On Thursday, 9th January 2020 I spent the whole evening in a private room above the Adelphi with a Fat Cow and a Minger. Before you jump to any false assumptions these are the names of two of the cheeses on offer at the Scottish Cheese Night presented by Homage2Fromage.
It would appear that the new breed of artisan cheesemakers have taken the path of craft beer and boutique wine producers by giving their produce names which will make them as uninviting as possible. Fortunately the cheeses in question were very palatable indeed, as were the other six which we sampled.
I had researched the format of the evening and knew that there would be eight cheeses on offer so I planned my drinking appropriately. In my mind the best tipple to have with cheese after dinner is port, a bottle of which I said ‘Hello’ and waved ‘Goodbye’ to over the Christmas holidays in performing that very function. Tonight, however, was a different kettle of brie in that it was in one of the best pubs in town and the only thing on the menu was the aforementioned dairy product along with accompaniments such as bread, crackers, fruit and chutney, so something a little longer was in order.
I got a pint of Leeds Pale to start with planning to use this to lubricate the milder samples, and switch to the other brew of choice, Guinness for the stronger varieties. The best laid plans of mice and men!
When I got to the room where the tasting was to take place I had a chat with the organiser and co-founder Nick Copeland who told me the origins of the company. He then informed me that it was a blind tasting, so that was my strategy stuffed as I wouldn’t know which were mild and which strong, although the smell greeting me half way up the stairs betrayed the fact that at least one of them would give my tastebuds a good workout!
To say that Nick is totally devoted to cheese is as big an understatement as saying that Piers Morgan is a bit irritating. He lives, breathes, sleeps and, obviously, eats cheese. If someone brewed a Gorgonzola beer he would drink cheese as well. I was shocked to see that his shirt wasn’t made from cheesecloth.
Anyway, he told me that he has loved cheese ever since he was a small child and his obsession has just got more intense since then. He, and the other co-founder and cheese lover, Vickie, began the events in October, 2011 when fifteen people turned up for the inaugural one. They decided that it was worth pursuing and now host monthly gatherings at seven different venues including the Adelphi, Leeds and Seven Arts at Chapel Allerton, as well as others in York, Manchester, Sheffield and London. From fifteen people at the first night, there are now up to eighty a time.
One of the great things about these nights is that you are presented with eight cheeses in their entirety. They are not cut into small cubes and put on cocktail sticks embedded in a foil covered potato like you get at posh weddings – that betrays my upbringing – so you use the knives provided to cut whatever size you want. I thought this might mean that people would be staggering away from the display table with their plates overflowing, back to my posh wedding, and leave half of what they took, but no, everyone was very considerate of both the other participants and their own capacity, so there was ample for all. There is also no stigma to visiting the tables on multiple occasions, thank goodness, and I found this to be the best method as it gives a break between the different varieties and thus allows you to let one do its work before you succumb to the charms of the next. The varieties are also ones which you would not normally see for sale in supermarkets meaning that you can sample before you go to the trouble of trying to source it. In some instances that is easier said than done.
There was a separate bar set up in the room which helped the evening go well except that there was no Guinness available so I had to go downstairs for my second brew. I didn’t mind as Guinness needs to be turned over quickly to get it to its prime which this certainly was.
When we had finished, Nick went over the list of what we had been eating (each variety had been numbered) and he asked for comments which people were quick to share. This bit wasn’t compulsory so don’t worry, there isn’t a test at the end. He then presented us all with a fact sheet detailing the producers and their location.
He told me that they use a cheesemonger but he also sources some of them himself, which he confided is the best part of the job. I can totally understand that as the cheesemakers he deals with would be almost as committed to the foodstuff as he is and want to discuss it rather than just nod politely with their eyes glazing over, making their excuses to leave after an hour of frivolous chitchat on the latest production methods of Patagonian Cheddar.
Seriously, Nick is a great bloke, had he not been I wouldn’t have had such a pop at him, and, let’s face it, if you want to learn about a subject then you go to an expert, which he certainly is.
I would like to thank Vickie and Nick for their kind invitation to the latest Homage2Fromage Cheese Night which was so good that I will probably part with my own dosh before too long to go to one of their future events. Did I really write that?!
Now, if only someone would make cheeses called Hot Babe and Little Belter…..
The next date on the Scottish Cheese Night Trail is at Seven Arts, Chapel Allerton on Monday, 13th January but for full details of Homage2Fromage and their forthcoming events please visit :
All photographs by Stan Graham
As a footnote please be aware that the Adelphi is fully embracing Dry January