Tag Archives: Nantwich

Judging the International Cheese Awards – ICA2016

Last year I was honoured to be asked to be a judge at the International Cheese Awards and I was delighted when I was asked back this year for more of the same. Except it’s never the same, because there are literally hundreds of categories and literally thousands of cheeses. 5000 cheeses this year in fact – making the International Cheese Awards at Nantwich the biggest and best cheese show in the world!

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The day began like no other, in the car at 7am speeding towards Nantwich. Arriving at the show ground in good time, I registered as a judge and readied myself for the judges briefing. Once I’d donned my official white coat I joined my fellow judges, Victor Hyman from the Barbakan Deli in Chorlton and Laura Barnes from Dewlay Traditional Cheese Makers in Lancashire. I was in excellent and very knowledgeable company.

We had four categories to judge at ICA2016 –
  • DP76 – Two Halves Standard Blue Stilton. Open to producers who are producing less than 1,000 tonnes annually.
  • DP77 – Two Halves Mature Blue Stilton. Open to producers who are producing less than 1,000 tonnes annually.
  • DP90 – Cheese – Any variety that contains Savoury Additives. Hard Cheese other than Cheddar. Cheese produced in UK only.
  • DP97 – Cheese – Any variety that contains Sweet Additives. Soft Cheese produced outside UK only.

We were efficient in our judging. Tasting and discussing the merits of each of the cheeses, examining their appearance, smell, texture and taste, weighing up the sometimes tiny differences between them. Loving some, liking most, disliking the minority. 

The great thing about judging is having to try new things you might not normally choose to put on your cheese board. It expands your horizons and makes you appreciate a cheese even if that cheese might not be to your normal tastes.

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I’m not generally a blue cheese fan, but trying the Stilton and learning more about what to look for and what makes a great Stilton has made me appreciate it a little more, so much so that I added a generous portion to my cheese plate at lunchtime.

Judging the four categories took us around two and a half hours. It’s surprisingly hard work and afterwards I had to sit down with a cuppa to recover myself. By the time I was rejuvenated lunchtime was upon us and it was time for a feast, followed by probably the worlds best cheese board.

At lunch La Guilde Internationale des Fromagers took their chance to induct some new members into their ranks, including Chef James Martin. I managed to film that bit, you can view the clips below on YouTube.

And this one…

After lunch the winners were announced and the Supreme Champion and winner of the Westminster Cup 2016 was Treur Kaas for their aged Jerseyhoeve Schorren. Reserve Supreme Champion and Reserve Champion Overseas was awarded to Elite Imports, whilst Champion UK went to Arla Foods with a Double Gloucester from Taw Valley Creamery.

ICA2016 was an absolutely fantastic day, exhausting yes. Will I want to eat cheese tomorrow? Maybe not, but probably by the day after. It’s a truly unique event and a truly unique experience. I’m proud to be a little part of that.

The International Cheese Awards is a two day event, day one was trade and judging day, day two (27th July 2016) the cheese pavilion doors are thrown open to the public and you can sample some of the 5000 wonderful cheeses there from all over the world. 

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You can find out more about the International Cheese Awards 2016 on their website, and you can find out more information  and buy tickets to the Nantwich Show here.

Preview: The International Cheese Awards 2016

This year will be my third visit to the International Cheese Awards at the Nantwich Show. It goes without saying that this fantastic event is the highlight of my foodie year. Last year I had the privilege of being asked to be a judge and I must have done something right, as I’ve been asked to judge again this year.

Judging takes place on trade day, which this year is on 26th July, and the massive International Cheese Awards marquee is thrown open to the public on 27th July.

This year is the 119th International Cheese Awards, which are held as part of the Nantwich Show in Cheshire. This year there have been a record breaking 4956 entries across literally hundreds of different categories of cheese, with entries from small artisan producers, to huge dairies and supermarkets.  Last years Supreme Champion  was the Greenfields Dairy Crumbly Lancashire Cheese, and I can personally vouch for this beautiful cheese, it’s a regular in our shopping basket!

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On show day (27th July) the demo kitchen is in full swing, with a host of familiar faces returning to this year’s show – including James Martin, Sean Wilson and Will Holland. Book your tickets for the demos in advance (£5 on  the Nantwich Show website) – they always sell out so quickly! Plus there’s a whole marquee of cheese to sample and explore.

