Alison Roberts-Tse reports back from Digbeth with a very cheesy grin.
Birmingham’s Custard Factory hosted the UK Cheese Fest last weekend, completely selling out on 18th–19th November. Apparently the modest entry fee and vague website description, with no mention of specific vendors, did not discourage visitors.
Cheese in the Courtyard
The London-based Raclette Brothers stand attracted the longest courtyard queue, with attendees eagerly awaiting gooey cheese melted over garlic potatoes with cornichons and pickled red onion. Other warm snacks served outdoors included grilled cheese sandwiches, cheese-stuffed ‘Krakhauer’ brats and finger foods from The Paneer Wrap Street Food Co. Disco Fries topped their hand cut potato products with manchego, smoked mozzarella and blue cheese, while Lichfield’s Yes Chef truck the swirled Italian linguine covered in their “own version of carbonara sauce” in an enormous Grana Padano cheese wheel.
Mac & cheese
Macaroni and cheese is a must for any cheese fest, and The Mac Shac provided a vegetarian four-cheese blend, including mozzarella, cheddar, Italian hard cheese and Yorkshire blue cheese, which added the perfect amount of tang. Owner Luke Ribbons advised jerk chicken and slow roasted Mediterranean tomatoes with garlic as the supreme topping combo, but even without, the quattro formaggio mac ‘n cheese delighted.
The Mac & Cheese Waffle Co. offered their homemade mac pressed in a waffle iron with a crunchy layer of cheese on top accompanied by maple syrup or barbeque sauce. And while the mac & cheese waffle turned lots of heads, a chewing visitor verbally contemplated, “It does lose some of the best elements of mac and cheese in waffle form…”
More visitors were interested in halloumi cheese fries than potato fries topped with cheese. Gnawing on the thick slabs of squidgy, hearty cheese was gratifying, but the halloumi fries were exceedingly salty. The chilli sauce, spring onions and pomegranate seeds masked some of the overwhelming saltiness, but the extra ingredients were too stingy to completely balance the Cheese Fest UK’s own dish. Although deep-fried cheese curds were missing from the spread, many attendees cheerfully waggled their breaded and seasoned Mamma’s Mozzarella Sticks.
Cheesecake & sweet treats
Dessert vendors provided sweet relief as alternates to the savoury snacks. The Great British Cheesecake Company served up dense, indulgent wedges in five different flavours, among them salted caramel, Oreo, and mango & passion fruit. Another stand doled out dreamy cheesecake combinations in a parfait, complete with chocolate Flakes. And since there was a good chance cheese lovers adore other dairy products, festival-goers could also order dollops of ice cream, freshly rolled on a chilled plate.
Cheese to carry home
In addition to hot foods, Cheese Fest UK displayed a few cheese stalls featuring a variety of cheese wheels. The vibrant waxed Lancashire cheese bombs, from Shorrocks Cheese, stood out as a unique product. The cheese bulbs had been wrapped in cloth, dipped in wax and left for a year, as they transformed into an intensely rich and creamy cheese. Holiday flavours included the luxury spiced apple & port bomb and the strawberry champagne bomb, but after tasting each sample, I found all to be celebration-worthy.
The UK Cheese Fest 2017 at Birmingham dished up delicious treats and hosted a fun gathering for fromage aficionados, complete with cheesy face-in-the-hole sets and a plethora of grate puns.
Alison Roberts-Tse is a London-based freelance writer, who runs the cultural travel blog, Up&AtEm Travel