Review: SA Cheese Festival 2015

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Sandringham Festival 1Ah, Freedom Day!  What better way to spend it than at the annual SA Cheese Festival in Stellenbosch? Just a quick pop-in, have a taste or two, buy some nice things and head on out again. Wrong!  We were there a full six delicious hours, and we left wanting more.

The layout at Sandringham Farm was clear and structured. Particularly useful if you’ve sampled a few of the wines. Wine glasses – for sale at the entrance – came with necklace-type holders that freed up the hands for tasting, greeting and rummaging in handbags.  Ingenious.

At the Afrox Cooking Pot, chef Johan van Schalkwyk displayed a showman’s charisma in demonstrating just how easy it is to make delicious canapés. These were paired with Drostdy Hof wines, of which the Adelpracht, paired with a quince tartlet, stood out for its distinct texture and apricot-zing.

Queues at the Checkers Cheese Emporium were quite hectic at times, but it wasn’t any real inconvenience – you could simply move on to the next stall and circle back later. Highlights included the Fior di Latte (Smoked) at Puglia cheese, the smoked olives of Stonehill, and the Kasselshoop chilli, peppers and olive flavoured cheeses.

As for the many wines on offer, Simonsvlei’s Toffee Chunk, Alvi’s Drift’s MCC and Chardonnay Reserve, Blaauwklippen’s MCC and Ons Sprankel are now on my To Do list, along with the Namaqualand-situated Teubes Family Wines’ 2011 Sauvignon Blanc which was awarded 4 stars by Platter.  Fresh novelties from Simoncello included a vodka-infused chocolate drink – earmarked as this year’s winter warming drink.

At the Agri Expo mall and Cape Made venue, Living Delights offered gluten, grain and sugar-free brownies, while The Charcuterie had platters for those who still had room for a full lunch after all the tastings of Turkish delight, macaroons, olives, honey, jams, mushrooms, sprouts and other treats.

More food and drinks stalls filled the rest of the grounds. Here, we enjoyed Mitchell’s Brewery’s Milk & Honey, 90 Shilling, and Old Wobley beers on tap, and bottles of Everson’s Cider – the best cider in South Africa. Further along the line, a few cows were paddocked and posing for photos – “Cow chewing cud” being the pose of choice in the bovine modelling industry.

And on top of all this there was live music, a kids’ play area, and more. It was non-stop.  Even when I ran out of cash at about 4pm and arrived at the mobile ATM only to find an “out of cash” sign, there was a plan in place.  Many vendors were employing Snapscan, so I downloaded the app, registered my card, and was buying olives in 10 minutes flat.

After six glorious hours of eating and drinking and chatting with vendors and fellow attendees, we were in high spirits. A potentially problematic situation for some, but Festival folks had even thought of that, providing free breathalyser tests for drivers to check if they needed to make alternative arrangements. There would, after all, be a certain irony to being locked up on Freedom Day.

Freda Scheffler
Also posted on Freda’s blog Chronicles of a Banter.

The SA Cheese festival and Agri Expo runs from 25 to 27 April 2015.

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