It’s been a couple of years since I headed to Cheesefest – the annual festival of specialty cheese held in Adelaide.
My my, how it’s grown.
I’m not surprised to hear it sitting comfortably as Australia’s largest cheese festival.
This year an estimated 20,000 came through the gates over the two days.
That’s a lot of cheese.
Sprawling bountifully across the sloping lawns of central Adelaide’s Rymill Park, the precinct offered an impressive array of dairy goodness from some 20 specialty cheese producers and vendors, with a selection of local SA beverages and well-chosen food stalls.
Just a $15 single day entry – $25 for both days – and there, armed with picnic blanket and my little cohort, went I.
I’d opted for Sunday 26 October, Day 2 of the Festival.
Gates opened at 11 so by midday there was already a strong crowd settling in; slightly overcast skies not dampening enthusiasm.
Around midday a few friendly opening remarks by Festival Director / Founder Kris Lloyd (Woodside Cheesewrights), Ambassador Callum Hann (Local Food Identity and co-owner of Sprout Cooking School) and special guest Amanda Vanstone. ABC 891’s Michal Smyth holding fort.
Just enough to give the event some sense of occasion.
And it was not far from here that I settled us in.
I had opted out of the additional ticketed events, although these looked so good: The Foodland SA Mozzarella Bar, King Island Dairy Cheese Train, Cooking Classes by the Sprout Cooking Duo and the Tuckers Natural Picnic Trail.
There also was an invitation only Premium Degustation Lunch that looked amazing if my previous day’s insta feed was anything to go by…
And at no charge you could join in with a number of ‘Meet The Maker’ sessions with participating cheese makers.
Tempting, but today I wanted just to sit back, eat some cheese, and soak it all in.
First stop, the Street ADL Stall, the Hop Dog’s caught my eye for the kids.
This was a delicious kangaroo hotdog – long, hot and super fresh.
Loved the sound of the sides (pickles and greens). But today it was snap-hot fries that were pretty darn good.
Next stop Sprout Cooking and Spring Asparagus, Proscuitto and Mozzarella Salad – the pearl barley giving ‘meatiness’ to this tasty and deliciously fresh little dish.
And thoughtfully the recipe was wrapped around my disposable cutlery, so I’ll be making that one again later.
For cheese, we collected a few share plates between us.
By now the crowds were thick at the cheese stalls. While they did seem to be moving fairly quickly, opted for plates to take away.
Would I grab one of my favourites, such as Kris Lloyd Artisan Range Persian Feta, Udder Delights Chevre or imported Comte and Roquefort from places that I pick up from haunts Bottega Rotolo and Say Cheese.
Instead, today it was La Vera (SA) because I wanted to try some of their spreadable Blue – which I loved.
I also I bought a three cheese selection (Adel Blue, Hamilton Brie and Vintage Casalingo / Tasty) for our group to share.
Standout was the wedge of Adel-Blue – soft and crumbly and ever so good (and hearing my 2yo daughter call out “blue cheese, mummy please” was a ‘broad grin’ addition).
The Brie could have benefited from a little more oozing time, but alas, we gobbled it all too soon.
We also picked up a tasting plate from Yarra Valley Dairy (VIC). Perhaps a little less panache in presentation but more variety and high on quality.
This plate included two styles of goat cheese, both plain and with an ash rind, a gruyere style matured cheese (Bulls Eye ?) that was delicious, and some delicate Persian Feta that had sold out the day before.
But the one I kept going back to was a beautifully herby fresh cheese House Cow with parsley, chives and garlic – delicate and moreish, good for summer day grazing.
I opted for two.
The strawberry, ricotta and marscapone, which I loved for its light and delicate sweetness.
But the chocolate salted caramel on a crisp puff style base was really, really good.
Crisp and slightly flaky pastry with filling that was was luxuriously thick and flavour spot on.
To think I had planned to share..
I ended up staying at the Festival long for longer than planned, but it was lots of fun.
Sure, I didn’t get to sample widely across the menu – sometimes it’s like that.
But I did get to eat well.
And in between I got to accommodate a few side activities for the kids.
Over to see the painted cows.
Enough to entertain without making the whole day about them.
And I think this was the thing that impressed me the most.
For me, the festival had this vibe of being so warm, so open and welcoming to all tastes, certainly for the period I was there.
I was with my mum and my two very young children yet there was something for all of us to enjoy, yet seemingly without being too focused on any particular age group.
I suspect it was the Festival’s absolute commitment to it’s “Cheese-First” vision that helped to deliver the goods.
If you would like to read more tales on cheese, try these …
- French Cheese Tasting at Bottega Rotolo
- Cheese Making and Master Class with Sheree Sullivan of Udder Delights as part of Tasting Australia
- Tasting Goat Cheeses at Main Ridge Dairy, Mornington Peninsula