I knew this was going to be difficult. When I looked at my diary for mid-Febrary, I saw two very conflicting things. Slap bang in the middle of a two week diet and fitness programme I was doing was Homage2Fromage. Needless to say cheese wasn't on the list of things permitted by my personal trainer.
So - my dilemma - give cheese club a miss, or go along and not eat anything, or admit that my name is Stephen and I am a cheeseaholic (or caseophile/turophile if you want to get clever about it). The theme this month was Yorkshire cheese - which was too much of a draw for me to resist. I decided to go along and see how things went. Unsurprisingly I ended up eating some cheese.
In my defence, I tried each of the seven cheeses - a tiny piece of each. No crackers, chutney or beer to accompany them. And cheese is low in carbs and high in protein, so it should be allowed in my eating plan. Not sure my personal trainier would agree - sorry Jon!
Anyway, enough excuses about my waistline. This month's meeting was at The Adelphi - one of the best pubs in Leeds in my opinion. It's been around forever and has lots of rooms packed with original Victorian features. The beer, food and atmosphere are second to none. The upstairs room was a great venue, and I think that Homage2Fromange has found it's spiritual home.
There are so many great Yorkshire cheeses to choose from, and Vicki and Nick had selected six great ones for us to try:
Barncliffe Brie - this is the only Yorkshire-made Brie and has only been made since 2010. It had a good texture and a great flavour, impressive for a newcomer.
Smoked Wensleydale - one of my personal favorites. I'm a sucker for smoked cheeses generally, and this combined with Wensleydale is heaven for me.
Yorkshire Fine Fettle - made by the Shepherd's Purse creamery, and is famous for the 5 year battle the producer had with the EU over the name Yorkshire Feta. The name had to be changed in the end because the EU ruled that only Greek cheese with PDO status could be called Feta. This tasted light and slighty salty, with a crumbly texture.
Swaledale with Theakston's Old Peculier - this was my favourite new cheese of the evening. It was very creamy with a delicious beer flavour. Sadly Mandy Reed who ran the Swaledale Cheese Company passed away recently, I really hope the creamery continues to make knockout cheese like this.
Buffalo Blue - another Shepherd's Purse cheese, this is the first blue cheese to be made with buffalo milk. An interesting, mild flavoured blue cheese.
Fountain's Gold - made by the Wensleydale creamery. If I had to avoid any cheese tonight it was this one. Made with gold top milk from Jersey and Guernsey cows, so is practically butter rather than cheese! It had a really rich, creamy taste (no surprise considering!).
Richard Holmes from Cryer & Stott then gave a talk about the seventh cheese of the night - Ruby Gold - which is a blended cheese, made with ewe's milk and rhubarb.
Richard explained how the idea for the cheese came about - they wanted to make a cheese with local produce, and being based in Wakefield, local rhubarb seemed the obvious choice. The idea took hold so quickly that they had to find a creamery to help make the cheese. It took time to perfect the recipe, as the acidity in the rhubarb affected the cheese. In the end, they settled on ewe's milk. Demand for the cheese was so great that they produced 1,000 cheeses in two days! They have since expanded the idea into pork pies and sausages with rhubarb.
The Ruby Gold we sampled had a moist, crumbly texture, and the sweentess of the rhubarb came through. Apparently ewe's milk is low in cholesterol and high in protein, which makes it healthier than other cheeses.
Richard explained that there is a very small window of 3-4 weeks each year that the cheese can be made, owing to the availablilty of the locally grown forced rhubarb and ewe's milk. The cheese we tasted had in fact only been made three hours earlier! I felt quite priviledged to try something that is only made for a few weeks each year.
All in all it was another great Homage2Fromage evening - thanks as always to Vicki and Nick for organising everything with so much enthusiasm. The Adelpi was the perfect venue and I hope they play host to many more Homage2Fromage meetings in future.
I'm looking forward to the March meeting, which will be themed on Irish cheese to co-incide with St Patrick's Day. And I'll be able to eat much more cheese - and enjoy some of The Adelphi's great beers - as my diet should be a bit less restrictive by then!