Hopefully, now we have a “roadmap to freedom”, we have an end in sight to living our social lives via a webcam or at least the option to meet up face to face should we so desire. While that flexibility of offering is something that I hope will continue and broaden access to tastings and experiences, I personally can’t wait to get out and about. While still under the strictures of this lockdown though, webcam is where it’s at and my most recent experience on that front is a Courtyard Dairy Virtual Tasting that looked at unpasteurised & raw cheeses.
Courtyard Dairy won’t be a new name to many people who’ve an interest in the food scene across the North of the country thanks to its role as supplier to many of the region’s best restaurants. Its reputation as a supplier is unimpeachable but with a lack of restaurants to supply, the business has been driven in a different direction, with the consumer market a new priority. While their shop has been a fixture near to beautiful Malham for some time, direct to consumer has become a larger channel for obvious reasons over the last 12 months and has led to the creation of the Courtyard Dairy Virtual Tastings. These regular events take the form of a Zoom call with co-owner Andy Swinscoe who talks you through a selection of cheeses over an hour with plenty of opportunity to ask questions and get involved while working your way through the selection of cheese forming the basis of learning.
We’d arranged to be (virtually) joined by a friend for the event, with one of the perks of a virtual event being the ability to call in geographically distant friends, which kicked off right at the moment we’d normally be putting Baby Fork to bed but we told her as a treat (it was her birthday…) she was allowed to stay up for the duration with as many bribes as we needed to be able to properly enjoy the Courtyard Dairy Virtual Tasting. The event kicked off right on time, remaining punctual and sticking to schedule throughout and we were soon tucking into our cheese and the wine pairing that we’d added on.
The depth of knowledge that Andy was able to impart throughout the Courtyard Dairy Virtual Tasting was quite remarkable, going into as much detail as we could stomach for each cheese both regarding production techniques and ingredients as well as tasting notes. The six cheeses we went through were all outstanding, as you would expect from Courtyard Dairy, and we learnt something new about those new to us and those familiar. The event went on for an hour, packing in plenty of information without feeling rushed or starting to feel like too reminiscent of school days. It’s fair to say that on a repeat booking we’d miss off the wine pairing to keep the cost down; while the wines supplied were very nice and did a good job of matching up to the cheeses they simply weren’t the focus here so my instinct would be to book more frequently and just focus on the cheese.
The story of the Courtyard Dairy Virtual Cheese tasting is representative of the journey of so many businesses in the hospitality ecosystem over the last 12 months, from stability to disaster and back to some form of stability thanks to reinvention. While staying near to Courtyard Dairy last year, we popped in to pick up some treats for our break but the opportunity to enjoy their product at a distance while in the company of a good friend who’s sitting 190 miles away is curiously emblematic of early 2021. While hopefully before long the restaurant supply side of Courtyard Dairy’s business will thriving again, virtual tastings look set to be another string to their bow that broadens their reach greatly.