Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Cheesey times in Italy and France

Almost exactly one year ago, I travelled to Italy to visit the Cheese festival in Bra, and then continued on into France to work with renowned affineur and fromager HervĂ© Mons, where I learned the finer points of affinage (maturing cheese) and cheese retailing. While working for Mons was absolutely backbreaking and exhausting, it was a 'cheese dream come true' experience - HervĂ© is amazing, like a cheese-whisperer. People are always asking me about the trip, and to see some pics – so here are my highlights in a series of photos:

Tasting plate at Obika Mozzarell Bar in Turin
Bra. Children dressed as cheeses for a play

Bra. Children dressed as cheese for a play.

Bra. Cheese display in the Market, no refrigeration here folks.
Bra. Cheese display at Market. A Customs nightmare - ferns and hay everywhere!
Bitto 'from the Valley' - a cheese with amazing maturing potential.
Bra. Display of cheese hoop and cheese cloth.
Bra. Some really dry cheeses from Southern France that looked a bit like lumps of dirt. I bought one and ate it - it was very dry, and quite tangy. The rind was almost inedible.
Mary Quicke posing with her eponymous cheddar. The Quicke family have been working their farm for over 450 years - what a tradition!
Bra. Hard at work during a Comte and Champagne masterclass (class translated into English on headphones).
With Beppino Occelli - the maker of Testun Al Barolo cheese, the one covered with grapes. My good cheesey friend, Sonia Cousins in the red.

France. The entry to Herve's famous affinage tunnel. An old railway tunnel under a hill converted to a cheese maturation facility. Over 100 metres long with tonnes of cheese inside.
Me working in the tunnel on some tomme cheeses. So exhausted by end of day.
Having a rest on my 'Comte Gruyere' seat.
Working with the raw-milk, cave-matured St Nectaire. It is matured on beds of straw.
Working hard in the Mons retail store selling raw-milk Morbier. (yes, I know what you are saying - I escape my daily job of working in a cheese shop, only to go on holidays and work in another cheese shop - can't help doing what you love!)
With the famous M. Mons himself - striking a pose next to 'his heart' (ie, favourite cheese), Salers. A very ancient cheese produced in the moutains of Auvergne region.
Salers cows being milked to make Salers cheese on a small Auvergne farm. The milking and cheesemaking process is very involved and labour-intensive.
UK. Checking out the Neal's Yard Dairy maturation facility.

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