Why English Food Doesn’t Suck, part 4: Neal’s Yard Dairy

13 05 2009

For my final (for now) argument in defense of English food, I give you Neal’s Yard Dairy.  In making my travel plans for London, I knew I couldn’t miss making a pilgrimage to this celebrated cheese shop.

Cheese at Neal's Yard Dairy, photo by Nick

The cheeses are hand selected for the shops and the company maintains close relationships with the farms and cheesemakers from whom they buy an extraordinary array of cheeses, all produced in the British Isles.  Nick and I visited the Covent Garden Shop, and when we walked into the narrow room, the smell of cheese hit us immediately.  Cheeses of all shapes, sizes and provenances were stacked high on the counter, and the very helpful salespeople were only too willing to let us taste to our heart’s content.

Appleby's Double Gloucester, photo by Nick

We sampled at least a dozen cheeses, and ended up purchasing five.  Two cheddars, Montgomery’s and Keen’s, both made from unpasteurized cow’s milk but displaying quite different characteristics.  The Keen’s is smoother in texture with a nice sharp bite on the finish, while the Monty’s has an almost granular structure and flavor reminiscent of fine Parmigiano-Reggiano.  We also picked up a wedge of nettle-wrapped Cornish Yarg, rich and earthy in flavor with a slight lactic tang, and a mystery cheese whose name we can’t remember and which mysteriously didn’t feature on our receipt.  But if I have to pick one standout, it’s the Stichelton.  (Apologies for the lack of any kind of attempt at styling this photo – hey, we were eating.)

What remained by the time I remembered to take a picture

Stichelton is what Stilton is supposed to be.  Apparently, there was a scare a number of years ago involving a few cases of food poisoning from raw-milk Stilton.  Cheese producers began making it with pasteurized milk instead, and even got a PDO (the English equivalent of AOC) for Stilton produced in this manner.  Since then, cheeses made traditionally, using raw cow’s milk, cannot be called Stilton.  So Randolph Hodgson, owner of Neal’s Yard Dairy, joined forces with Joe Schneider, an American cheesemaker, to produce a “new” cheese – Stichelton.  It is so good, my mouthis watering now, just thinking about it.  Dense and rich, withgreenish-blue veins emanating from the center, the cheese is piquant yet smooth, with toasty, caramelized flavors to round it out.  The flavor just lasts and lasts on your tongue.  If you like cheese, you must try this as soon as humanly possible.  It’s love at first creamy, tangy bite.

It’s time again for La Fête du Fromage Chez Loulou.  I missed last month, but hopefully this will make up for it.  Look for the delectable roundup on the 15th.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.


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