As well as hosting the The International Cheese Awards 2016, the Nantwich Show is a brilliant day out for all the family, there’s so much to see and do, the Nantwich Show is apparently the biggest agricultural show in the UK, with everything from cows, sheep, pigs and pigeons to horticulture and honey. Check out the vintage cars and agricultural machinery as well as the latest in tractor technology! I know my boy would love it there!

Tickets are available on the gate priced at £18 for adults, £7 for children, £13 for senior citizens and family tickets for £45. However, if you book via the Nantwich Show website in advance, you can get discounted tickets (£15/£5/£10/£35). Your ticket covers admission to both the biggest cheese awards in the world and the largest one-day agricultural show in the UK, making it even more of a bargain!

The International Cheese Awards 2016

I can’t wait to get my judges coat on again and get sampling some of the finest cheeses from across the world. If you like cheese and want to learn a little more about the industry, I really can’t recommend the International Cheese Awards 2016 enough. It’s a HUGE marquee of cheese, and an experience every cheese lover should experience at least once in their lifetime.

You can find out more about the International Cheese Awards 2016 on their website, and you can find out more information  and buy tickets to the Nantwich Show here.

Preview: International Cheese Awards 2015

It hardly seems like a year since I returned home from the International Cheese Awards, a bag of cheese slung over my shoulder and the inspiration for a thousand cheese boards filling my head. Since my invitation to this years International Cheese Awards arrived, I have been eagerly watching the construction of the massive (massive is an understatement really, it’s 83,000 sq ft) marquee on Twitter and sneaking a peak at some of the entries.

This year is the 118th International Cheese Awards, which are held as part of the Nantwich Show in Cheshire on 28th (judging and trade day) and 29th July 2015 (show day). This year there have been a record breaking 4,611 entries across literally hundreds of different categories of cheese, with entries from small artisan producers, to huge dairies and supermarkets. Last years Supreme Champion  was the Nottingham based Colston Bassett Dairy with their Whole Blue Stilton, and rather delicious it was too.

I’ll be there on trade day, but the 29th July sees the International Cheese Awards marquee open to the public as part of the Nantwich Show. You can take a tour of the trade stands, try a few cheeses and book in and watch a cookery demonstration by a celebrity chef – James Martin, Will Holland, Jonathon Harrison and Sean Wilson will all be there, and last year I bumped into Aldo Zilli too!

The Nantwich Show is a brilliant day out for all the family, there’s so much to see and do, the Nantwich Show is apparently the biggest agricultural show in the UK, with everything from cows, sheep, pigs and pigeons to horticulture and honey. Take a look at the vintage cars and agricultural machinery as well as the latest in tractor technology! I know my boy would love it there!

The morning of the judging day is a hectic whirlwind of activity, with the marquee packed full of huge wheels of cheese, it is a sight to behold and enough to keep several large villages in cheese for a lifetime. The white-coated judges patrolling the tables, deliberating over their category and choosing the very best cheese. It’s an opportunity for non judges like me to take a turn around the trade stands and explore new cheeses and other dairy products (though chocolate cheese has yet to find a place in my heart).

The afternoon of judging day will this year see 1,144 people sitting down to a delicious four course meal, followed by the announcement of the winners and of course the supreme champion. The International Cheese Awards is the largest dairy hospitality event in the UK and the highlight of my foodie calendar!

You can find out more about the International Cheese Awards on their website, and you can find out more information  and buy tickets to the Nantwich Show here.

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Cheese & more cheese at the Nantwich Show

Yesterday I had a cracking day out at the International Cheese Awards which runs alongside the Nantwich Show in Cheshire. I spent the whole day there, and in my excitement I blogged the story so far from inside the press tent before the winners had even been announced. Today I’m sharing some of my highlights from the day, as well as the winners.

There were 4,443 award entries, which meant that the cheese pavilion was literally packed full of cheese. There was something for everyone, whatever kind of cheese you liked it was there. It was also a great opportunity to try new cheeses that you might not have encountered before.

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There were cheeses from 26 countries; goats cheese; sheeps cheese; cheese aimed at kids; cheese for cheese likers and cheese for cheese lovers, as well as some cheese and more cheese. It was a great opportunity to meet local producers and learn a little more about what they do. I’m a keen supporter of local food, low food miles and all that, and it’s great to support a huge industry like the diary industry which as well as some big names, it is full of small artisan producers creating cheesy masterpieces.

