If you despair at the stranglehold supermarkets and restaurant chains have over food in this country you should have been at the Eat Cheese cheesefest in Bristol today, an event organised by an independent restaurant involving local producers and shops.
It was held on and outside The Glass Boat, a well-established Bristol restaurant on - as the name suggests - a boat on the Welsh Back, one of a series of events the owner Arne Ringner is holding to draw attention to the fact the restaurant has been revamped and re-energised.
The clever thing about it was that it wasn't just a farmers' market about which everyone has become quite blasé these days but had a specific theme that made you feel you couldn't miss out. There were visiting and local cheesemakers: Hafod, Homewood and Trethowan's Dairy who sell other cheeses as well as their own, Gorwydd Caerphilly, and who dispensed their trademark raclette and toasties. A local deli, Papadeli was selling Spanish cheese and charcuterie, Bath Ales, a local brewer looked after the beer and Great Western Wine conducted wine tastings while Arne himself was showing how to make ricotta (below).
In the restaurant itself you could have a cheese-themed lunch at the very reasonable price of £12 for two courses or £15 for 3. Starters included French onion soup, macaroni cheese with Stilton and wild mushrooms, thyme and garlic baked Camembert with grissini; mains, leg of lamb with spinach and mascarpone and lobster thermidor with Alderwood cheddar and puds New York cheesecake with lime and coconut and mango, passionfruit and mascarpone parfait. The place was packed with couples and families who were making a day out of it.
According to Arne it was quite a battle to get the council to approve the event but it's something every town or village could do if they put their mind to it. Good for all the businesses involved and a fantastic way to promote artisan cheese.