We arrived to the busy cattle market, collected our voting forms and headed out to the stalls. There were cheese makers from all over the country offering soft cheese, hard cheese, blue cheese and more as well as local heroes Cropwell Bishop and Long Clawson.
As we meandered our way around, we tried lots of different cheeses - cocktail sticks at the ready to make sure we could try as many as possible. For me, the best has always been (and still is) the Cropwell Bishop Classic Blue Stilton. They are based in Notts and I first encountered them at the BBC Good Food Show last year (see here) and their creamy Stilton cheeses are just delicious and melt in the mouth. Of course we had to buy some!
Colston Bassett Blue Stilton. Another local cheese maker, they are based in the Vale of Belvoir on the Notts/Leics border. It smells delicious, very oozy and I can't wait to try it later on this evening with a glass of wine and a cracker or two.
We also bought cheese from Lyburn Farmhouse Cheesemakers, a family run business based in Hampshire. Their cheeses have won numerous awards over recent years and the 'Old Winchester' which we purchased most recently won Gold at the British Cheese Awards. Its very dry and aged 18 months to give it an almost hard cheese, Parmesan taste. We had it grated onto pasta for lunch today and it was delicious, almost nutty in flavour.
It was good to see the wonderful Loughborough based Chocolate Alchemy at the fair, almost sold out of their fab homemade chocolate. There were also local breweries offering their wares as well as a pie stand which was doing a roaring trade.
We're in the season now for food festivals and markets and I love it - buying food and drink from the makers themselves and knowing that for a lot of it, you're eating produce grown and produced in your local area - it doesn't get better than that.
Next up - the Derbyshire Food and Drink Festival at Elvaston Castle on the 18-19 May and of course, the BBC Good Food Show Summer on 12-16 June at the NEC in Birmingham. If you want to go but haven't sorted your tickets yet, I have a special Gingey Bites discount - just use the code GB15 for a 15% off standard tickets!