I love cheese. You knew that already* but I really needed to set the scene before telling a tale of cheese I don't like. Every Christmas, without fail, shops are filled with "seasonal cheeses" with stuff added to them. I can't stand them. I'm talking about Wensleydale with Cranberries, White Stilton with Apricots, Cheddar with Pickled Onions.
Last year, to keep a crowd happy I bought some cheese that had "Christmas Chutney" mixed through it. I'm told that it was nice but I couldn't bring myself to eat any of it. I do like fruit, chutneys and pickles with cheese, but I prefer to add my condiment to the cheese as and when I see fit. It was with this in mind that I bought my ticket to this month's Homage 2 Fromage: Cheese with added stuff.
Why would I buy tickets to an evening of cheese that I don't like? Well, I had faith Vickie and Nick, the driving force behind Homage 2 Fromage, that they would not be serving up plates of second rate cheese stuffed with dried fruit. My faith was well placed with ten great cheeses for us to try.
As with every Homage 2 Fromage there were highlights and the inevitable cheese that wasn't to everyone's taste. Tonight however the room was split. There was no definite king of cheese and nothing was universally despised. We had: Black Crowdie, Swaledale with Old Peculiar, Gaperon D'Auvergne, Double Gloucester with Chives, Snowdonia Red Devil, Gouda with Cumin, Bowland, Mahon, Royal Red and Katys White Lavender.
My personal favourite was Gouda with Cumin although I will swear until I go to the grave that it was flavoured with caraway not cumin. The sweet spice seeds were mixed through the Gouda so that every bite had a wonderful warm nuttiness. At the other end of the scale was the Bowland. This was as close to the afore mentioned Christmas cheese as I would ever like to get. A Lancashire cheese stuffed with apple and raisins and coated in cinnamon. I knew on sight that I wasn't going to enjoy it. It was far too sweet and nowhere near cheesy enough for my liking.
The evening was rounded off with a talk from Richard Paul, Chairman of Nantwich International Cheese Awards and Cheese Sourcing Director at Bradburys. He travels the world finding, eating and buying cheese and I think that I want to be him when I grow up. As well as being an interesting and enthusiastic guest, he also rounded the night off by knocking the room sideways by introducing us to what I think is the world's maddest cheese.
Rossini is an Italian blue cheese, rind washed with grape must, and it is a thing of wonder. The flavour and texture somehow manages to change with every mouthful. None of the creamy sharpness of a good blue is lost but it is accompanied by an explosion of alternating flavours. The sharpness of the wine and the sweetness of the grapes are both present and there is a pleasing sherbety after-taste. I don't think my tongue has ever been given such a thorough work out.
There was a lot of talk about cheese snobbery tonight. I probably** fall into the snob bracket, as I prefer to add chutney/onions/pickle to the cheese that I have chosen rather than have it added for me. We are all different and we all have very different tastes. If we didn't there would be no place for Homage 2 Fromage. Without Homage 2 Fromage I would never have tried Rossini and that is a world that I wouldn't want to live in. Bring on the blue cheese in December!
*unless this is the first time you have found my blog in which case, hello, I love cheese.