Showing posts from November, 2013

And The Winner Is

Congratulations to Kaserei Champignon who have emerged victorious at the World Cheese Awards. In an amazing feat their entry, Montagnolo Affiné, a creamy blue cheese, not only scooped first place but second as well. It had been entered into two different classes and when judges re-judged, tasted and voted the final 15 Super Golds, the cheese came both first and second. Now Germany isn’t usually classed as being in the premier league of cheese making; so this award is very significant.
John Farrand, MD of the Guild of Fine Food, organiser of the competition, said: “After 25 years of the World Cheese Awards this is the first time that a cheese made in Germany has won the top honour.Our judges were united in their praise for the Montagnolo Affiné with one judge describing the cheese as ‘visually beautiful with a soft blue grey bloom and melt in the mouth, velvety flavour’.This is a very worthy winner from an accomplished cheesemaker.” David Gremmels of Rogue Creamery in the USA, one of th…

Mild No More?

In a riposte to yesterday’s bad news cheese story, it was good to read recently that sales of quality cheese are up while the dreaded “mild” variety is seeing a slump in popularity. Yes craft cheese, just like craft beer, seems to be winning over a new generation of fans. Mild cheddar, that polythene-wrapped monstrosity of rubbery-blandness, has long been the cheese of choice for the casual buyer. But figures from Mintel show that it has seen a 6% fall in sales over the last year. It now accounts for just £161m of the total £2.6bn cheese market. Over the same period, sales of extra mature have risen an impressive 12% (hooray) while blue (14%) and continental (10%) have also seen impressive rises.

So what lies behind this switch of allegiance? It seems that customers are simply seeking more flavour. Just as Mexican is tipped to become the nation’s top cuisine of choice, cheese buyers are also becoming more adventurous. Fewer than one in five of those questioned by researchers said a mil…

EU Takes A Bite Out Of Cheese Awards

Today marks the start of the World Cheese Awards. Held annually as part of the BBC Good Food Show at the NEC, it’s a true box of delights for the dedicated cheese lover. Over 1000 square metres of display encompasses nearly 3000 entries, 79% of which are from outside the UK. Make no mistake, when they say it’s the biggest in the world; that’s no lie. And with 80,000 consumers expected to try a nibble or two, everything was looking rosy. But no, there looks to be a fly in the curd that threatens not only this year’s event but future ones as well.
The underlying cause, according to the organisers, is a new Brussels directive. They have appealed to the Food Standards Agency to help overturn the EU ruling that prevents Japan, South Africa and several countries from South America, including Brazil, importing cheese to compete in this year’s Olympics of cheese. But the real problem may simply be DEFRA, which is following the strict letter of the law of the EU directive. The directive follows…

Those Were The Days

Mass Observation was a social research organisation founded in 1937 to record the minutiae of daily life in Britain. Its army of around 500 volunteers kept diaries, answered questionnaires and, somewhat controversially by today’s standards, recorded people’s behaviour and conversation in and out of work. A bit like the NSA, really. This went on until the 1950s when it was discontinued and then restarted in 1981. Although methodologically dubious: its surveyors were hardly representative of the populace as a whole, it does offer some fascinating insights. Its archive resides with the University of Sussex and it has recently moved to a custom-built, climate-controlled centre called The Keep.
To commemorate this move, several snippets were made available to the press. One immediately caught my attention. In 1938 one of the questions they wanted the answer to, for reasons lost in time, was what was the average supping time for a pint? One could only imagine that this was at the behest of …


Cologne: so good they named it twice. Köln, as the Germans insist on calling it, is a bustling city. Still scarred from the effects of WW11-the rebuild seems never ending-it boasts a famous cathedral and, no doubt, some other cultural highlights. However, the important question is, as always, is it worth visiting? That means, of course, what’s it like for a drink? The good news is that it scores well in that regard. Yes, I like Köln. If Dusseldorf is the older, steady brother, then Köln is its slightly rebellious younger sibling. Of the two, I’d prefer to be having a nightcap in Köln rather than facing another Alt in Dusseldorf. The drink of choice in Köln is Kölsch which just happens to be the name of the local dialect. At one time Köln could boast the most breweries of any city in Germany. But although the brands live on, most of the breweries have closed. The remaining brewers each produce a Kölsch subtly different from their rivals and, as in Dusseldorf, everyone will have their fa…

Ratinger & Wuppertal

Ratingen is a town located just 7.5 miles to the northeast of Dusseldorf. Fun fact of the day: it’s twinned with Cramlington, Northumberland. But its main appeal lies in two areas; one is that having suffered very little wartime damage, it retains a number of interesting old buildings. The second is that it’s a virtual microcosm of the Dusseldorf beer scene, with several of the breweries having pubs here. As always, Ron Pattinson has been there first and you can read his review here. One amendment to note is that the Diebels am Markt now appears to be a Lowenbrau outlet but is still worth a visit. There is the Ratinger Brauhaus but common consensus was that the Schlüssel Brauereiausschank "Zu den drei Königen" was the best. This is a smart, well run establishment where you can sit at the bar and chat with the very amiable Serbian barman. Wuppertal. So good they named it once. To be fair, it’s surrounded by greenery. However, the city itself looks quite dismal and seems to hav…


Dusseldorf is the capital of North-Rhine Westphalia and a major industrial and financial centre. It’s also, apparently, the fashion hub of Germany. But for our purposes, its real fame lies with its beer. Ok it’s just one beer-no claim to be the craft beer capital of Europe here-Alt. But avoid the malt gloop clones and stick with the quality stuff and a glass or two isn’t the worst way to pass time. And there are certainly some decent pubs in which to drink it. Indeed, the Alstadt in Dusseldorf lays claim to be one mighty pub crawl, albeit not all of them great ones.

We certainly covered all the bases on our weekend in the Fatherland. A good starting point is any one of the four Dusseldorf brewers still producing a distinctive Alt. Ueriga is a very famous one and their brewery tap is well known and not just because Auf Wiedersehen Pet used the back room for filming. It’s what you’d expect from a German boozer; think olde-world Sam Smith charm with plenty of character. And character…