Thursday, 15 March 2012

179. Cheese, seaplanes & San Sebastian

16th March 2012. News has just filtered through to these parts that Ossau-Iraty - a cheese made from ewe's milk in the Pays Basque - was awarded the title of the Best Cheese in the World (English version here) in November last year at the BBC Good Food Show in Birmingham (UK). To be honest, with a product like cheese that's so inherently diverse in all its forms, I fail to see how one cheese can ever be awarded the accolade of the Best Cheese in the World. I know I've often said here that as far as I'm concerned that Vacherin Mont d'Or is the tops but it's all so subjective and in the end it all comes down to personal preference. I suspect that marketing plays a huge part in this award and I'm sure that the makers of Ossau-Iraty will experience a significant upswing in sales over the next few months. It's a cheese I'm quite familiar with and I must admit that it's nice enough but, eating it, the thought has never crossed my mind that it is the World's Best Cheese. It's served here with black cherry jam - this is available online here, along with a selection of other typically Basque products. This beautifully made short video shows the Ossau-Iraty cheese-making process from start to finish:

I came across this blog earlier and it sums up very well the author's views of food in the Pays Basque and I wouldn't argue with a word of it.

Born in the wrong decade? Charmed by old aircraft? Does the romance of pioneering aviation resonate even just a little with you? The roar of radial engines? Yes? Well there's hope for you yet.. make a note on your calendar for these dates - 17-20 May 2012. There's an International Seaplane gathering planned at Biscarrosse in Les Landes (map here).
Here's the Dornier Do 24 ATT (unfortunately with 3 turbo-props, not piston engines) that conjures up some of the magic of those early machines. 
This Consolidated Catalina amphibian (with its 2 Pratt & Whitney radial engines) taxies low down on water - more in it than on it - in the manner of a floating log. I imagine a take-off in choppy water could be a little sporty!

More videos here.

Last Thursday saw the passing of one of the giants of the rugby world - Mervyn Davies aka Merv the Swerve. Remember those great Welsh rugby teams of the 70s? They played some of the best rugby ever seen anywhere - no ifs or buts. He was one of its stalwarts (& they were all stalwarts) and eventually captained the side. He was part of the only Lions side ever to win a series in New Zealand (1971). In his 46 international appearances for Wales and the Lions, Davies was on the losing side on only nine occasions. With Wales, his record was 26 wins, eight defeats and four draws; with the British and Irish Lions, five wins, one defeat and two draws. RIP Mervyn.
18th March 2012. The weather conditions were favourable for a sortie out on the lower reaches of Adour yesterday so we took a couple of VIIIs and a IV down under the bridges through town and out onto the big river. We were in a new carbon fibre VIII which was very stiff and balanced well and we set off in fine style past the outdoor Saturday market towards, onto the Adour and down river towards the sea. Unfortunately, as we approached the navigable channel, we encountered a rolling swell which in our sort of boat was not good news. So, we cut our losses and returned to the Nive which felt like a flat calm after the Adour. As it was going well, we rowed past the pontoon and continued upstream for a few km before returning home. 16km.

Well done to Wales for taking the Grand Slam in this year's 6 Nations Rugby Tournament, winning 16-9 against France yesterday in Cardiff. England finished second after a convincing 30-9 win against a depleted Irish XV while Scotland picked up the Wooden Spoon after falling victim to Italy 13-6.

To finish up with, here's the late lamented Keith Floyd having fun with the Basques on the other side of the border in San Sebastian. He's absolutely spot on when he says that people here (on both sides) talk about food with a rare passion. Whenever we've had friends around for dinner, the conversation inevitably turns to a discussion of what they're eating, what they have eaten or what they're going to eat. People are expected to have strong opinions on all the different kinds of meat, fish, poultry, cheese, wine & bread and where best to buy it all - or where best to eat it. Anyway, don't let me keep you from the pleasure of Keith's company:

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