiano or gorgonzola) and also because it is the host country for this event. Still there were a lot of French cheeses, some from Switzerland, probably from Holand and even some from the Great Britain and the United States.

We started, well, at the start of the large, REALLY large long tent housing all of the displays of Italian cheeses. We tasted a lot and bought a few and were exhausted from seeing and tasting cheeses after only half of those on display. Since they started with Piemonte and seemed to work their way down the country we probably missed some spectacular cheese from the south. So we stopped for a light lunch. Naturally much of the food being offered was, well, cheese based. So we kept it light because we’d probably each consumed a fair amount of cheese just doing tasting.

A major cheese shop from Torino had a booth. We bought aged castelmagno here
A little bit of farm style atmosphere for this booth
I know that we bought a cheese here but don’t remember which one. These cheeses come from Amatrice in Lazio which had a devastating earthquake in 2016
Flavor of cannabis (I couldn’t really taste it) at this foreign booth, maybe swiss. Note the loving sheep

After lunch we sought out the foreign “pavilion” – still the tents. We tasted and bought just one cheese there – a rather unique ball shaped Swiss cheese which is well aged and meant to be sliced like truffles over risotto or pasta. We did taste British and American cheeses but frankly they were not very impressive. I’m sure that the U.S. has the capacity to make great cheeses but they are just several hundred years behind in terms of experience.

Our haul – 5 cheeses and some chocolate truffles.

So we bought 5 cheeses and some chocolate truffles. Clockwise from top left, an aged caprino (goat cheese), a REALLY aged caprino from a different cheese maker (and the best one of all), the little round swiss cheese ( don’t know what kind of milk but it is very good, the aged (and pricey) castelmagno (cow’s milk) also very good, the truffles and I don’t remember, I think that the last one is a toma (cow’s milk) that seemed nothing particularly special. Probably good but nothing special compared to the others.

2 Responses to “It’s the cheese!”

  1. Helen and Abby Says:

    We’re drooling over these cheeses and enjoying your posts which help us remember our wonderful time in Bologna with you as our great guide. Your new life sounds wonderful- so happy for you!

  2. Joe Says:

    Sorry to be so tardy in response. It’s been a busy time lately working toward the Italian Driver’s License. The cheeses here are indeed wonderful. If you come to Bologna again I’ll take you to my favorite cheese merchant where you can get some great cheeses.


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