I woke up blearily after a night of cheese-tinctured dreams. Did I really have one made from the milk of moody cows and another called Sid James?
We’d been to the monthly cheese and wine tasting organised by those Grand Fromages of Sharrow Vale, Nick and Nicky Peck of the Porter Brook Deli, with Barry Starmore and Jefferson Boss of Starmore Boss, visionary vintners further along the road.
I always think that a wine tasting pure and simple is really an excuse to put as many decent wines down your throat and pretend you’re learning something. Hands up all those who remember anything after the fourth glass. Thought so.
But add cheese and it seems so much more civilised and sophisticated, don’t you think? Instead of slurp, slurp, slurp it’s slurp, nibble, chew, because we’re enjoying it at the Seven Hills Bakery, which is supplying the bread.
There are 36 of us at refectory tables and we all say hello to our neighbours in that ultra-polite way the British have. The theme of the evening is artisanal wines and cheeses and, of course the bread, which has had the least distance to travel, straight from the ovens at the artisanal sourdough bakery where we’re sat.
We start with a sparkle: a Prosecco from the Bisol family in the Veneto region partnered with an English Brie, the aristocratic sounding Baron Bigod of Suffolk. It’s made with milk from a herd of Montbeliarde cows at Fen Farm, Bungay. Now I’m no lover of French Brie, which always seems to me to be too languid and effeminate in a French kind of way. But this is firmer and, if I dare say it, more manly.
In any case I’ve recently eaten something very similar while on holiday, the St Jude made by the White Wood Diary with milk from the same herd.
Nick gives us one of those little cheesy tips to use to impress. If you see a chalky line in the middle of your Brie it’s not fully mature.
Naturally the bread is French, a baton made with a poolish, or pre-fermented dough, explains bakery boss Laura Bullock. By the end of the evening I’ve changed my mind about Seven Hills, which I associate with heavy, dense, extra chewy breads with hard crusts, not good for ancient teeth. They do those but there are lighter ones instead.
I won’t go through every mouthful but I think Nick is pulling our legs when he asks us to identify two Hafod cheddars made on different days of the week, June 9 and June 12. Apparently he isn’t. It’s something about the quality of the grass or the mood of the cows. Moody cows? I can’t but others can. At any rate, both are outshone by their partner cheese, Isle of Mull.
If you used this event to nick ideas for your own cheese and wine party or cheese course then these cheeses are a fine match with the bakery’s white sourdough. And the wine to go with cheese from a moody cow is a Domaine Brau Viognier Pure from Languedoc.
Sid James was a mishearing for St James cheese, a sheep’s milk cheese from Cartmel, Cumbria. It tasted craggy, like Sid. It went with a red from Santa Barbara, California, described as “elegant forward Pinot,” which is not what you would call our Sid. I thought juicy but I was probably conjuring up images of Barbara Windsor.
The overwhelming vote for platter of the night was for a partnering of the bakery’s excellent buttermilk tea cakes (my favourite) with Cote Hill Blue and an intriguing sherry, Valdespino Pedro Ximenez El Candado. “Coating but not cloying,” said Starmore Boss. Now that’s a phrase I’ll use at my next wine tasting.
It was great fun and all for £20 a head. The next event is on June 24 and 25.