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Organising cheese pairing events is a great way to get your customers involved and excited about the produce you sell. Neal’s Yard Dairy has been running cheese tasting classes for over 10 years above its Borough Market shop; Ellen Hunter, events and tastings manager, explains the benefits of hosting events like these:
“Many people are introduced to Neal’s Yard Dairy when they first attend a tasting, often bought as a gift – once they have walked through the doors, seen the shelves full of cheese and had a ‘behind-the-scenes’ glimpse into a cheesemonger’s world, they become loyal and regular shop customers. Equally, the shop and its magical combination of sights, smells and sounds is the perfect environment for a tasting, helping to maintain the close relationship between the cheese, the monger and the customer that Neal’s Yard treasures.”
The key to creating a successful event, according to Ellen, is passing knowledge and confidence onto customers. “Providing guests with the confidence to go home and select their own cheeses and paired beverages is a key element of success. As is apparent when spending the day at Neal’s Yard Dairy, cheese is something we feel strongly should be a feature, not an afterthought – the more confidence people have in their choices, the more fun they will have with their selection. A tasting should be enjoyable, informative and social. Only our own staff and cheesemongers lead our tastings, which we feel contributes hugely to the success of the events as the speaker knows the business like the back of their hand, tastes and discusses cheese every day and, more often than not, has met the cheesemakers they are highlighting.”
Using locally-produced cheese and accompaniments is also part of what makes running these events a worthy enterprise, as it can be a good opportunity to champion products and suppliers in your area. “We use a variety of locally produced accompaniments, from Little Bread Pedlar and Brickhouse bread, to England Preserves Quince Paste, to Crown and Queue cured meats,” says Ellen. “We are very fortunate to be part of an incredible food community in South East London, and the producers located in our own area around Spa Terminus hold the same passion and integrity as us for honest, ethical and delicious food. There are some combinations that do tend to work well regardless of batch variation. This seems to be particularly relevant to cheese and alcohol produced in the same region – for example, a West Country Cheddar paired with a nice West Country cider will often be a winner! We also love to try new combinations, pairing cheese with beverages such as kombucha, tea and whisky,” she continues.
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