Last night I attended the re-launch of  The Cheese Gourmet and Cheese Cafe in Linden.

What I found most fascinating were the stories attached to some of the people involved in this wonderfully welcoming neighbourhood shrine to good food. People who had other lives until they decided to follow their bliss into the world of taste.

Owners Jo and Brian Dick, after running a food orientated corporate gift service from home and from the Irene market,  decided it was time to open a cheese shop dedicated to selling hand-made cheese  from small producers all over the country. With the disbanding of the Dairy Board (remember that parastatal arbiter of all things cheddar and gouda?) farms started getting more creative with their cheese making and these were the people who needed an outlet.

Initially a cheese shop that stocked Japanese foods (yup – the crazy combination got them noticed), the Cheese Gourmet expanded to stock locally produced chutneys, relishes, fudge, and sausages. The next expansion saw them opening the Cheese Cafe,  which serves all these wonderful products on artisan breads. Needing a bit of elbow room, when the corner shop became available, they jumped at the chance and have now got plenty of room for both sides of the business to expand.

The Foodies featured:

Peter James-Smith, a retired radio journalist produces delicious home-made sausages.

Prof. Mark Solms, a world-renowned neuroscientist recently returned to South Africa – Solms-Delta wines were served last night and were very drinkable. I was particularly impressed by the Solms-Astor Cape Jazz Shiraz even though my tastes usually run to dry sparkling wines – this one was fun! They are not available at the Cheese Cafe (yet) but can be bought down the road at the nearest bottle store!

I got into a very interesting conversation with Brian about the cheeses served at the event. One of them was particularly addictive – a hard mature cheese that just sang to my palate. He told me it was called The Witzenberger and was produced on a farm called Kimilili. Kimilili is owned by an ex-Wall Street banker of Swiss decent who looked for and found his “farm in Africa” (say this with a Danish accent, please) and learned how to make cheese from researching the processes on the internet!

We also talked about the ex-attorney, Wayne Rademeyer, who flew 24 water buffalo out from Australia (on Qantas) and established Buffalo Ridge Farm, where he produces buffalo mozzarella. The best mozzarella on the market – a far cry from the hard blocks of waxy cheese that passes for mozzarella in most supermarkets.

These are just a few of the fascinating stories behind locally produced good food. It almost makes one want to start planning an alternative life where you can slough off the rat race, find your little piece of heaven and start producing food that people with go gaga for!

The Cheese Gourmet and Cheese Cafe are now on the corner of 7th Street and 3rd Ave, Linden, Johannesburg.

The flying cow? Originally drawn in Photoshop for the label on a body butter jar! I figured it would do well to illustrate my flight of fancy into the world of cheese.

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