Lunch, which was the most incredible sight I’ve seen in a while, saw 1,100 people sit down to a delicious meal, which did include plenty of cheese. It was the largest dairy hospitality event in the UK. We were very privileged to see some excellent cheesemakers inducted into the Guilde Internationale des Fromagers.

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Induction into the Guilde Internationale des Fromagers

It was shortly after lunch that the winners were announced. The Supreme Champion Cheese of 2014 was the Whole Blue Stilton from Colston Bassett. The best retailer was Waitrose, with Morrisons coming a close second. All the winners are on the International Cheese Awards website.

During the walk around it was nice to see some familiar faces from TV. On the day I spied chef Aldo Zilli, Sean Wilson and Charles Campion.

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Chef Aldo Zilli

Although I wasn’t able to get to the show day today to meet James Martin, a chum kindly offered to ask him a few questions on my behalf (thanks Liz).

I wanted to know how to interest children in trying more interesting, adventurous cheeses. James suggested that mozzarella is a great cheese to start off with, then maybe move on to more interesting cheeses such as Lincolnshire Poacher and Ogleshield, both have a softer texture but are tasty and ideal for small children.

I’m trying to cook more with my pre-school aged son, so I wanted to know a tasty, easy cheese recipe to make with him which wasn’t the standard mac and cheese. James suggested a pan bagna, an easy layered sandwich made inside a crusty loaf, which is packed with attractive colours, is really easy to make, great for picnics and it’s delicious.

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James Martin     –      Celebrity Chef Credit: International Cheese Awards

And yes, he is apparently even more handsome in real life.

It was a real privilege to be invited to the trade day at the International Cheese Awards, next year I hope to go to show day too. It’s a really interesting day out (especially if you go to the Nantwich Show as well) and you never know, you might discover something extra exciting to put on your cheese board.

The International Cheese Awards at the Nantwich Show 2014

Being a rosy cheeked, farm loving girl I’m no stranger to the joys of an agricultural show. I’ve been to a fair few of them across the UK and I always enjoy the judging of the farm animals, the WI tents, the cookery demonstrations and the sheep dogs herding ducks around an obstacle course. Of course, here in Cheshire we do things differently. Today I’m at the Nantwich Show and I’m enjoying the hubbub, tastes, smells and cheesy atmosphere of the International Cheese Awards.

This year is the 117th annual cheese awards and this dairy based festival of cheese is the biggest cheese show in the world. As I sit in the press tent typing this, 200 expert judges are sampling 4,443 entries across all the delicious categories. I had a quick tour before judging began, there is quite a bit of cheese here.

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It’s an amazing show, today is trade day, but tomorrow (Wednesday) the cheese pavilion will throw open its doors to the public, so if you’re visiting the Nantwich Show then it’s well worth taking a turn around the pavilion. There are literally thousands of cheeses to try from 26 countries.

There are cheeses to suit all palates. My small boy would love the Bel cheese stand, they make Babybel, Laughing Cow and Boursin cheese (I adore Boursin). Next door were Billy Bear, famous for their teddy bear face shaped meat slices, they’re launching a cheddar cheese face in October. It’s such a fun stand and the Billy Bear people are so lovely, if you’re taking your little one it’s well worth visiting for a balloon and a photo with Billy himself.

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I laid waste to the Isle of Man Creamery stand, falling head over heels in love with their cracked black pepper cheddar. Wyke Farms are offering a bargain cheese bundle of a range of their cheeses, plus butter and a cool bag for £10, that’s a cheesy bargain and great for families to plough through block after block of cheddar cheeses.

I then stumbled across Orsom Cheese, made a few miles away from the show ground, they make a range of four beautiful, soft handmade cheeses, vintage, soft, smoked, and blue. They’re mainly available in farm shops, but they’re well worth searching out.

There are literally thousands of cheeses I’ve not managed to get round to try yet, but rest assured I will do my best. If you’re coming along to the Nantwich Show on Wednesday 30th July, then your ticket will gain you entry to the pavilion. If you manage to time it just right you might be able to catch one of the celebrity chef demonstrations including the likes of James Martin, Will Holland, Sean Wilson and Jonathan Harrison.

For more information on the Nantwich Show or International Cheese Awards please do visit the website.