Tim and I went to the feste last year and loved the experience, so vowed to go back the following year with friends. Then in January this year I received a call from one Roy Catanzariti, who, as I wrote last year, is the festival’s co-founder and main man (though, as he points out often, he couldn’t do it without the feste’s hard working committee). Roy was calling to ask if I’d consider being a judge this year.
I was on speaker phone and Tim spluttered with laughter. But despite my complete lack of experience in smallgood judging, I defied his scoffs said yes immediately.
The day finally came and I drove south with an empty car and stomach. Tim to follow later that day, catching a ride with friends joining us for the feste lunch on Sunday. I arrived at the specified location, a restaurant in east Griffith well signposted and already overflowing with noise, and Roy greeted me (at 10am) with a glass of shiraz and a gesture to take my seat. He’d placed me with seasoned judges who thankfully, were gracious in the face of my ignorance and generous with their advice. The fellow next to me, one John Casella of Yellow Tail wine, only one of Australia’s most famous wine exports, is an expert in making salami (and, wine of course) and had loads of great tips. These included, but were not limited to;
- A good homemade salami should have a creamy consistency. It shouldn’t be too soft though, this is a sign it hasn’t cured properly or enough.
- The texture should be consistent with an even distribution of fat.
- Dark salamis aren’t necessariily flawed, this could be a sign that the maker hasn’t used any preservatives so don’t taste with just your eyes.
- Use of garlic should be careful; the flavour can completely dominate a salami. If used, it should be sparingly.
- Colour should be nice and pink and consistent from the rind to the centre of each slice.
The morning played on. Wine was poured, many many trays of salami were passed around, the piano accordion rang out and old southern Italian tunes were sung and loudly. On the panel were a few other ‘out-of-towners’ including a Sydney cardiologist who has been visiting patients in Griffith for decades, and many of his best customers were in this very room! Then there were the local judges, each representing different regions in Southern Italy, from Calabria to Abruzzi and Sicily.
Later that day, relived of our salami responsibility, I waddled off to meet Tim and our friends who'd just arrived. We cruised around town, and I was introduced to the wonderful world of Geocaching (thank you Kate and James - my muggle days are over) and then we finished off with pizza at Romeo e Juliettas that night.
Sunday morning we visited the weekly farmers market and picked up pastries (for our breakfast in the blood orange grove) plus fresh pecans, oranges, artichokes and other greens.
The festival itself, as I said earlier, was everything a good day should be; full of conviviality, good food, music and fun. I admit that it took me a few too many days to recover from all that food and wine but it was absolutely worth it. We came home feeling rather like we'd just revisited our Sicilian honeymoon of nine years ago, and have already committed to going back next year. Tickets aren't yet on sale for the 2015 feste but if keen to come, check with the Griffith information centre and they'll help you out. See you there!