BREAD AND BOARD
British culture has been built on the simple pleasures that even the Puritans could not totally destroy. Country dancing & folk music may have been driven underground, but there are some aspects of rural simplicity that have survived every onslaught to finally emerge as truly joyous celebrations of our heritage.
The renaissance in artisinal cheese production in this country was spurred on by the loss of fixed prices for milk in the 80’s & the need to find new ways to add value for a rapidly loss making product.
Beer was used as a safe way of hydration when water supplies were potentially dangerous, & even children were given small or weak beer.
Add into this trilogy the staff of life itself, good bread, and you have all the ingredients of an honest evening of pure pleasure.
The venue was the Green Room at the Tobacco Factory in Southville, a space given a new lease of life by George Fergurson in a bid to remind us all how important community spaces are.
George has recently rescued a small brewery close by, where brewer Chris Kay is reviving a tradition of ales with roots in the heart of their territory, and baker Mark Newman is about to adopt the same principles with his wonderful artisinal breads, many sourdoughs, including a Bristol wild yeast cultivated from local bacteria in the area. This truly is Terroir cuisine.
On the evening, Todd Trethowan showed his Gorwydd Caerphilly alongside 4 other artisinal cheeses and invited the enthusiastic audience to discover their own personal preferences in matching them to the 5 beers on offer.
Paired with Bristol Beer Factory Gold, a citrussy pale ale, the Gorwydd’s crumbly lemon centre was superb, but I preferred the mustiness of a wheat beer with the earthy mushroom rind.
Diane Smarts single Gloucester is one of a very few British cheeses to have a PDO set by the EU, made using the milk from Gloucester cattle, itself a rare breed, this delectably subtle, creamy cheese was traditionally known as the haymakers cheese, and was given, along with beer, to the workers in the field at harvest time. It sat well along side the No 7, a traditional bitter beer.
Mary Holbrook’s hard goats cheese, Old Ford, is a new favourite of mine. A Lambic beer, which equates to the sourdough bread in that it relies purely on wild yeasts, had been maturated over cherries for 6 weeks. The resultant sour cherry tartness really favoured this cheese & also the classic goat log, Ragstone, from Charlie Westhead.
A Californian porter was an obvious match for Stichelton, that now infamous unpasteurised Stilton made by Joe Schneider on the Welbeck Estate, Notts. Rich, malty flavours matched with the sweet, salty creaminess of this cheese. Oh the irony of such classic British products, both with an American driven heart.
I cannot end a review of this glorious evening without reference again to the amazing breads Mark supplied. They appeared almost as an afterthought, but were very much an integral part of the show, sourdoughs made from rye & wheat, a superb spelt loaf, and a fantastic walnut bread, added so much to the enjoyment of the evening. This truly was a showcase of the holy trinity of British foods.