Thursday, August 13, 2009

Westcombe Dairy Visit & Country Cruisin'

For our last full day in the country I was determined to visit a cheese-making dairy farm. The first call was to Manor Farm, home to Montgomery Cheddar (brilliant). Unfortunately Jamie Montgomery (the cheesemaker...not 100% obvious, but pretty close) was not planning to be at the farm that day, but he directed me to a farm not too far away, Westcombe Dairy. After a quick call to the Westcombe we were on our way! The drive was perhaps the most beautiful & scary one I have been a part of...still cannot get over the skinniness of the streets, but we arrived unscathed.

Just to give a little bit of background on Westcombe Dairy...they are one of 3 dairies (the other 2 being Montgomery & Keen) still making a traditional clothbound English cheddar. What does that mean, you ask? It means they are the real deal, controlling the process from the cow to the beautiful aged wheel of hand made cheddar. All 3 use unpasturized milk & animal rennet to make the cheese as well as a frozen starter culture (as opposed to freeze dried, which can be a bit more "sleepy" when added to the milk). All of these old school techniques lead to an amazingly tasty hunk-o-cheddar.

We were lucky enough to catch Tom Calver, the cheesemaker, to walk through their process & taste some of their cheeses straight from the aging room (see pics for cheese press to squeeze out whey & the aging room). There is some serious love & brain work going into this cheese. Every step of the process of this curd is closely monitored for the best end result. Let's just say...I do not think my Mum will be buying many more block cheddar cheese from here forward. It is a remarkable process that these cheesemakers go through & the taste of the cheese is a direct reflection. FYI...this cheddar is white(ish) & should really never be anything but white(ish). The orange cheese phenomenon remains a mystery...if you know the responsible party, please share.

Useful curd: Tom's Westcombe Cheddar is distributed through Neal's Yard Dairy, so you should be able to have a taste in the states. It is certainly worth the extra cheese bucks to get your hands on this tasty tradition.

In addition to all of the cheese info, Tom directed us to a wonderful lunch spot in a small town called Bruton down another skinny-as-the begeezers road, The Chapel. Set in an old monestary, this space was absolutely beautiful, as you can see in the pictures. Mum & I enjoyed a deliciously fresh local meal of truffled cauliflower soup, wood roasted red peppers with tomato, goat cheese, & greens (GORGEOUS greens), and a tasty burger & fries. After a few days of pub food...fresh & tasty meal really rocked our world. I wish I could have enjoyed one of their wood oven pizzas (check out that oven in the pic on the left), but there is only so much time & my belly, while thankful & extremely happy, was at max capacity.

To close out the day, we headed to Glastonbury to hike up to the Tor & visit with some cows (I think he liked me, no? Look at the head tilt!). Not much about cheese going on in this adventure...just some really great views. Perfect end to a delightful day. Mission accomplished. Next stop, London!

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