Wednesday 5 June 2013

Irish Cheese Awards 2013

I love cheese. J'adore le fromage.

So when I saw Sheridans Cheesemongers, Bord Bia and Bloom wanted a tweeter to judge at the Irish cheese awards 2013 I entered the competition and prayed to the cheese gods that I would be picked.

My cheesy wishes came true and so I found myself in the middle of Phoenix Park at Bloom on Thursday 30th of May 2013 eating dozens of Irish cheeses from 10am.

So how does this work exactly? French Foodie will now give you a behind the scenes insight.

The Irish Food awards took place in Bloom for the 1st time this year in association with Sheridans cheesemongers, Board Bia, Euro-Toques and CAIS.

A panel of 9 judges combining cheese professionals and people with a food background had to judge 123 cheeses this year. Here is the list of the judges:

Elaine O’Connor, Head Buyer, Avoca Group
Charlotte Kamin, Proprietor of Bedford Cheese Shop, NYC, USA
Nate McElroy, General Manager of Bedford Cheese Shop, NYC, USA
Miah Buckley, Trading Manager Dairy, Musgrave Retail Partners Ireland
Pat Fenton, Cheddar Grader, previously of Dairygold Food Ingredients
Ruth Hegarty, Eurotoques Ireland
Donal Skehan, TV Chef, Author, Food Blogger & Photographer
Darina Allen, Chef, Author, proprietor Ballymaloe House & Cookery School

And also Moi, Ketty, French Foodie in Dublin, lucky winner and food blogger!

Kevin Sheridan was here as an advisory judge to help with any difficult decisions and Elisabeth Ryan gave us a briefing and helped the judges if needed.

There were 15 categories of cheeses to be judged:
·         Class 1 – CREAMERY MATURE CHEDDAR (aged more than 9 months)
·         Class 2 – CREAMERY CHEDDAR (aged less than 9 months)
·         Class 3 – SMOKED CHEESE (any milk)
·         Class 4 – FRESH CHEESE (any milk)
·         Class 5 – FRESH CHEESE FLAVOUR ADDED (any milk)
·         Class 6 – NEW CHEESE (cheese on the market for less than 18 months)
·         Class 7 – SHEEPS MILK CHEESE
·         Class 8 – FLAVOUR ADDED CHEESE (with added flavourings, any milk)
·         Class 9 – HARD MATURE CHEESE (over 6 months, hard & semi hard cheeses, any milk)
·         Class 10 – HARD CHEESE (under 6 months hard & semi hard cheeses, any milk)
·         Class 11 – BLOOMY RIND (white moulded cheeses, soft & semi soft, any milk)
·         Class 12 – SEMI-SOFT (surface washed ripened cheeses, soft & semi soft, any milk)
·         Class 13 – BLUE CHEESE (blue veined cheeses, any milk)
·         Class 14 – GOATS MILK CHEESE (aged under 2 months)
·         Class 15 – GOATS MILK CHEESE (aged 2 months and over)

Judges were paired and assigned 2 or 3 categories. I was teamed with Nate McElroy and Miah Buckley and we had to go through 3 categories.
Each cheese was graded out of 100 on the following criteria: aroma and flavour (70), body and texture (20) and overall appearance (10). Can you imagine? We had lots of cheese to taste and compare, the process lasted for a few hours. It's a hard life but someone's got to do it!
Later the same day we all gathered and had to taste the gold winner of each category to pick a supreme champion. Of course after we made our decision we had to keep the secret until the next day.
The Irish Cheese Awards 2013 were announced in the Irish Cheese Awards marquee at Bloom on Friday 31st of May 2013. Minister of State for Agriculture, Food and Marine Simon Coveney opened the ceremony and then Kevin Sheridans announced the winners.  Donal Skehan was in attendance to present the awards.
This year a new award called the Euro-Toques chef's choice award was introduced and the winner picked by Euro-Toques Ireland was Cashel Blue. Cashel Blue also won gold medals in the blue cheese category and the fresh cheese flavour added category.

St Tola received The Sheila Broderick Memorial Trophy as their St Tola ash was selected Supreme Champion 2013 by the judges. St Tola was also gold winner for new cheese and Goats' milk cheese.

So that's it! You now know everything about the Irish Cheese Awards 2013. Ireland has an incredible variety of cheeses to be proud of and I was delighted and very honoured to be part of the judging panel.

If you want to learn about Irish cheeses there is a Guide to Irish Farmhouse cheeses on Bord Bia's website.

And finally, you can spot me behind Ella McSweeney in the little video below. It's a short extract from a documentary about Bloom by RTE.

Thanks to  Sheridans, Bord Bia and Bloom  for this fantastic insight into the world of Irish cheeses!

Full list of award winners below

Disclaimer: I won a Twitter competition to be a judge at the Irish Cheese Awards and  gave no undertaking to write a review and the words above are, as always, my honest opinion.