Homage2Fromage was very excited to see this pop up on Facebook. The lovely Dan Akers had pulled of a bit of a culinary coup by creating the Chocolate Periodic Table some time before, but obviously, cheese is our subject of interest, so we had to go along.
The Cross Keys was almost empty when we arrived – and we left Dan and his team to finish off upstairs – we know how it can be when you are trying to get ready for an excited cheese crowd...
After some rather good pork scratchings and a quick drink downstairs, we went up the spiral stairs to a room laid out for some really scientific cheese tasting. 50 cheeses, 50 people (scientists?) lots of grapes, apples and celery - and crackers... we had to be crackers!
Dan began by explaining the system, the hypothesis, indeed the modus operandi of the evening. Each cheese would be tasted in turn. Some would be reasonably robust samples, others, due to cost, were going to be small, but there would be 50 in all. Each was to be rated on the vertical axis for soft/hard, and left to right for 'complexity'.
There was an expectant pause (much like the one before Newton saw the apple, or Einstein saw the … er...light wave or whatever) This was it. We were doing cheese science.
One by one we tasted the cheese portions – we had formed teams on our tables of 8, and took turns cutting small samples into pieces. The portions were perfect – some were smaller, but when you are tasting 50 cheeses you can't go stuffing your face.
As each cheese was tasted Dan would place a little marker up on the screen – much like an element in a real periodic table – then moving it around as we basically shouted out helpful, and very scientific phrases, like 'Up a bit!', 'No, to the left!', and 'Rubbish!'.
The cheeses were tasted in sets of 10s – with breaks for more booze, loo breaks and general chat.
One by one the cheese were placed. Some arguments broke out, but Dan took control masterfully negotiating compromise and shouting 'We have achieved cheese consensus!' as soon as he got an approving cheer...
Four hours, and fifty fromages later we finished. The result was extremely satisfying, looking both authoritative, and really rather beautiful...
OK, it's not comprehensive, there were some cheeses we missed (cheddar was a little under-represented) but Dan did a phenomenal job, both in terms of the planning and logistics of such a complex task, and handling such a large hoard of passionate cheese-heads. On the whole, it was fun, tasty, and above all SCIENCE!