Nathan Outlaw’s Perfect Pairings Masterclass with Davidstow Cheddar
I love cheese and I love drinking but somehow I’ve never thought too hard about cheese and alcohol pairings. So, I was really excited to be invited to the Capital Hotel in Knightsbridge, to enjoy award winning Davidstow Cheddar cheese paired with a range of drinks, at an event with two Michelin star chef, Nathan Outlaw.
We were introduced to Davidstow cheeses by their master cheese grader Mark Pitts-Tucker armed with his trusty cheese iron, the tool of the trade for cheese grading. Davidstow is situated on the North Cornish Coast, and it is this terroir that gives the cheese its flavour. The weather is wet and mild, ideal for grass growing. This gives a natural creaminess to the milk because the cattle are able to spend more time outside than anywhere else in the UK. Davidstow have been making cheese for 60 years, working with local dairy farmers. The milk is pasteurised but otherwise there is no intervention. The cheese iron is initially used to feel the texture of the cheese which then needs to be sniffed and tasted at 3 months. The style of cheese Davidstow make is rich and creamy without the acid level getting too high. It’s the acid that can give you a sweaty forehead or burning tongue when eating cheddar.
We started by tasting the 18 month and 3 year old Old Vintage Reserve Cheddar cheeses and learnt that the differently-aged cheese all start with the same recipe. However the cheese becomes crumblier as it gets older with the flavour getting more intense. Another characteristic of Davidstow is the crunch of the white calcium lactate crystals that are dotted through the cheese. The fat content of a standard cheddar is 32%. Davidstow’s is 35% which makes a big difference to both the flavour and the mouth feel.
We began with a sliver of the 12 month which was smooth and mild and then moved on to the serious cheese and booze tasting. Nathan introduced us to one of the new breed of pale ales: Sharps Connoisseur Choice Single Brew Reserve 2013 is a light beer with notes of lychee. It made a lovely combination with the Davidstow 18 month which felt warm and rich in the mouth with a slight crunch. Next up the mild acidity of Bulbeggar Cider from Somerset cuts through the richness of the 3 year old cheddar. Apples and cheese- a perfect match!
The next pairing was unusual in two ways. Sake is the quintessential Japanese drink whereas cheese is not part of the oriental diet. But, to up the tasting ante even more, we were drinking coloured sake which was completely new to me. Nambu Bijin Ume Rose infuses Ume plums into the sake, delivering a light sweetness that sits perfectly with 18th month Davidstow. The Kaetsu Kirin Vintage 2013 was that rarity, an aged sake. Caramelised and nutty and at 17% alcohol, it was very unusual for a sake- a bit more like a sherry and a was a great match for the 3 year old Davidstow.
While drinking, we feasted on delicate crab and cheddar tartlets, herb and cheddar mayonnaise (parsley, rocket and chives with the cheese softening the herbs) which was vegetal and salty, and on croquettas filled with salami with fennel and cheddar which were suitably unctuous. The food came from Nathan’s Outlaw’s Restaurant which is on the ground floor of The Capital and well worth a visit.