OK, I have a confession. “My name is Ben, and I am a cheeseaholic!”
It’s true, I am completely and utterly smitten with it. From firm cheddar to squishy Brie, zingy orange Double Gloucester and Danish blue to mild mozzarella and tangy goats’ cheese. I love them all!
So you can imagine my delight, upon returning to the Pole to Pole restaurant on Saga Sapphire, when I saw the banquet-sized cheese selection laid out for our first evening meal. Of course there were the amazing starters, soups, salads and mains to enjoy first, but after giving a cursory glance at the dessert menu, my eyes were instantly transfixed by the cheese list.
On board they are proud to stock 100 different varieties. Quite a selection for such a small ship! It was a real mix of cheesy classics, along with rare artisan products that you’d be hard pressed to pick up at your local supermarket.
With so many on the menu, I couldn’t possibly list them all here, but just some I managed to glimpse included: cave-aged Cheddar, Chaumes, Cornish Miss Muffet Truckle, Port Salut, Camembert, Edam, Isle of Wight Blue, Fouchtra de Chevre, Wensleydale, Blacksticks Blue, Garlic Yarg, Roquefort and the intriguingly-named Blue Murder Cheese – the mind boggles!
There are also sommeliers in every restaurant on board, who suggested the best wines to have with my cheese course. As a fully paid-up member of the red wine club, I was actually very surprised to learn that white wine often makes a better pairing with certain cheeses, especially Sauvignon Blanc with goats’ cheese. I was converted. That said, I still find it hard to top my all-time favourite – a wodge of creamy yellow Stilton and a nip of Port. Out of this world!
An interesting fact I discovered while talking to the dining staff was that the cheese list actually changes, depending on which Executive Chef is in command of the kitchen. So Cornishman George Streeter always has West Country varieties on his cruises, cheeses from Cumbria appear for John McCreary, Bavarian for Dirk Roesseler, and of course French for our long-serving chef Thierry Cherronnet.
After indulging in my favourite fromage as much as I dared, you could be forgiven for thinking they’d be rolling me off the gangplank, like the proverbial Cooper’s Hill cheese round that gets thrown off a hill every year in Gloucestershire. But fear not – Saga has the calorie-busting in control too. There were daily deck walks – six times around the Promenade is a mile, apparently – plus a packed programme of fitness classes and a gym (I ducked my head inside – it looked nice!)
Now back at home, my personal cheese stash is of course, far more modest. But I’m committed to returning for another Saga cruise to indulge in the Top 100 once again. Don’t you worry cheese, I’m not giving up on you!