Whilst it’s not the same as in-person, I’ve actually loved trying out all kinds of online events over the last few months; quizzes, games, comedy events and music gigs. But, top of the list has to be the virtual cheese tasting with Paxton and Whitfield. Disclosure: this tasting was given to us courtesy of Paxton and Whitfield, but all fromage excitement is completely my own.
Now I already love Paxton and Whitfield. I love popping in and perusing their delicious handpicked selections.
Paxton & Whitfield was first recorded as a partnership in 1797, but its origins began in 1742 when Stephen Cullum set up a cheese stall in Aldwych market. As London became increasingly affluent Sam Cullum (Stephen’s son) moved his cheese business closer to his wealthy customer base, near to Jermyn Street where there is still a shop today.
He also took on two new partners – Harry Paxton and Charles Whitfield. Ironically it is their names, not his, which grace the shop fronts now. The Company’s reputation grew steadily, culminating in 1850 with the honour of being appointed cheesemonger to HM Queen Victoria. It was the first of many Royal Warrants that the Company has held.
Aside from how delicious the array of cheeses was, during their virtual cheese tasting I also learned 3 things about how to taste them at their best when you ready your cheeseboard for action.
- Take the cheese out of the fridge around 2 hours before enjoying
- Include palate cleansers like sliced apple or pear, and still or sparkling water
- Make sure you have excellent crackers and a crisp glass of beer at hand as well (I know wine is more traditional, but you just can’t beat sipping a good beer)
We tried 5 delicious cheeses…
A traditional cloth bound Cheshire that matures to a delightful crumbly texture and offers a rich, clean flavour in the mouth. The unique quality of Cheshire cheese is said to emanate from the pasturage which lies over the heavy salt deposits underlying the area of the Cheshire / Shropshire border around Whitchurch and Nantwich. Farming and cheesemaking have been a way of life for the Appleby family for several generations. Learn more here.
A soft, white bloomy-rind cheese handmade in Suffolk, similar to Brie de Meaux. Baron Bigod is hand made on Fen farm in Suffolk where the Crickmore family have been farming for three generations. The cheese is made on the farm in small batches very early in the morning, after the cows have been milked. The warm milk straight from the cows is perfect for cheese making and it is made just meters from the milking parlour. Learn more here.
An unusual, semi hard goats milk cheese that is washed in a brine solution through its maturation. Rich and nutty in flavour, the multi award-winning Rachel is made near Shepton Mallet in Somerset by Whitelake cheese makers. Rachel is an unusual cheese with an unusual name which is rumoured to be named after either one of the cheese maker’s friends or possibly the name of one of his goats… Learn more here.
A rind washed cheese from Wiltshire made in an alpine style but with Jersey milk. Julianna starts the cheese making process almost as soon as the milking is finished so the milk is as fresh as it can be. The recipe is loosely based on that of a Reblochon from the Savoie region of France, with the cheese being washed in brine to create a sticky orange rind and a distinctive smell and flavour. Learn more here.
A traditional blue cheese made in Nottinghamshire to a Stilton recipe, but using unpasteurised cows milk. Cheesemaker Joe Schneider (previously of Daylesford Organic fame) and Randolph Hodgson of Neal’s Yard Dairy joined forces in 2016 to make a new cheese. Their aim was to produce a classic blue cheese using a traditional Stilton recipe but made from unpasteurised milk. Joe set up a purpose built dairy at Collingthwaite Farm on the Welbeck Estate on the northern borders of Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire and all the milk comes from the herd of 150 Friesian-Holstein cows there. I shared some of this one with my neighbours who said it’s “the best cheese I’ve ever tasted.” Learn more here.
You can order individual cheeses via their website or pop into their stores – but I heartily recommend their online tastings.Well paced and with an epic selection, they throw the perfect virtual cheese tasting.
As Winston Churchill once observed, “a gentleman only buys his cheese at Paxton & Whitfield”. In Paxton’s third century of trading, their expertise cetainly helps me learn more about the fascinating and diverse world of cheese. (Special mention has to go to their Perfect Cheeseboard guide and their array of cheese recipes.