The festival focuses on UK cheeses, predominantly from Southern England and a smattering of other stalls are thrown in with it – Dorset Coffee Co, Peppers by Post (who had some gorgeous, really colourful chilli plants on their stall), Hogs Bottom Garden Delights (chutney), Bridport Gourmet Pies (husband salivating at this one), Olives et al and the Somerset Cider Brandy Co to name just a few.
We arrived as the festival was opening and soon implemented our usual plan of attack – the morning was spent tasting cheese and some of the wares from the other food stalls, all the while eyeing up a bit of cheese, bread, chutney and pie (gin and rabbit this year) for lunch on a hay bail in front of the band. It has become traditional to wash lunch down with a pint of the local beer or cider and this year was no exception. In the afternoon we browsed the craft stalls and other goings-on which, this year, included fire-throwing and Punch and Judy which the children lapped up.
So, to my favourite cheese of which there were many: I particularly liked the unpasteurised cow’s milk cheeses from Cranborne Chase Cheese (www.cranbornechasecheese.co.uk) – Eldren, a fresh lactic cheese which is incredibly lemony, was my absolute favourite. When I returned to their stand, mid-afternoon to collect my purchases, they were ‘fresh’ out of cheese so I was glad I’d had the forethought to buy as I tasted.
Another fresh, unpasteurised cow’s milk cheese which very much appealed to me was from the Windswept Cow Cheese Company, based in Worth Matravers near Swanage (no website) – really fresh and creamy. Both this and the Eldren would be perfect for a light cheeseboard after a heavy dinner party.
Two old favourites were there at the festival – Westcombe Cheddar, with a very attractive-looking stall with huge truckles of cheese on display and the Exmoor Blue Cheese Company, with their fabulous blues and showing a new recipe, goat’s cheese marinated in oil with herbs and garlic (there’s some in my fridge waiting for an appropriate moment for it to be devoured on crusty bread or toast).
Two other cheese stands that I really enjoyed visiting were Wootton Organic Dairy – their soft, unpasteurised sheep’s milk cheese, Little Ryding, is to die for and was definitely my husband’s favourite, judging by the rate he’s been getting through it this last week. And we came back to the first cheese we tasted as our choice for a lunch cheese – Old Winchester Extra Mature from Lyburn Farmhouse Cheesemakers near Romsey. A bit like a matured Gouda, it is made from the milk of the farm’s herd of 180 Holstein Fresians.
Once again, a fantastic day out which was greatly helped by the sunshine. We went home, very happy with our cheese selections, and made the most of the day with a barbecue followed by, perhaps unsurprisingly, a rather large cheeseboard accompanied by the inevitable wine matching!