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…but beer and wine weren’t far behind!

Tuesday night saw us trekking up to the Kings Arms at the top of Whiteladies Road for the second Big Cheese Taste Off of the year, which saw Trethowan’s Dairy cheeses paired with Orchard Pig cider, Bristol Beer Factory beers and Strawberry Hill wines in a battle to establish the ultimate cheese and alcohol combination. Read the rest of this entry »

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Somehow, I always end up being outside of Bristol for the biggest foodie weekends of the year. This weekend is no exception. If you’re stuck for ideas for things to do in and around Bristol this weekend (and if the weather decides to behave itself!), how about one of the following three options… Read the rest of this entry »

Despite the rain, last Sunday proved to be a popular day for this year’s Bristol Wine & Food Fair, with a huge number of people flocking to Bristol’s Harbourside to enjoy the end of a three day celebration of fine wine and good food.

In addition to a variety of local and national companies selling their wares (and offering the obligatory tastings…), the weekend featured an international dining area, Bristol’s Young Chef 2010 competition, live music, wine and food matching lectures and the latest installment of Bristol’s Secret Service Supper Club.

Unfortunately we didn’t manage to make it to any of the events in the lecture theatre, but we enjoyed a busy day of catching up with foodies we already knew, discovering suppliers and producers we’d never heard of, tasting lots of amazing foods and drinks, and (as our bank balances are showing…) leaving the Fair with bulging bags full of purchases.

Highlights for us included:

  • Some fantastic cocktails (blackcurrant vodka and apple juice, and cider brandy with apple juice) from The Orchard Pig
  • The BBQ poussin cooked up by Simon at Papadeli
  • A delicious lamb kofta salad box from the kofta bar run by The Real Olive Company
  • Tastings of a Smokey Margarita, created using Lahloo Smokey in conjunction with The Rummer
  • The discovery of some seriously good ice creams from Mendip Moments (our favourites were Strawberries and Clotted Cream, and Clotted Cream with Honeycomb)
  • And finally, a caffeine boost from Extract Coffee Roasters, without whom I doubt I’d have managed over four hours at the fair…

Many thanks to Bristol Event Management, the event supporters, and the exhibitors for a fantastic weekend…and roll on the next Harbourside food fest in a week’s time… 😉

After the ongoing excitement of the General Election, Wednesday night saw a variety of Bristolians heading down to the Grain Barge to cast the only vote that really mattered: is wine, beer or cider the best partner for cheese?

Hosted by Rob Salvage of Bristol Ferry Boat Company and BBC Radio Bristol fame, the evening entailed Andrew of Bristol Beer Factory, Andrew of Hallgarten Wines and Andrew (yes, this made their names significantly easier to remember after a few drinks…) and Alex of The Orchard Pig trying their hardest to convince the punters that their tipple of choice was the best accompaniment for each of the three cheeses provided by Todd and Alex of Trethowan’s Dairy.

Each cheese was accompanied by a glass of each of the three drinks, with the Andrews explaining why they had chosen this particular variety, why it paired better with the cheese than either of the other drinks, and some (naming no names) evidently trying to influence votes by pouring quite generous measures.

The first cheese was Trethowan’s Gorwydd Caerphilly, which was paired with Orchard Pig Dry Cider, Dopff Au Moulin Riesling, and BBF Sunrise. Andrew Wine argued that the depth of flavour and acidity of the Riesling gave it the backbone to cope with the stronger flavours of the cheese, Andrew Cider maintained that his dry and acidic cider complimented the dry and acidic cheese perfectly, and Andrew Beer declared that the Sunrise and the Caerphilly were “made to go together”.

MY VOTES FROM ROUND 1: Cider 1st, Wine 2nd, Beer 3rd.

The second round brought with it the fantastic Keen’s Cheddar, which seemed to win the vote for the best cheese of the night. Andrew Cider’s Medium Table Cider was described as being filtered for a subtle taste, which flatters the Cheddar and doesn’t smother it with flavour. Andrew Beer went for a greater depth of flavour with his Exhibition, claiming that a full-flavoured beer and a creamy Cheddar were a winning combination. And Andrew Wine gave us a Rioja Crianza, maintaining that the tannin levels in the wine gave it the structure and backbone needed alongside the strength of the Cheddar.

MY VOTES FROM ROUND 2: Wine 1st, Cider 2nd, Beer 3rd.

The third and final round saw plates of Stichelton making their way to the tables. More moist, less crumbly and creamier than Stilton, it was this round that saw the most diversity in terms of pairing. Andrew Beer chose the BBF Milk Stout, insisting that the lactose sugar in the beer gives it a sweetnessr that combines well with the creamy Stichelton. Andrew Wine argued that neither beer nor cider could give the level of flavour that his sweet, rich choice of Muscat Beaumes de Venise provided. Andrew Cider closed the show with their brand new Medium Sparkling Cider – so brand new, in fact, that the bottles weren’t even labelled! At 4.2% and blended with apple juice for natural sugars, he argued that the lightness and sweetness went well with the cheese and would cleanse the palate.

MY VOTES FOR ROUND 3: Cider 1st, Wine 2nd, Beer 3rd.

I’m going to make a confession at this point: I’m not a beer drinker and I’m a huge cider fan, so my votes were potentially a little biased. As we polished off the last of the cheese and drink with some fantastic bread from Bristol-based Mark’s Bread, it appeared that I wasn’t the only one, as the results showed: cider stole the show with 48 wins, with wine in second place (36 wins) and beer bringing up the rear with 21 wins.

The Grain Barge are apparently planning on organising a series of similar tasting events, which will hopefully run monthly, and I’ll definitely be making a return visit for the next one. As well as tasting some fantastic cheese, drinks and bread, it was a great opportunity to chat with the guys from Trethowan’s, Bristol Beer Factory, Orchard Pig and Hallgarten to learn more about their trades. The social aspect was also great fun: I turned up with three friends, but ended up at the same table as the lovely creators of the Ephemeral Digest and Bristol Culture blogs – these guys have also written up last night’s taste off, and clicking on the blog names will take you directly to their take on things!

I now have to admit that I don’t remember a great deal about what happened towards the end of the evening, and the morning after saw quite a nasty hangover. The things we do in the name of food blogging… 🙂

With cheese being bought by 98% of British households, and over 700 named cheeses produced in the UK, our love of the stuff is evident. We consume over 700,000 tonnes of cheese per year…but how are we eating it, and are we actually appreciating our local produce?

Wednesday, May 12th will see four British names coming together for The Big Cheese Taste Off. Described as “the ULTIMATE in food and drink pairing”, the evening will see the Grain Barge playing host to Bristol Beer Factory, Trethowan’s Dairy Shop, The Orchard Pig and Hallgarten Wines as they ask the question:

“What do you drink with cheese? Beer, wine or cider?”

Trethowan’s will be supplying a variety of locally produced cheeses, which have been matched to beers, wines and ciders provided by the other three companies…and they want YOU to answer the question. For only £10 per ticket, you can spend your Wednesday evening learning a little about how to match food and drink, taste some new beers, wines and ciders, and decide which works best with each of the cheeses. Bristol Beer Factory appear to have decided that it’s the beers…then again, they’re a little biased 😉

The evening is one in a series of “Taste Offs” that are apparently planned, and will be held at the Grain Barge on Hotwells Road on Wednesday, May 12th, starting at 7.30pm. Tickets are £10 each on a first come, first served basis, and are available from the Grain Barge, The Bristol Beer Factory and from Orchard Pig.

I think this may have to replace my original plan of the regular quiz night next Wednesday. My prediction is that cider will most definitely get my vote… 🙂


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