Buf­falo leads stam­pede from old-style ched­dar

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel - Ju­dith Elen

CHEESES from across the coun­try were lined up this week in the judg­ing rooms at Syd­ney Olympic Park for the an­nual Syd­ney Royal Cheese & Dairy Pro­duce Show (a full day is de­voted to cheese; www.rasnsw.com.au). FoodDe­tec­tive is on the spot and picks up some point­ers.

Gerry An­der­sen, chair­man of the dairy prod­ucts com­mit­tee, tells De­tec­tive the awards have been in place for more than 100 years. But things have changed. In­dus­trial-grade ched­dar used to be the go, now goat’s and ewe’s milk cheeses are out­num­ber­ing the old-style favourites; buf­falo cheese is in with a show­ing as well.

Much sought-af­ter buf­falo cheese is still a tiny pres­ence, with two en­tries (in dif­fer­ent cat­e­gories) both from Van­nella Cheese Fac­tory in Far North Queens­land.

He­len Parker, Syd­ney Royal’s wine, dairy and fine food co-or­di­na­tor, says there are about five buf­falo dairies in the coun­try; of th­ese Shaw River Buf­falo Dairy, on the Great Ocean Road in west­ern Vic­to­ria, is a stand­out but has in­suf­fi­cient milk to en­ter this year.

There are seven sheep’s milk en­tries (five dairies) and a splen­did 52 en­tries from 31 goat’s cheese­mak­ers. Spe­cialty cheeses sub­mit­ted to­tal 235; ched­dar just 44. A big shift, but chief judge Neil Will­man tells De­tec­tive it’s been hap­pen­ing over the past few years. A ‘‘ very new thing’’, Parker tells De­tec­tive, is cheese made from blends — sheep and goat or goat and cow— which has hit the mar­ket in the past 18 months. Three in­no­va­tive mak­ers are: Cap­paris Goat Cheese near Bar­ring­ton Tops, NSW, where Aled Hoggett is cheese­maker; Wood­side Cheese Wrights in South Aus­tralia, where Kris Lloyd is head cheese­maker and Grand­vewe Cheeses, a sheep dairy in Tas­ma­nia, where Diane Rae is farmer and cheese­maker.

Mean­while, guest judge Yves Bou­ton­nat, ex French Dairy Author­ity, is one of a panel of three tast­ing a goat’s curd cheese, a gold medal win­ner, De­tec­tive de­cides. ( GPO Cheese and Wine Room man­ager So­nia Cousins is on this panel, not as a vot­ing judge, but wear­ing the ‘‘ learner’s’’ badge of an as­so­ci­ate, which al­ready re­quires loads of ex­per­tise and will take her into full judg­ing in due course.) ■ AND best in show is: King Is­land Dairy’s Bass Strait Blue, bag­ging Cham­pion Cheese of Show and other gongs. The Aus­tralian Cheese­board Per­pet­ual Tro­phy awards its choices for the best plat­ter, and they are Bass Strait Blue, Bega Cheese Co-op’s Ma­tured Ched­dar, Tas­ma­nian Her­itage’s Sig­na­ture Camem­bert, Holy Goat’s La Luna (or­ganic cheese­mak­ers Carla Meurs and Ann Marie Monda) and Van­nella Cheese Fac­tory’s Bu­falina.

JUDGE Bou­ton­nat will be a spe­cial guide on the Royal Agri­cul­tural So­ci­ety’s Cheese & Dairy Pro­duce Study Tour of the UK and France in May; think stil­ton, li­varot, bleu d’au­vergne, salers (Bou­ton­nat’s favourite cheese, he tells De­tec­tive) and the caves of Ro­que­fort. www.af­travel.com.au.

SIDE view: De­tec­tive wants to know what Bou­ton­nat thinks of the ban on un­pas­teurised milk. It re­stricts the cheese, he says, con­fin­ing it to a nar­rower range of flavours and tex­tures.

SNIP­PETS: Ran­dolph Hodg­son, owner of renowned UK cheese­mak­ing and sell­ing in­sti­tu­tion Neal’s Yard Dairy (www.neal­syard­dairy.co.uk), which has re­tail out­lets at Lon­don’s Bor­ough Mar­kets and Covent Gar­den, was for­merly a cheese judge for the RAS.

In an­other con­nec­tion, Cerid­wen Brown, daugh­ter of Vic­to­ria’s Mi­lawa Cheese own­ers Ann and David Brown, is an as­sis­tant man­ager at Neal’s Yard. Mi­lawa’s muchawarded ashed white-moulded goat’s cheese is named for her.

LEXUS Ap­petite for Ex­cel­lence, the new tag given last year to Lexus’s Young Chef and Waiter Awards pro­gram, of­fi­cially launches its 2008 drive on Mon­day at Hen­schkes Hill of Grace in SA’s Barossa Val­ley. Last year’s Lexus Young Chef, Me­lanie Gow­ers, will cook and Jai Leighton, 2007 young waiter of the year, will serve. Ap­pli­ca­tions for this year’s awards are open un­til April 4. www.ap­petite­forex­cel­lence.com. ■ GIPP­S­LAND In­spired, a re­gional Vic­to­rian food fes­ti­val, takes flight next Fri­day with a de­gus­ta­tion din­ner at Lyre Bird Hill Win­ery, Koon­warra, with Melbourne restau­ra­teur Dur-e’ Dara, one­time part­ner in Stephanie’s Restau­rant. The month-long cel­e­bra­tions (un­til March 23) in­clude feasts, classes, mar­kets and more. www.in­spired­by­gipp­s­land.com.au.

CAN­BERRA res­i­dents are in for a king- sized treat when Vic­to­ria’s King Val­ley wine­mak­ers and Mi­lawa pro­duc­ers — choco­late, cheese, fruit and olive prod­ucts — come to town next Fri­day and Satur­day for Taste the King Val­ley in Can­berra. A wine­mak­ers’ Mediter­ranean feast, $135 a head, and a Wine & Re­gional Pro­duce Expo, $25 a 31/ 2- hour ses­sion, Fe­bru­ary 22 & 23. At Park Hy­att, Yar­ralumla. www.vis­it­wan­garatta.com.au. ■ WEATHER watch. NSW rains are bring­ing mixed re­sults: wild pine mush­rooms from Oberon are in mar­kets, but oys­ter qual­ity is un­cer­tain. Most NSW es­tu­ar­ies were closed to oys­ter farm­ing this week and the oys­ters are spawn­ing early due to unsea­sonal weather. They’ll be back in sea­son late in Oc­to­ber. ■ FIND of the week: Love Choco­late bites, made of cou­ver­ture choco­late, free-range eggs, no ad­di­tives, by Snowy Moun­tains Cook­ies, at se­lected re­tail­ers in three states. www.snowycook­ies.com.au. ■ DE­TEC­TIVE loves: Hell’sKitchenUK. Theatre, char­ac­ters, even food in­sights. LifeStyle Food Chan­nel, Fri­days, 8.30pm. ■ DE­TEC­TIVE loathes: Restau­rant own­ers blam­ing wait staff when things go wrong.

in­dul­gence@theaus­tralian.com.au

Me­lanie Gow­ers

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