Good cheese pleases Zoë Perrett very much. And it pleases her even more so to discover Homage 2 Fromage – a food club devoted to savouring that very stuff…
If you like cheese, wine and fine conversation (and have the pleasure of living in the north of England), there’s a travelling food club that’ll be right up your knife-wielding, glass-swilling alley.
Set up in 2011 by Vickie Rogerson and Nick Copland, Homage 2 Fromage is a cheese club which grew from a Leeds’-based event for in-the-know fromage-o-philes into the four-city, monthly-occurring behemoth is is today. It’s about informal enjoyment and appreciation of a much-adored foodstuff: basically, check your snobbery at the door along with your big coat.
Each edition is built around a new theme: next up, it’s a celebration of the club’s seventh anniversary; on my first visit, it was War of The Roses – a night where Homage 2 Fromage attempted to single-handedly reignite the rivalry between Yorkshire and Lancashire through the medium of cheese.
Held upstairs at the Adelphi, the Leeds event is a popular one, and you could barely get a cheese wire between the keen fromage fiends eagerly examining the eight stations dotted around the room, each groaning beneath the weight of the cheese which sat atop it. Some had brought bread. Some had brought crackers and chutney. And, like me, some, had just brought their cheese-loving selves.
After an intro as brief as you’d expect from a pair of hosts who understand their audience is already almost-salivating, someone shouted ‘CHEESE!’ and pandemonium ensued. Pre-advised by Vickie that there was plenty of everything, I took the same approach I apply when deboarding a flight and remained seated until most were merrily munching.
Then I made a swift circuit of the stations, placing each wedge of cheese carefully on the correspondingly-numbered section on my paper plate because I take any kind of food rating-related stuff very seriously indeed. Nothing was named, just numbered – we were judging blind.
Along with the cheese, there was bread, there were crackers, and there was chutney (there weren’t cornichons, though, so those who came armed still had something to smile smugly about). I took my seat, masticated, and cogitated with my companion. Like fine wine, whisky and chocolate, good cheese is divisive stuff so I was unsurprised to hear her worst was my best and vice versa.
Once everyone in the room has had their fill – which takes rather longer than you might expect – I suspect some people in attendance either already have the nickname ‘Cheddar Gorge’ or would like to be so-dubbed – we were asked to select our favourite fromage.
Delivered by Nick, the anecdote-laden results revealed not only what each cheese was, but also a little bit about the makers and processes. I took notes, but you needn’t because on departure you’re issued with a more professionally-penned set anyway.
The confirmation of cheese Number 1 as what I’d already identified as a Belton Farm Cheshire caused me to indulge in a mental fist pump. This one was a curveball entrant in that it comes from a county not involved in this fromage fight, but it transpires that this crumbly, slightly sour cheese is in fact made from Lancashire milk.
Number 2 – a Swaledale Blue from Yorkshire – took second place in the overall ranking, and, with its irresistible toasty-salty-savoury character and fudgy texture, this was really no surprise. Its bold character was in stark contrast to cheese Number 3: a mild, buttery, lightly rubbery Beacon Fell Lancashire which called to mind a young Asiago or Emmental.
Bronte Applewood Smoked was cheese Number 4. Smoked examples are the Marmite of the cheese world, and this one was no exception. Made to an old recipe and newly-named to cash in on the ‘Bronte country’ connection, it’s dry, crumbly, strongly smoky and sourish. I was not a fan, but for every hater in the room there was a lover.
The name of Lancashire Tasty (Number 5) promises greatness and it absolutely delivers with a full flavour and a mouthwatering tang similar to a good Cheddar. In fact, these two cheeses are close in character, except a different curd-cutting process results in Lancashire feeling slightly lighter – meaning you can get away with eating a lot more before the cheese sweats set in.
Number 6 was an easy-eater of a cheese, which, for me, lacked the je ne sais quois I like to find in my fromage. Orange-tinted from annato, Nicky Nook Blue’s character is far less quirky than its name. Its mellow flavour and smooth texture are hard to dislike, but easy to forget.
The (cheese) slate had been entirely wiped clean of Number 7, which proved its reputation as a lucky figure by being crowned the evening’s winner – marking Yorkshire victorious. Fluffy and rich; clean and fresh; Yellinson Goat’s Log partners as happily with sweets as savouries and flies in the face of all those outmoded opinions of goats’ cheeses having a funky farmyard character.
Finally, my favourite Number 8 was unmasked as Ribblesdale Goat Gouda. With its smooth, almost melting paste and fulsome flavour, this cheese was a resounding triumph in my eyes (and mouth): the bastard child of camembert and clotted cream. I would have gone back in for more, but learning lessons in moderation has taught me that, as with cake, one should not have their cheese and eat it.
We departed thoroughly sated, somewhat enlightened, and extremely happy in the knowledge that, when it comes to cheese, Yorkshire unapologetically and unequivocally trounces Lancashire.
Lancastrians, you may well argue that when the competition occurs in a Leeds location this is no surprise. My retort would simply be ‘the tasting was done blind’… but I’d still happily attend a cheese-based rematch anytime.
Make it happen
Where: Homage 2 Fromage takes place at locations in Leeds, Sheffield, Harrogate and Manchester
Find out more: For details on forthcoming events and to book tickets, click here
Read this: For an interview with Homage 2 Fromage co-founder Vickie Rogerson, click here