Well we've gone featurette crazy here at Cheese and Biscuits this month. I think it's long overdue that I had something on the site to justify the name, so what better than a regular spot where we review some of our favourite cheeses from Hamish Johnston. I may have inadvertently given the impression that I visit new restaurants occasionally for the site and eat dinner every other night in the Fox & Hounds - if only! The fact is our kitchen does suffer regular punishment in the evening, although to be honest much of the time the main course is just the necessary filler before we can start on our real love - the cheese.
I can't remember the first time we heard about Stinking Bishop, but it was certainly way before Wallace & Gromit brought it to the attention of the whole country. It's still not available in many places, simply because the guy who makes it, Charles Martell, intentionally keeps the production process small-scale to ensure quality. And boy, does it pay off - Stinking Bishop is a towering achievement, a king of cheeses. The smell is extraordinary, like a marathon runner's unwashed feet, and the sticky rind also invites comparisons with the famously strong French Epoisses cheeses, although unlike the Epoisses, Stinking Bishop's flesh inside is firmer and spongey with small pockets of air. Also, despite the incredibly strong odour, the taste is subtle and fresh, creamy with a slightly nutty aftertaste, and is generally not hot or sulphuric unless it's been allowed to get too warm. The name, by the way, comes from the variety of pear used to make the Perry that the rinds of the cheese are washed with, although I have to admit that I've never picked up on this flavour during tastings myself.
As you have probably guessed by now, I'm a huge fan of Stinking Bishop so this was never going to be anything than a glowing report. It is probably one of the finest cheeses I've ever tried, and believe me I've tried quite a few; in fact it may very well be one of my favourite foodstuffs of any kind. Produced slowly with well-sourced ingredients and with great care, it's a supreme example of how attention to detail and the sheer love of the craft of cheesemaking can produce stellar results. And now I've got that off my chest, perhaps next month I can start being a bit more objective....
Check out Wikipedia for more academic and impartial information on this cheese