MUST DO: E20 Cheese & Wine Festival

In which a brave Miranda Eason risked cheese-fuelled nightmares for an overdose of all things fromage

More dairy than you could possibly imagine. Photo: PR
Fellow cheese and wine enthusiasts, clear your diary for 1st and 2nd April: East Village is dedicating the entire weekend to two of our favourite things.

The cheese and wine festival is showcasing the very best artisan cheese, wine, snacks and related gifts, such as wooden boards and chutneys, from over 25 independent makers, producers and retailers. Plus there’ll be tastings, demos and cheese and wine pairing galore.

The grand finale of the weekend is a three-course cheese banquet at Tina We Salute You E20, followed by an, er, cheesy pop quiz at the same venue (it’s not obligatory to do both, if you’d prefer not to mix your actual brie with your Backstreet Boys). I was lucky enough to get a preview tasting of the banquet last week and, let me tell you, it’s the stuff of fromage-lovers’ dreams.

Two London foodies created the three-course menu. Lottie Tork, founder of cafe/popup/caterer Feest London, took on the starter and main course, while E20 resident Tom Gilliford, who you might know better as Tom-off-of-Great-British-Bake-Off 2016, was on dessert duties.


Peer closely: that’s the menu. Photo: ME
The feast began with Lottie’s take on a Bloody Mary. Plum tomatoes, which had been infused in Russian vodka for 24 hours, were served in a glass topped with a sizeable parmesan shard, and a sprinkle of dried red chilli, sea salt and Worcester sauce on the side. It was a tasty take on the beloved brunch drink, all deep flavours and contrasting textures. (I’d quite like all my Bloody Marys to be similarly deconstructed going forward.)

After a six-month east London fondue popup last year, Lottie is queen of the cheesy communal dish. She’s gathered quite the collection of vintage kit, and a selection of her fondue pans and long stemmed forks were already set up on the tables when we arrived, giving Tina E20 a seventies Swiss chalet vibe. Starters finished, the fondue pans were fired up – ready to melt a mixture of Swiss emmental, gruyere and white wine, topped with smoked garlic crisps.

Boards of veg and bowls filled with beetroot and chunks of bread appeared. They were piled high with various colourful raw veg as well as roasted potatoes, shallots and cauliflower, the latter roasted in saffron and served with truffle salt. The beetroot came two ways – raw candied beetroot and cooked red beetroot – and the sourdough was from Spence Bakery (of Tufnell Park and Stoke Newington fame).

Final course: Rarebit. Photo: ME
Basically everything worked brilliantly with the deliciously cheesy dip, but I especially loved the roasted potatoes, shallots and cauliflower, and may have taken more than my fair share. Sorry about that tablemates but in the game of communal eating, as in life, you snooze, you, er, get fewer roasted vegetables than the person sitting next to you.

The final course, created by Tom, was billed as East Village Rarebit and turned out to be dessert wine-soaked brioche, topped with a cheesecake mix and shavings of white chocolate to look like grated cheese, finished off with red fruit jam, from recently opened East Village grocer Ted’s Veg. Yummy and perfect when paired with a glass of super-sweet wine Umathum Beerenauslese, with its tropical fruit and citrus flavours.

Overall it was a deliciously tasty menu, with the fondue element adding fun and making it easy to make friends with your tablemates (unless, of course, they steal all the roasted veg).

Worth the very real possibility of bizarre cheese dreams on Sunday night. And if you miss out on tickets for the feast you can see Tom demoing how to make East Village Rarebit on the Sunday of the festival.

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Sat 1st April 12pm–6pm and Sun 2nd April 11am – 4pm. Find out more here. The Cheese Feast at Tine We Salute You E20 is on Sunday 2nd April 5pm–7pm, tickets are £37.42 and include a cocktail. The cheesy pop quiz kicks of at 7.30pm.
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