Seven (!) Caseus awards for cheesemaker Jean Morin

The winningest cheesemaker in Québec: Jean Morin of Fromagerie du Presbytere.

In the 19 years that Sélection Caseus, the Québec cheese competition, has been held, no one single cheesemaker has dominated the judging the way Jean Morin of Fromagerie du Presbytère did this year.

The indefatigable Morin, in collaboration with Marie-Chantal Houde of Fromagerie Nouvelle France, was awarded the prestigious Caseus Or prize for Le Pionnier, a beautiful Alpine-style cheese made with a blend of cow’s and sheep’s milk.

Le Pionnier also was named Best Blended Milk Cheese and Best Raw Milk Cheese.

Jean Morin was honoured four more times:

  • Caseus Bronze — Religieuse, a cow’s milk cheese that is an excellent table cheese and perfect for raclette,
  • Caseus Longaevi — Louis d’Or, 2 years, the multiple-award winner that is Morin’s pride and joy,
  • Best Semi-Soft Cheese — Religieuse,
  • Best Bloomy Rind Cheese — Brie Paysan.

Top prize winner Le Pionnier with collaborators Jean Morin of Fromagerie du Presbytere and Marie-Chantal Houde of Fromagerie Nouvelle France.

In addition to three awards with Pionnier, Marie-Chantal Houde also won with:

  • Best Sheep Milk Cheese — Zacharie Cloutier, 6 months.

Caseus Silver was awarded to Fromagerie La Station de Compton for Chemin Hatley, an organic farmstead cheese with a distinct floral flavor. It also won Best Cow Milk Cheese, Firm or Hard.

Making award-winning cheese at Fromagerie La Station is a family affair for the Bolduc family—and has been for four generations.

Other Caseus award winners:

Business that processes more than a million litres per year

Cow-milk cheese, Washed, mixed or natural rind

Soft

La Sauvagine
La Fromagerie Alexis de Portneuf
Montréal

Semi-soft

OKA Frère Alphonse
Agropur coopérative laitière
Montérégie

Firm or hard

Le Bâtisseur
Fromagerie La Vache à Maillotte
Abitibi-Témiscamingue

Bloomy rind

Le Pleine Lune
Fromagerie DuVillage 1860
Abitibi-Témiscamingue

Business that processes fewer than one million litres per year

Cow-milk cheese, Washed, mixed or natural rind

Soft

14Arpents
Fromagerie Médard
Saguenay – Lac-Saint-Jean

All business sizes

Goat-milk cheese

Washed, mixed or natural rind

Semi-soft

Tomme du Maréchal
Chèvrerie du Buckland
Chaudière-Appalaches

Firm or hard

Le Capra
Fromagerie La Suisse Normande
Lanaudière

Bloomy rind

Grey Owl

Fromagerie Le Détour
Bas-Saint-Laurent

Sheep-milk cheese

Washed, mixed or natural rind

Semi-soft

D’Eschambault
Fromagerie des Grondines
Capitale-Nationale

Bloomy rind

Fleur de Brebis
Fromagerie Le Détour
Bas-Saint-Laurent

All milk types or all business sizes

Unripened

Ricotta Fiorella
Saputo Produits Laitiers Canada s.e.n.c
Montréal

Interior-ripened without ripening holes

Louis Cyr
Fromagerie Bergeron
Chaudière-Appalaches

Interior-ripened with ripening holes

OKA L’Artisan
Agropur coopérative laitière
Montérégie

Best Blue Cheese and Best Organic Cheese: Fleuron made by Fromagerie de la Table Ronde.

Blue-veined

Fleuron
Les Fromagiers de la Table Ronde
Laurentides

Grilling cheese

Le Fleur St-Michel
La Fromagerie du terroir de Bellechasse
Chaudière-Appalaches

Fresh curd cheese

Curds
Fromagerie P’tit Plaisir
Estrie

Cheddar

Agropur Grand Cheddar
Agropur coopérative laitière
Montérégie

Flavoured by smoking, maceration or the addition of favoured ingredients

Cheddar biologique vieilli à la bière noire
Fromagerie Perron
Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean

Flavoured by the addition of spices, vegetables, fruit or nuts

Fleur d’Ail

Fromage au Village
Abitibi-Témiscamingue

Best organic cheese

Fleuron

Les Fromagiers de la Table Ronde
Laurentides

Each year, Québec’s cheesemakers are invited to submit their best creations in the competition. All cheese makers, both large and small, can enter the race and see the fruit of their labour featured among the best cheeses Québec has to offer.

In 2017, after a rigorous evaluation process, a jury of 25 experts judged and assessed more than 217 cheeses, recognized 24 winning cheeses in as many categories, and awarded the prestigious Caseus Or prize to Le Pionnier, created by La Fromagerie du Presbytère and Fromagerie Nouvelle France.

Sélection Caseus is a registered trademark of the Ministère de l’Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l’Alimentation du Québec (MAPAQ). MAPAQ manages the contest through a steering committee made up of partners from Québec’s cheese industry.

