We have about 130 different types of cheese in our counters and I'm really lucky in that I get to travel around and meet a lot of our suppliers, many of whom are the people that are physically making the cheeses that we sell. A couple of weeks ago I had the perfect cheesemonger week as I got to visit several cheesemakers within a few days of each other...
Ali and I had decided to go to York for our wedding anniversary and we had a lovely couple of days wandering aroud the city (it is beautiful, if you've not been, you should go!) I had done a bit of a recce before we left home and figured that a drive to Wensleydale wouldn't be too daft an idea so we had a lovely pootle through the Yorkshire Dales National Park and went to visit the Wensleydale Creamery in Hawes. Yorkshire Wensleydale is a protected title and so true Wensleydale can only be made in this area. We stock two cheeses in the shop that are made by the Wensleydale Creamery, Hawes Special Reserve and the Wensleydale with Cranberries. We had a really interesting look around the creamery and we sampled plenty of cheese. I'd like to kind room in our counter for the Kit Calvert which is a Wensleydale cheese made in an old style, but I'm not sure I can wiggle it in! We then drove past where our lovely Ribblesdale Blue Goat cheese is made (also in Hawes) but I hadn't realised that they were so near to the Wensleydale Creamery and so I hadn't called ahead to arrange a meet - we will have to just go back to Yorkshire again! On our way home to lovely Berkshire we stopped at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, again this is well worth a visit if you're in the neck of the woods. (Yorkshire - 2 out of 130 cheeses visited)
Back in Berkshire it happened to be a local cheese pick up week. Every two weeks I go over to Wokingham and visit 2 of our most local cheesemakers. My first port of call on this particular Tuesday morning was the Village Maid Dairy. Anne and Andy Wigmore have been supplying the shop with their cheeses for many years. We stock all 4 of the cheeses that they make - Waterloo, Wigmore, Spenwood and Maida Vale. My next stop was at Two Hoots Cheese. Sandy and Andy Rose make the lovely Barkham Blue which is the most popular blue cheese that we stock. (Berkshire - 5 out of 130 cheeses visited)
This perfectly cheesy week then happened to coincide with my monthly trip to Somerset. I head down the A303 every 4 weeks to pick up cheese from 4 different farms. I always start my tour of Somerset with a trip to North Cadbury, the home of Montgomery Cheddar. Ali and I had a whole round of Montgomery as the base layer of our wedding cake so I am always very excited to go into their cheese rooms and see all of the cheddars being matured. I then head cross country towards Glastonbury to visit Jean Turner and her creamery. We stock two of Jean's cheeses, her Farmhouse Cheddar and her Extra Tasty Cheddar. In fact Gould's Farmhouse is our house Cheddar here in Pangbourne (it's also the most requested cheese for me to bring home from the shop by our kids!) From here it's a short hop to White Lake Cheese who supply us with their great goats' cheeses, as well as their newly crowned Supreme Champion at the British Cheese Awards, Sheep Rustler, and a lovely cows' cheese. It's then back in the van and off to my last stop at Westcombe Dairy to pick up their Cheddar and our Caerphilly of choice, Ducketts. Fully laden it's then time to head back to Pangbourne in time for lunch! (Somerset - 11 out of 130 cheeses visited)
My cheese experience then took on an international flavour as Ali and I had been invited to Woerden in the Netherlands to visit our Gouda supplier. At the time of our visit we stocked 5 different Goudas (post visit we have 6...) We have a truffle infused Gouda, one with cumin seeds, a goat Gouda with fenugreek seeds, our old Gouda which is aged for 1000 days and our youngest Gouda, Bon Repas. We are now selling an aged Jersey milk Gouda (which is exquisite). We had an evening in Amsterdam which we spent doing a canal tour of the city (we plan to go back for a non-work trip very soon!) and then embarked on a day with Gert from Treur Cheese. We had a fascinating tour of the warehouses where all the Goudas are matured (all 1.2 million kgs of them) and we witnessed the cheeses being turned and coated. After a quick lunch it was time to visit one of the dairies and meet the cheesemakers (and the cows). We then finished off the day at a typical Dutch cheesemongers. The whole day was really informative and it was so interesting to see the all of the various stages of the Gouda production. We even tried some blu cheese...This might not seem to be that unusual but it wasn't blue becuase of any interior mold, it was bright blue! I'm not sure we'll be stocking it any time soon. I filmed various parts of the day and the final montage can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xeQ2l_CAxFI&t=82s (Woerden - 5 out of 130 cheeses visited)
It was a really fabulous week, I visited the home of 23 of our cheeses and I managed to spend time in the shop doing my day job too!