Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Neal's Yard Dairy

A few months ago we did an in-store demo of opening a new wheel of Montgomery's English Farmhouse Cheddar. It's easy to tell why this cheese is a staff favorite with it's big flavors and acidity that keeps you coming back for "just one more nibble". Well, earlier this month I was on a short holiday to London, and I had the great opportunity to meet some of the folks over at Neal's Yard Dairy.

We usually have a few cheeses from Neal's Yard Dairy in the case. Stilton, Keen's Cheddar, Berkswell, Ardrahan, Coolea, Stichelton and of course Montgomery's have all spent time in our case, and in your homes, but how do we get such good wheels of cheese and what's Neal's Yard Dairy?

Neal's Yard Dairy is the premiere cheeseshop and affineur in Britain. They buy directly from the cheesemakers, taking trips out to the farms routinely to pick up cheese. In addition, they are excellent supporters of the cheesemakers. I asked about a favorite cheese of mine and why I hadn't seen it in many many months. Lucy told me that the cheesemakers was working out some kinks, but until she did, Neal's Yard Dairy was not going to be selling her cheese. They're not giving up on her or her cheese. Instead, they are working with the cheesemaker to get her cheese back to its glorious standing. Much more than just a retail store.

How do you feel about Stichelton? Big flavors, lactic, salty, delicious. This cheese is the direct result of Randolph Hodgson the big cheese at Neal's Yard Dairy. Find out more about Randolph here.

Upon first entrance in the Borough shop I came face to face with a wall of Montgomery's Cheddar. I knew it was going to be a good day.

This is one of the four temperature controlled aging rooms at The Railways. The Railways is just that, a cave like enclosure underneath the rails where they store and age the cheese before hand selecting each wheel for wholesale distribution or retail sale.

So who are some of these wonderful people who make cheese from the British Isles available to us here in Chicago? Starting on the left we have Michael Jones, manager of the Borough store. Next to him is Martin Tkalez, manager of the Covent Garden shop, and Lucy Moylan, cheesemistress extraordinaire and my personable tour guide during my time there. Lucy and Jason (not pictured) specifically pick out the wheels of cheese for us here in the U.S. She told me that sometimes she tastes upwards of 50 different cheeses in the decision making process. With that attention to detail, you can be assured that we are getting the very best, and that you are taking home a superior product.

I would like to point out that our own resident Fromagier, Cesar does a lot of the same work with cheesemakers. He has convinced cheesemakers to give us their cheeses to work with, taste, help them develop and sell. If you go to the Green City Market on Saturdays you'll see him selling Leslie Cooperband's Prairie Fruits Farm Cheeses.

This is a picture of Cesar holding a freshly cut wheel of Stichelton just moments before the morning crew pounces on it for a taste.

He's not the only one of our staff out there. Adam sells Leslie's cheese at the Oak Park farmer's market on Saturday, and Alison is going to be selling cheese for Judy Schad of Capriole.


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