Held at the Soup Kitchen in Manchester's Northern Quarter, the night kicked off with an introduction to the 'Roving Fromagiere' Phoebe Weller, a large glass of wine and then we were straight in to cheese number one.
Making her way around a 12 cheese plate, Phoebe introduced us to a mix of good friends; Brie, Emmental; some smelly eccentrics such as Epoisses and a couple of newbies I hadn't had the delight to taste before (new to me not new to the world, as per usual each cheese exhibited was steeped in French tradition and only made in one cave by two monks and their goat's wife...).
Some of the many cheeses
Working her way through the plate, Phoebe introduced us to each cheese - instead of wolfing it down and discussing the tasting notes we were encouraged to touch the cheese, roll it around in our hands, note its texture, warm it up and smell it before getting anywhere near tasting it.
Whilst getting over friendly with our cheese, Phoebe built up the story behind each, throwing in little grenades of interesting facts such as: Gruyere is just an Emmental that hasn't made the quality grade, it's illegal to take Epoisses on public transport in France and that Reblouchon comes from 14th century peasants and is the fattier, second milking of the cow- it resulted from them conning their landlords out of milk (which is what their lease used to be paid in).
The stars of the show for me were a gooey, melting Saint Marcellin; which was nutty, yeasty and soapy - and went brilliantly with the grapes on the table. The other star was a new cheese to me, Pont-l-Eveque - which smelled of that lovely musty smell of a well ridden saddle and the pine tar so redolent of Finland. The taste was sweeter than the smell with an undercurrent of woodsmoke - utterly divine.
Pont l-Eveque - smells like Finland
The night was a success - the most interesting and engaging cheese tasting I've been to. Phoebe's wonderful energy suckered us in, pulled us all along and brought the story of every cheese to life. It was enjoyable to attend an event with a great variety of cheese (though they could have snuck in one or two more blues); plus one where they let you take cheese home - I was snacking on Pont l-Eveque for the rest of the week!
Ps The Soup Kitchen also does their own food as well as hosting other people's - more on that in a couple of months.
The Soup Kitchen, 31-33 Spear Street, Manchester M1 1DF, 0161 236 5100 - http://soup-kitchen.co.uk/