A Festival of Cheese
Since we arrived here we have seen adverts for Bufala Fest. This was a obviously a festival of buffalo mozzarella cheese. It seemed to start in August and go into September and the other day when we were on the open top bus, we saw them setting up down by the seafront. We decided to investigate the other night.
Now taking a dairy intolerant person to a cheese festival is like taking a nondrinker to a beer festival, (both things that I have done with Karen). We have already had a pizza with no cheese. I thought that the waiting staff would collapse or throw us out for destroying the national dish, but as it happened she just shrugged and said fine. Knowing that chefs seem happy to change anything these days, we thought we would give it a go.
The evening started with a trip on the funicular. As I mentioned the other night, there are three funiculars around here. Most funiculars I have been on in the past have been on the side of the mountain so you get a lovely view of the city as you descend the mountainside. However, the thing is that all three of them are buried into the side of the mountain, so all you get is a view of the back of the driver’s head. (I call them drivers; but I’m not 100% sure what they actually do. At the end of the day, all a funicular is, is a couple of railway carriages being moved by gravity. They don’t exactly pull out of the station and accelerate. They literally either just fall or are dragged up. Which begs the question what all these people sat in the cab at the front actually doing? Today I was stood directly behind the driver/pilot/button presser and it seemed that their main function was to open and close the doors.)
I hadn’t really looked into this properly and discovered that the funicular station was actually about a 15 minute walk from the front. Once we arrived we at the festival, we decided to look around. The system is, I suppose, a bit like a beer festival. You have various options of things you can buy so you mix-and-match your meal accordingly. So for example, for €15 you got a main course, drink, desert, coffee and a liqueur. Alternatively, you could just buy a main meal for €7 and build up all the extras as you wanted. I went for the full €15 meal and Karen went with a main course and a drink. There were over 30 stalls selling pizzas, pastas , burgers, ice creams etc.
This was a mozzarella fest and the emphasis was on the cheese. In fact if you wanted, you could use your main meal ticket to literally buy a ball of mozzarella. And people did. I saw quite a few people walking around with a bowl of cheese the size of a tennis ball, eating it with a fork. Now I have to admit when I have cheese and biscuits these days I do tend to find that the biscuit is really a bit of a waste of time. I mean you really only want the cheese. The cracker is just something to transport the cheese from the table into your mouth. I have now decided to do away with this, and simply cut the cheese and eat it directly. So cheese with nothing else sounds like a good idea to me. However, a ball of mozzarella is not really my idea of a meal. Perhaps a snack. But definitely not a €7 meal.
Having walked the entire length of all the stalls to establish which ones may be willing to remove the mozzarella from the menus, we went to the cash desk to pick up our tickets. To my delight they had a card machine. I say card machine, because it was a card machine in the singular. There were six cashiers and just one card machine which they passed to each other, but hey, at least they had one.
We gave our order for the tickets we wanted. We were told how much it would be, we handed over the card, and we waited. And waited. And waited, as the card machine decided to break.
To fill a bit of time, I asked the lady when the live music was going to start. I noticed they were building a stage when we were on the open top bus so I assumed that live music was going to be on offer. Rather optimistically, the lady said, “any time now”. In reality what she meant was in about 40 minutes.
When we eventually got our tickets, which stretched for a good 4 1/2 feet, it was about 9:30 pm. In Spain, this would have been positively early to be eating; but we have noticed in Italy they are slightly more northern European, and generally have eaten a main meal before 10 pm. We then headed back down to the stalls to find our food. The first place we went to was a pizza place, however unlike the restaurant we went to the other day, they were not so keen to remove the mozzarella. So Karen had the option of a pizza base with a couple of bits of veg on or a pizza base with tomato and nothing else.
I have decided to go for that true Italian delicacy, the cheese steak (which I seem to remember were quite big when we were in Philadelphia). Karen also decided that the cheesesteak looked a good idea, sans the cheese. When we asked the gentleman if this was possible he shook his head and explained that the meat and the cheese were premixed. So much for being prepared to order. I decided to stick with this and Karen disappeared off to find a non-cheese meal.
I have to say the cheese steak was gorgeous and I was shortly joined by Karen who had a quite naked burger; but was still tasty. As we had been eating we noticed that the stage had burst into life. However it wasn’t with music. I had spotted that they had some chefs doing talks on stage across the course of the festival. However even I would not really want to see Gordon Ramsay or Jamie Oliver on a stage at 10 pm discussing cooking. But this appeared to be what was happening at the time.
After about 20 minutes, a singer came on. She was female and I felt that I knew her as Italy’s is entry in the 1973 Eurovision song contest. She certainly had a set of lungs on her and sung some very pretty, if unremarkable tunes. She was then replaced by a middle-aged man wearing jeans that were a bit too tight and a shirt that seem to emphasise his belly as it hung over his belt. I have no idea who this man was, but the crowd loved him.
The man in front of us actually FaceTimed somebody and began relaying the concert to the caller who seemed ecstatic at the sight of this middle-aged man, who actually resembled a maths teacher. Men and women of a certain age seemed to be dancing with joy at this man and like the woman before him, the tunes were nice, if unremarkable. When he finished, the host came on and forced him to do another song. He seem to want to get off the stage, but she would have none of it. After his encore , the first lady came back on, just in time to see the crowd disperse.
As we set off home we had a look at train times. It was about 10:45 pm, so still quite early. However it’s not just eating that the Italians do early. It’s stopping the trains running as well. Our last Metro left at 10 pm. So we then had to wander to find a taxi to get us back to our apartment. We found one quite quickly and he seemed to get us home even quicker.
This may be because he didn’t seem to think that the rules of the road applied to him at that time of the night. At one point we drove up the side of traffic that was queueing to turn left. I assumed it was because we were going straight ahead, but no, he cut right in front of the entire row, nearly knocked a man off his scooter and turned left himself. Never have I seen so many traffic violations committed in such a short journey. The other problem was that he didn’t know where he was going. Luckily, Karen recognised the street just off where we were staying, and so eventually we were deposited safely back at our apartment. I can assure you, that is the last time that I will ever get in an Italian taxi…or go to a Mozzarella festival. Still, I have started a Gino Da Vinci playlist on Spotify!