 

 

Seed to Sausage cured meats: handcrafted and so tasty!

Michael McKenzie of Seed to Sausage in Sharbot Lake, Ontario. Photo by Ottawa Citizen.

Michael McKenzie of Seed to Sausage in Sharbot Lake, Ontario. Photo: Ottawa Citizen.

Canadian handcrafted cured meats that are among the best in the world, that’s the mission at Seed to Sausage, says Michael McKenzie, the young man who grew the business from making sausages for family and friends in his garage in Kingston, Ontario.

Based in Sharbot Lake between Kingston and Ottawa, Mike, now 38, also has a busy retail shop in Ottawa at Gladstone and Bronson and he’s opening a butcher/sandwich-maker at the Kanata Centrum.

Many people know Mike because of Day of the Pig, the popular family event he hosts every year. This Sunday, May 21, Day of the Pig will be celebrated at Sharbot Lake Beach with a huge BBQ.

Every year since 2011, Seed to Sausage has been a mainstay at The Great Canadian Cheese Festival where McKenzie’s cured meats will be available for sampling and purchase on June 3-4.

Seed to Sausage brings a commitment to ethically raised animals and a dedication to making things its own, sourcing products right back to the seed they began with.

Beyond that, the Seed to Sausage brand has also become an ambassador for Ontario’s artisan producers, offering venues for smaller businesses to begin sharing their products with urban markets.

For Makers+Mongers, Seed to Sausage will

Here’s an idea for the grill from Seed to Sausage: Jalapeño cheese curd smokies. Photo: Laura Voskamp.

Over its eight-year history, Seed to Sausage quickly gained recognition, to the point where it’s now hard to believe we’ve ever sourced our bacon from anywhere else. The principles of “local. ethical. humble.” craft are at the core of the Seed to Sausage brand, where everything is handmade in small batches.

From sausages (don’t miss the Maple Walnut variety) to bacon (all varieties are made using real hickory smoke) to dry cured meats (McKenzie’s cuts are dry aged for 80 days), the S2S roster is extensive. Minimal added ingredients mean that the flavours of the meat shine through in McKenzie’s products, injecting a distinctly Canadian profile into traditional European styles.

Unauthorized photo of Mike McKenzie break dancing in the straw at Makers+Mongers last year.

Unauthorized photo of Mike McKenzie break dancing in the straw at a Cheese Festival after-party. Photo: Vanessa Simmons.

Beyond its own products, Seed to Sausage also boasts a gourmet grocery store, stocked with all manner of accoutrements to help you enjoy your salumi to the max. You’ll find crackers, salts, and preserves, all selected with the meats in mind.

This offering spills over into Seed to Sausage’s outpost: The S2S General Store, located on Gladstone Avenue in Ottawa. Born as a collaboration between multiple facets of Ottawa’s food scene, McKenzie has created a space where chefs, bloggers, and producers can come together to create a distribution point for small producers. The aim isn’t to be exclusive though: the S2S General Store wants its shoppers to love the products so much that they begin to ask for them at their local stores, opening up the scene for local producers to gain their own following.

McKenzie offers much credit for his success to Ken McKenzie, his father: “He’s the reason why I’m still in business.” In charge of production is Derek McGregor, formerly long-time chef at Le Chien Noir Bistro in Kingston.

Meet Mike and Derek and the rest of the S2S crew at the seventh anniversary Great Canadian Cheese Festival—the biggest artisan cheese and specialty foods show in Canada—taking place Saturday and Sunday, June 3 and 4, in Prince Edward County, at the Picton Fairgrounds. For complete information and tickets, please visit CheeseFestival.ca.

—This post is an updated version of a profile written in 2015 by Laura Voskamp, a cheese lover and freelance writer.

Fermented food and drink: Good for your gut

Jenna Empey with Gut Shot, an innovative digestive aid packed with probiotics.

Jenna Empey and Alex Currie make a fitting partnership both in business and in life: they started a band mere days after they began dating and eventually ran a record label together. In 2012, they launched a new business venture when they founded Pyramid Ferments in Prince Edward County, producing handcrafted fermented food and beverages using local ingredients sourced from County farmers.

Pyramid Ferments will be one of about 50—Yes, 50!—vendors offering specialty foods for sampling and purchase at fast-approaching #TGCCF. That’s on top of cheese, cheese and more cheese! Order your tickets here: https://cheesefestival.ca/tickets/

Jenna has always been passionate about working in the food and agriculture industry. She began working with local farms in the County in 2003, but took a break to move to Nova Scotia for a few years on a whim. Relocating to the city made her miss that connection to the local food scene and so she began experimenting at home with new kitchen techniques to retain a relationship with food. That’s where she discovered her love of fermenting.

“I started fermenting because it was a technique I’d never tried before and I just really got into it,” Jenna said. “Fermenting creates such complex, deep flavours from really simple ingredients and it’s such a neat experience to watch the fermenting process happen.”

It was in Nova Scotia that Jenna began selling her fermented products, beginning with local farmers’ markets and a specialty food store.

