Cheese is a particular weakness of mine and a visit to George Mewes (www.georgemewescheese.co.uk) on Byres Road in Glasgow for a festive cheeseboard was always going to take a while. So much so I bought enough for two festive cheeseboards but better to have too much than not enough!
The first thing that hits you is the wonderful smell, a combination of milk, muslin and must tells you that you are in a serious establishment and you need to know your way around. Except you don’t, because the staff are there to guide and help novice and lifelong conniseur alike. I was immediately asked when the cheese was for and how many people and with the help of the assistant started to negotiate the varied cheese map on offer. This would take us from the west to the east coast of Scotland, down through England to Devon before heading overseas to Normandy, the Spanish Cantabrians and beyond.
Each and every cheese was offered for tasting and gratefully accepted, these were not decisions to be taken lightly after all. So for the hard cheese I opted for Lincolnshire Poacher which was a bit stronger and more lusty than the Anster which I had spotted. As I was told this is great for anything, even the best ever cheese on toast as a treat, I couldn’t disagree. As an alternative I also went for a large slice of Bonnet, the delicious hard goats milk cheese from Scotland, I couldn’t go to a Glasgow cheese shop and totally ignore the native offerings after all! I decided on a delicious soft ewes milk offering called Wigmore which is wonderfully creamy and tangy and even better after an hour out of the fridge. To add to the soft cheese selection went another brie style from Devon and a Norman goats log, apologies but the names escape me as do the labels!
So now to the blue, sometimes the most difficult to choose as some don’t like it too strong, too soft, too green, too salty…..too blue!!! I tried the Stilton available, and it was truly delicious but was pipped at the post by Picos from northern Spain. This is a wonderful soft(ish), creamy and tangy blue which came wrapped in chestnut leaves and was quite simply stunning, multi dimensional but not overpowering. Apparently in Spain they eat it with honey for breakfast and this is what I will be doing with it next time, although this time round I used the last of it in wild mushroom and blue cheese soup.
So that was my shopping done, I was about to escape from this cheese heaven. However, just as I was being reminded to take the cheese out of the fridge a good half hour before serving I was also asked if I wanted any oatcakes or quince paste. Quince paste?! Where is it? I was shown to a beautiful dark orangey brown slab from Spain at the end of the counter. It smelled and tasted of Christmas. Rich, sweet, beautifully spiced and quite the perfect accompaniment to any cheeseboard. So I took a big slice, thanked the assistant, paid him and ran out before I was tempted by anything further!! It would be impossible not to be.