In celebration of British Food Fortnight we’ve asked our Chefs to put the spotlight on a couple of our local suppliers. Great pride is taken in the quality of the produce used in each Alexander’s serve, as highlighted when we spoke to R&J Butchers, and our dairy is no exception.

Jason Wardill our Head Chef has a real nose for great tasting cheese. So it should be no surprise that he was keen to find a local supplier that could offer the very best selection for our cheeseboard.

Courtyard Dairy | Alexander's

Unsurprisingly, he didn’t have to travel far. Tucked away in the Yorkshire Dales in Austwick, a small village near Settle, is The Courtyard Dairy; a unique, specialist cheese-shop and cheese-maturer. With an ethos to sell only the best cheese available from Britain and across Europe, The Courtyard Dairy champions the ideals of small farmhouse production.

The smallest farmer they work with has only twelve cows and the largest 120. Their cheeses are still made on farms, often with unpasteurised milk and using the traditional methods (hand working the curd, cloth-binding, naturally rinded, etc.) that help to give the cheese a greater depth of flavour and create a product unique to each farm. This method of farming and cheese making supports an important food culture, traditional methods of farming, rural local communities; and of course produces some of the best cheeses in the world. Each cheese is then aged to perfection in The Courtyard Dairy’s maturing cheese room.

Courtyard Dairy | Alexander's

Jason said:

“Small producers know their source of milk intimately, they know how it is produced, and they know it hasn’t travelled great distances to get to them. And it’s this that helps them create such unique tasting cheese. Cheese that we want to share with our customers.”

Jason met with the ‘Chief Cheeses’ owner and operators Andy and Kathy Swinscoe to learn a little more about how they got into the business of cheese.

Andy originally from Cumbria, developed his passion for cheese from an early age. With a degree in ‘Culinary Arts and Hospitality’, he worked for Britain’s oldest cheesemonger, Paxton and Whitfield, hand-delivering cheese, to high profile customers such as Buckingham Palace.

Courtyard Dairy | Alexander's

After completing an apprenticeship in the intricate art of affinage (ageing cheese) in France with Hervé Mons (widely regarded as the best affineur in the world).  Andy went on to learn how to age cheese and spent much time visiting and making cheese, from Salers du Tradition and Comté and Ste Maure. Returning to England to work for Bath’s Fine Cheese Company, he took up responsibility for cheese quality and selecting cheese direct from farms.

Courtyard Dairy | Alexander's

Throughout their careers Andy and Kathy have continued to visit and meet with many of the finest cheese-makers, helping to make cheeses such as the buttery and lactic Kirkham’s Lancashire and the creamy Vacherin Mont d’Or.  Inspired by Artisan producers, The Courtyard Dairy first opened its doors in 2012 and five years on it is now a multiple award winning business. Voted Best Cheese Counter’ & ‘Cheesemonger of The Year’ at The World Cheese Awards in 2013 their business is now serving cheese to some of the UK’s finest hotels and restaurants.

Courtyard Dairy | Alexander's

With Alexander’s Christmas menu planning well underway, we asked Jason to find out why there is such a strong tradition of eating good cheese at Christmas time?

Andy told us…

It’s because Christmas really is the perfect time to eat some cheeses.  Creamy Kirkham’s Lancashire and classic Stilton, for example, are at their best when made with milk from towards the end of summer – these are naturally coming to maturity now, just in time for Christmas“.

So Christmas and cheese really do go hand in hand, and there simply isn’t a better way to finish off your Christmas meal than with a glass of Port and a chunk of tasty cheese. So come and celebrate the best of The Courtyard Dairy’s cheese on our Festive Yorkshire Cheese Board with a fabulous mix of farm-made and award-winning cheeses.