One of the interesting things about actually reading the Foods of the World all the way through rather than skimming around for ideas, context or inspiration is the discovery that there are some terribly amusing (at least to me) stories to be had throughout. Some of them even have morals. In the case of Cooking of the British Isles, I joked on Twitter at some point a few months ago that I’d learned one should never trust a cheese monger from Dorset.
In the chapter devoted to cheese (titled “A Royal Collection of Rural Cheeses”) Adrian Bailey is on the hunt for a rare local blue cheese called “Blue Vinny”. After asking about all over rural Dorset he finally finds someone in a pub willing to procure this rare cheese for him—he takes the cheese to a Cheese Grading Center in Wells and discovers that he’s been duped, they’ve provided him with a common Stilton. For me, the moral of this story was—know your cheese monger. And I’m lucky to have a truly excellent one in my own neighborhood.
I don’t have a ton of British cheese, but the ones I do carry I absolutely love.
— Sheri LaVigne, The Calf and Kid
A cheese monger should love all their cheeses, and after exchanging a few emails with Sheri, I was delighted to go in to Calf and Kid for an hour one Wednesday afternoon to talk, taste and of course purchase some lovely British cheeses. Sheri carries five cheeses from the UK, all sourced through Neal’s Yard Dairy—which was interesting to me because they provide aging space to a number of smaller producers, which also allows them access to a wider audience. I brought home with me four of the five cheeses Calf and Kid carries, only leaving behind her Stichelton—as I was sharing the cheese with friends the following Sunday and something in a Stilton style is a bit overpowering at the start of a meal.
I’ll let the cheeses I did bring home, speak for themselves (at least in the words of Neal’s Yard). I struggled with describing them on my own, and as I noted in conversation to Sheri, “I’m not always good with my ‘food words’.” I truly enjoyed all of them—though have rekindled my love of cheddars thanks to the Keen’s and it should surprise no-one that I adored the Berkswell (being a sheep’s milk cheese), but the real surprise was the lovely Ticklemore. While it had a somewhat silly name, what a lovely cheese—how can goats that look this happy produce anything but a lovely tasting cheese?
Keen’s Cheddar: Smooth and firm textured with long, complex, rich, nutty flavours and a tangy bite at the end.
Berkswell: Rich, sweet, fruity and nutty. Sometimes with a fruity acidity that reminds us of pineapples, sometimes creamy and biscuity, but the flavours are always, long, deep and mouth-filling. The texture can be slightly grainy and depending on age varies from quite firm to moist and relatively soft.
Montgomery’s Cheddar: Rich, sweet, fruity, nutty, beefy flavours. Sometimes reminiscent of the caramelised edge of a Sunday roast. The texture is drier than most other cheddars with a grainy and crystalline crunch as it ages.
Ticklemore: Light, gentle, floral, herby and ice-creamy cool with a moist crumbling texture.