Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Resistance is futile...

Silent and clear spring skies, thanks to Iceland’s volcano, made this particular Friday even harder than usual to resist escaping the chains of wage slavery early. So I pushed the ‘off’ button on my computer, told my work colleagues what I thought of them (I didn’t actually, but one day... one day!!) and headed down to Borough Market to get some gastronomic inspiration, purchase a bottle or two of wine, and meet with a few fellow bloggers and tweeters.

Coffee fuelled chatter between @Tehbus, @gingergourmand, @KaveyF and me, in the ever bustling Monmouth Coffee shop, came to a conclusion when we decided to go next door to Neal’s Yard Dairy.

Where the outside was noisy, busy and colourful, with it’s Victorian terrace of tea coloured bricks (where’s the bunting?) and glossy paint touches, the interior was spacious, cool and white walled; hallowed even. Hints of dampness barely noticeable against the strong aromas circulated around the shop; temptations of hard, soft and cream cheeses piled up on counters, slatted shelves or in tubs, lured the customer to purchase. This was the perfect environment for a cheese lover; pieces of heaven, rind coated and wrapped in waxed paper.

I held back, merely happy to watch Kavey’s love and knowledge of cheese in action. My hands remained firmly in my pockets refusing to open the floodgates of purchasing (the principle being that one purchase leads to an avalanche of useless purchases and eventually to an empty wallet and a red face). And I did hold back. I resisted, I really did. However, in the street by the entrance to the shop, they had pitched a stall of their top sellers. And that is when it happened. Like Kavey’s Stichelton, I crumbled in front of everyone, and bought the cutest little ‘handbag-dog’ of a cheese: Milleen.

So how does one go about describing this pocket of joy? This modest purchase, this tan and mud coloured roundel of about 4 inches in diameter; soft-skinned rind speckled with mould and the criss-crosses where it had been resting? How indeed?

Made from pasteurised cow’s milk and traditional animal rennet, it is washed in water. The humidity and proximity to the coast (Eyeries, Co. Cork) does the rest, creating the perfect environment for the soft cheeses the Steele family produce, according to the Neal’s Yard.

Released, at home, onto a wooden board, the kitchen filled with high smells of cabbage, earthy muddy aromas, straw and a hint of, well, wee actually. Yes, I said ‘wee’ (did they really only wash the skin in water?!) Clashing with the strong aromas of a simple roast chicken I could barely smell the wine that I had also bought at the market (a post on that later). Having been wrapped in waxed paper, in a bag that sat in my rucksack, it was clear why I nearly had the carriage of the train to myself.

Cutting into this cheese was almost ritualistic; silence and awe (helped by a candle lit room). Barely resistant skin gave way to a light cream soft centre. Salty sweetness on the tongue, made rich and luscious by a creamy egg yolk quality. This gave way to a slight graininess (that possibly meant it should have been brought out earlier), contrasting with the grassy elements of the rind, toffee cloyingness to the teeth and long lasting flavour.

Ignoring any bread, I went hell for leather with the Milleen and the (almost) matched glass of wine. And so it went. Gone. Disappeared. A mere will-o’-the-wisp of a cheese, or maybe I was really just plain greedy. However, sated, I was glad I only fell for the one cheese.

Neal’s Yard Dairy, Borough Market, 6 Park Street LONDON SE1 9AB
T (0)20 7367 0799 E boroughshop@nealsyarddairy.co.uk


The Ginger Gourmand said...

I'm so pleased you loved the Milleen...! You had to allow yourself one indulgent cheese purchase in Neal's Yard didn't you, really?

I am hugely jealous of course, and of Kavey's Stichelton. Only 16 weeks to go and I will once again be unleashed on the smelly, oozing, ripe cheeses. They will be mine. All of them!

Lovely to meet you and hope to see you in Monmouth for another coffee sometime soon.

Kavey said...

Was such a lovely, lovely day! I had arranged to meet a twitter/ fellow food blogger, Laissez Faire for lunch and that was really nice.

But serendipity saw me go on to meet no less than 6 other bloggers during the day - Intoxicating Prose in Bob Bob Ricard and then GingerGourmand, Tehbus, yourself and astarteny!

As I said, lovely day!

Louis Anthony Woodbine said...

16 weeks and you can unleash the furies (in a cheesy way!) Great to see you both and look forward to the next coffee indeed! L

Girl Foodie said...

Louis, I just found your blog via Ginger Gourmand and I'm so thrilled that I did!
I love the way you write and imagine that I will be reading your posts in reverse chronological order for a while.
I absolutely love Borough Market, but only manage to make it a handful of times a year, as I'l out here in the sticks of Berks. Thanks for the vicarious visit.