Monday, 12 April 2010

Back to (Cheese) School

Sunday 11th April was the date of the first Cheese School, which was exactly as it said on the tin... a day learning about cheese, tasting it, learning about how it is made, more tasting, recipes, more tasting... you get the message. Not for the faint (or weak) hearted this was like wading up to your waste in beautiful artisan cheeses. Brilliantly run by Fiona Beckett and Jess Trethowan it was a fun day with lots of different people speaking; cheese makers, mongers, fanatics, wine merchants & us.
So why were we there? One of the days items was pairing wine & beer with cheese, actually having beer and wine compete against each other to find out who was cheeses best friend. Four cheeses had been selected, Matt from Avery's had selected 4 wines and we brought 2 of our beers and 2 Belgians had also been selected for us. The 4 cheeses were, Dorstone, a creamy Goats Cheese rolled in ash, Tunworth, a ripe Camembert style cheese, Stichelton, my favourite blue & Old Demdike, a sheep's cheese similar to a young Manchego.

The first pairing was with the Dorstone, we had a Belgian wheat beer to pair with it. The Dorstone is a very creamy goats cheese and the citrus flavours and carbonation lifted this quite well. We had also brought a bottle of Milk Stout along and that was a little better I felt. The lactose sugar in the Milk Stout gives it a creamy feel that goes very well with the Dorstone, you wouldn't expect it to work but it really does.

We had brought along some dry-hopped Sunrise to have with the Old Demdike, it has more citrus aroma and tastes a bit more bitter than you are used to drinking from the pub. It is absolutely delicious, the new seasons Pioneer hops are fantastic. However the extra bitterness was probably not needed with this cheese, they were fine together but it wasn't the all singing and dancing double act that Sunrise is when its paired with Gorwydd Caerphilly. The Cheese School students enjoyed it thoroughly, especially later on with their macaroni cheese.

Bacchus Kriek was paired with Tunworth a runny Camembert style cheese that was absolutely delicious. I usually find Bacchus to sweet for me and generally prefer other Kriek's. This cheese pairing was a triumph however, with the two working particularly well together improving the beer no end, and the acidity of the beer lifting the unctuous cheese and refreshing the palate.
Finally we paired Stichelton with our new 7.7% Imperial Stout. These two worked beautifully together, a real one plus one equals three combination as the fruity esters in the beer combine with the rich cheese and the coffee & chocolate notes in the beer are accentuated. We liked a lot!
I must say something about the wines, as I'm usually a bit sceptical about wine & cheese pairings which generally think are over-rated, but a lovely French Sauvignon was great with the Goats Cheese and a Sherry pairing with Stichelton was excellent. I didn't write the details down, sorry!
I thought Cheese School was a great day, and the 'students' seemed completely absorbed by what they were being told. The cheese knowledge in the room was mind-blowing and I learnt loads! I believe the next one is in June, we'll be there and I suggest you are too.

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