Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Judging the World Cheese Awards

I spent yesterday morning in Dublin as one of 150 judges who had been invited to taste 2000 of the world's top cheeses. Fortunately not all 2000 of them otherwise I doubt I'd be blogging today but about 50-60 (I didn't count).

We were divided into teams of four from different backgrounds. I was in a team with two retailers - a guy from Fortnum and Mason and the owner of a cheese shop in Nottingham - and a Canadian cheese judge (every team had one technical expert) It was fascinating the different perspectives we brought to the task. The cheese judge, as you'd expect, assessed cheeses for cheesemaking faults, the two retailers worked on the basis of how they looked on the counter and whether they could sell them and I, representing the cheeselover in the street, judged on the basis of the cheeses I liked.

So that our palates didn't get jaded we had two different types of cheese to judge, a batch of goats cheeses (above) and one of 'new cheeses', a category only marginally more popular than flavoured cheeses, the type that every cheeselover dreads. We had a couple of those, including one flavoured with chilli which I have to admit wasn't too bad.
The most interesting thing was how important texture turned out to be, dividing the well-made cheeses from the poorly made ones just as surely as taste. With the hard cheeses Louis, the cheese judge, used a cheese iron (above) to extract a tasting sample from the heart of the cheese. You could see in a second whether it was going to be any good or not.

We tasted the cheeses blind so I have no idea what the ones we liked were - at the time of writing we're still waiting for the final results but I have a tip-off that we're in for a big surprise!

The most depressing thing was that all the cheeses were destroyed at the end of the judging process which seemed the most terrible waste (about which I've had a bit of a rant on my other blog The Frugal Cook).

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