Forget your Nobel or Booker prizes. The big one was revealed last week, none other than the World’s Best Cheese 2021.
Announced during the International Cheese Festival in Oviedo in southern Spain, a soft goat’s cheese called ‘Olavidia’ scooped the overall title, narrowly beating another entry from Fromagerie Berthaut in France. Hard cheese, lads.
Olavidia, matured with Penicillium Candidum and which has a distinctive layer of olive stone ash running through its middle, was lauded for its texture, taste and originality.
“I just wanted to go to bed with it,” remarked the British judge Jason Hinds, one of the 250 experts at the event.
“This cheese charmed me and stole my heart. This is unlike anything I’ve seen before. Its appearance is so original and it didn’t let me down. It’s unctuous, seductive, pillowy, warm and comforting.”
You had me at ‘unctuous’, pal.
The best of it is, Olavidia is made by a small producer, Quesos y Besos, which has only been making cheese for the past five years. Understandably so, head cheesemaker Silvia Peláez was over the moon with the win.
“Everything we do is inspired by our love for our family, including the name of the business itself, Quesos y Besos (Cheese and Kisses), so this is such a special moment for us,” she beamed. “We’ve made it our mission to encapsulate the essence of our family in all of our cheeses.”
After reading reports of the win on Monday, I immediately hoked out the Quesos y Besos website to see if I could make a purchase online. It turns out that I could – if it weren’t for the fact that Olavidia and all the other cheeses Quesos y Besos make were sold out. Still, I signed up for an email notification if and when Olavidia becomes available once again.
At a paltry 15 yoyos, Olavidia is a bit pricier compared to the other cheeses I’m used to buying around this neck of the woods, but then again, it’s not every day you get the chance to eat the very best in the world.
Alongside the World Gurning Championships and the World Beer Awards, the International Cheese Festival is one of those events I’ll attend on a regular basis when I win the lottery. Apart from the fact that it likely stinks to high heaven, it would surely be an eye-opening (and tummy-rumbling) experience. Plus there’d likely be a few crackers and glasses of wine in the offing.
For the meantime, I’ll keep an eye on my emails to see when Olavidia is replenished. I can’t imagine I’ll see it on any local shop shelves, any time shortly.
I am reminded of a conversation that I had with a lady once, when I was bemoaning the lack of mozzarella in a local supermarket. I think I had been trying to make pizza at the time.
“Can you believe all they have is cheddar?” I cried, wringing my hands in anguish.
She replied, “Sure, what other kind of cheese is there?”
I don’t reckon the same woman would be tasting Olavidia either, even if it was being given away for free. Ben Gunn would be turning in his grave. If he had one. Which he doesn’t.
The thing is: Olavidia’s win has put me in wile form for good cheese (plus the crackers and vino). To that end, I went a-hunting to see what else was available, namely the second placed Epoisses Berthaut Perrière from France, which took the runner-up prize at the World Cheese Awards.
This fromage, I was happy to note, is available to buy from several online sources. The only problem was, it costs a whopping £27 plus shipping. So, as a friend routinely says, I stalled the digger and went no further with the purchase. I checked my email instead but alas, Olavidia still hadn’t turned up.
Still, I think she’s worth waiting for. She and I will become acquainted at some stage, hopefully before Christmas. I’ll pull the curtains and light the fire. There will be cheese and kisses that night, I can tell you that for nothing.
In the meantime there’s always good old cheddar. So much cheddar.
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