This past Saturday was the start of South Africa’s top cheese festival – the Agri-Expo South African Cheese Festival and was also a great highlight to my long weekend. If you weren’t quick enough to purchase tickets then you had put yourself at a high risk of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) and this festival was not to be missed. We were quick enough to purchase our tickets for Sunday at the very last minute as soon after they had sold out for that day. The weather was perfect and the festival was held outdoors with various tents and marquees. Each section of the festival had names, so it made it easier to know where you were and where you would choose to go. There were also maps and time tables so you could plan your day ahead of time. The Agri-Expo South African Cheese Festival was well organised and was great for families with kids as each child was given a bright neon safety jacket with a cell number for in case they got lost. There was also an area for children to play and were looked after while their parents had the opportunity to meander through the festival.
One of the tents held the Cheese Emporium, the tent was crowded and people struggled to sample all the artisinal cheeses and various products. If you got there earlier then you were lucky enough to have a sample or two but the set up of food producers provided an easy flow. The Checkers maze, which was situated on the side of the Cheese Emporium was ‘ama-zing!’. You entered the central section of the maze where Checkers famous brands of coffee and cheeses were sold. There were a selection of coffees from Peru, Rwanda, Ethiopia and were sold in both ground and coffee beans. The packaging was so descriptive and the Checkers helpers were very informative and helpful. Around the coffee were the ever growing selection of cheeses sold at Checkers, over 400 variations of cheeses sold under one roof – what more could we ask for?
The Checkers maze also hosted various informative workshops such as: cheese, whiskey, bushveld, steak, wine and coffee. The workshops consisted of fresh meats, Odd Bin wines, cheeses and coffee which can be purchased at Checkers throughout the country.
Having been to the Agri-Expo South African Cheese Festival last year and visiting different food markets in Cape Town, you become acquainted with the artisans and their products. You develop favorites over time and you get warm-fuzzy feelings when you see that they are doing well and expanding. It’s also nice to see that artisans are doing something for their community and creating job opportunities for those who are unemployed. One of my favorites was Camphill Village in the Helmel en Aarde Valley. Camphill gives people with special needs the opportunity to work and make them feel as if they are a part of something wonderful. Camphill residents which are higher functioning are able to work on the farm, they help look after the animals and are part of the entire cheese-making process. Their products are delicious and you can tell that it has been made with a lot of love and care. Herbed feta, Gouda, butter and yogurt are a few of the products that are made by the residents of Camphill Village and can be found at various markets and stores in the Western Cape.
When exiting the Cheese Emporium, you start feeling a bit peckish and make your way to the Carnival Park and Gourmet Lane – another favorite amongst the festival goers. At Gourmet Lane you find various food stalls such as On a Roll Dog Kitchen, this 1950’s American themed diner has the best hot dogs in the Western Cape and were a treat at the festival. You can find this gem in Little Mowbray, the restaurant promises to keep the good vibes flowing with their exceptional good taste in Rock’nRoll music and impeccable Hot Dogs.
The Agri-Expo Mall was filled with delicious treats and a variety of wines, perfect place to find your mid-night snack or tea treat. There was something for everyone, from Gluten-free treats to the beautiful aesthetic rainbow cake by the family owned Wicked Treats.
The Agri-Expo South African Cheese Festival was a huge success and was definitely something to feel proud of in terms of how far South African artisans and food producers have come. It marks Cape Town on the map for being the culinary capital in the world and is just the beginning of more food festivals to come.