26 February 2014

In Memory of the Late, Great David Tiernan

It is a year now since David died. He was a supplier and a friend, a cheese maker and a gentleman. Above all of this, David was a dairy farmer. To listen to David talk about his herd, his farm, his milk was to witness the very essence of what it means to be ‘of the land’. 

The first time I met David, he sat with a wedge of his beautiful Glebe Brethan on the table before him. It was a rich gold, waxy, pocketed with perfectly spherical air bubbles. It seemed like magic the way they had suspended themselves, captured inside the cheese, waiting to be released. The rind looked like stone, hand salted, as it silently matured in the dark, 45 kilo wheels on spruce flats in the cool dairy. Like David, his cheese was of the land. He let me try it. It was good. I told him so. He agreed. It tasted of the earth, the grass, the fields, the herd, almost like sunshine. That was the thing about David, he was quiet, unassuming. He never boasted about his cheese. He didn’t need to. He knew it was good, the best. He knew the value of it. The toil of dawn rises, the times of hardship, the struggles of working the land. There was an honesty about that, an integrity. 

I am using David’s cheese as part of a food and whiskey pairing at Whisky Live London next month. I did last year also, with his permission, and quiet pride. The last time I saw David he was delivering cheese for the pairing. It was a dank and wet Sunday. My day was not going well. As he walked through the door of Mulligan’s I had just unloaded a canon of expletives at the broken glass washer that would have made a sailor with tourette’s blush. He asked how the the pairing was going and we chatted. It cheered me no end. He revealed a wedge of older Glebe Brethan he had saved for me, that he thought would be a better match with the whiskey: ‘I wouldn’t want to let you down’ he said. I marvelled at that, the humility. It was I who was worried about letting him down. 

Glebe Brethan, Brown Bread Cracker, Braeburn Apple, Drizzle of Irish Honey Paired with Tullamore D.E.W 12 Year Old
The sweet earthiness of the brown bread crackers and the crispness of the apple highlight the sweet honey tone in the whiskey and the rich flavour of the malt. The gentle vanilla and rounded freshness of the whiskey leave a lingering finish that lifts the dense flavour of the now 12 month+ cheese off the palate. The cheese has settled into itself with beautiful nutty tones. Drizzle with a small bit of local honey and the sweetness plays off the nutty richness of the cheese. The whiskey brings the whole lot together beautifully. Add a drop of water to the whiskey for a more mellow pairing.  
Glebe Brethan is available at Sheridan’s Cheesemongers, where you can also buy their lovely brown bread crackers. This is the last of David's cheese and it is beautiful in its maturity. Tullamore D.E.W. 12 is available around the corner in the Celtic Whiskey Shop. 
The day we gathered to say goodbye to David, there were so many people. The congregation spilled out into the stone courtyard of the church in Dunleer. As he bravely spoke, David’s brother Seamus summed him up in one perfect sentence: He was an ordinary man who did extraordinary things. 

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