Jenna and Alex began growing their own food and making ferments to sell on a farm in Prince Edward County five years ago.

In 2012, Jenna, 33, moved home to Prince Edward County and Alex, 34, joined her. They settled on a farm and began growing all their own food and making ferments to sell, launching Pyramid Ferments.

The early days of the business were challenging, as they lived in an unheated trailer and spent their days farming the land and building up the business. Pyramid Ferments began with a variety of saurkrauts and kimchi and expanded to include kombucha shortly after. Jenna and Alex split the work; she focuses on the vegetable ferments, while he oversees the kombucha operation.

Pyramid Ferments has grown rapidly and their line of tasty and gut-healthy products has expanded. They developed Gut Shot, an innovative, potent digestive aid packed with probiotics; Beet Kvass, a traditional Eastern European probiotic drink; and a small-batch series of products that draws from what’s in season on the farm and what they can harvest through foraging.

Pyramid Ferments has earned a devoted customer base and widespread recognition for its devotion to revitalizing the fermented food movement. The company has been honoured with two Premier’s Awards for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence.

For Jenna, the most rewarding part of running her business is to be back in the Prince Edward County community, working alongside a supportive local food community.

“We love our lifestyle here. We work really hard and we’ve grown this business in a community that we love and that is very supportive. It’s great to live in such a nice, warm, welcoming place and to be able to grow our family and our business here,” Jenna said.

But running Pyramid Ferments hasn’t been without its challenges. As innovators in the fermented food space, Jenna and Alex have had to adapt and invent their business model as they go. They’ve learned important lessons in their first five years of business and are proud of the success they’ve earned.

“There’s no model for fermentation businesses,” Jenna said. “It’s an old technique of preserving food but it’s one that people don’t really do on a large scale anymore. There’s no book to read or mentors to turn to; we’ve had to figure everything out on our own.”

Pyramid Ferments brings its line of tasty and gut-healthy products to The Great Canadian Cheese Festival on June 3-4.

Pyramid Ferments will bring its full range of handcrafted fermented products to The Great Canadian Cheese Festival at Picton’s Crystal Palace on June 3-4. They’re also planning to bring some prepared foods, like tangy, spicy kimchi rice. This will be their third year taking part in the Festival and Jenna is looking forward to meeting with like-minded artisan producers from across the country.

“It’s a fantastic festival and it’s inspiring to see so many high-quality artisan food producers from all over and to have them here locally in our own backyard.,” Jenna said. “We get to represent what Prince Edward County has to offer and meet a lot of really interesting food producers.”

This year, Jenna is also busy planning the first Ontario Fermentation Festival, taking place in the County in August. She and the vendors are eager to showcase the full range of fermented goods, like pickles, miso, beer, sourdough bread, chocolate and coffee.

—Phoebe Powell, senior roving reporter at CheeseLover.ca, is a freelance writer based in Toronto. Her last blog post was on Kennedy boys to serve their father’s famed braised-beef poutine at #TGCCF.

 

 

Kennedy boys to serve their father’s famed braised-beef poutine at #TGCCF

Chef Jamie Kennedy elevates poutine to a fine-dining experience.

When your father is one of Canada’s most renowned chefs, a passion for food and an appreciation for the restaurant industry come naturally. Nile and Jackson Kennedy grew up around the celebrated kitchens of their father, chef Jamie Kennedy, Canada’s first celebrity chef and a pioneer of the local food movement. But being the chef’s sons earned them no special treatment, as they worked their way through various positions within Kennedy’s restaurants.

“We’ve been working with my dad for a really long time now,” said Nile, 22. “We started by going to events and doing small jobs to just get a sense of what he did.”

Nile got his start in the family business at age 17, working in coat check during private events at the Gardiner Museum, where Jamie Kennedy then ran the venue’s fine dining restaurant and catered on-site weddings and other special events.

From there, Nile worked his way up to become an event server at the Gardiner and then an a la carte server at Kennedy’s Gilead Café, the chef’s last Toronto restaurant, which closed its doors in 2015.

Nile and Jackson Kennedy will serve J.K. Fries in addition to braised-beef poutine at #TGCCF.

Working in his father’s restaurants taught Nile a great deal about the industry and allowed him to spend plenty of quality time with his dad outside the house.

“Working with my Dad has always been great,” said Nile, “It wasn’t really like a typical working relationship. We would be cracking jokes with each other, and it was really positive. I’ve learned a lot working with him.”

For the past two summers, Nile and his brother Jackson, 26, have operated J.K. Fries, a mobile French fry kitchen they run at events and farmers’ markets around Toronto. J.K. Fries offers Chef Kennedy’s signature double-fried French fries, made with local Yukon Gold potatoes, fresh thyme and sea salt. The fries are always made entirely on site, for the freshest, crispiest snack possible.

This summer, J.K. Fries is setting up shop in Prince Edward County, offering its famous fries at events in the region all season long. For Nile and Jackson, this means a break from city life, and a chance to slow down and take a well-deserved break at the Kennedy farm in the County.

“This summer will still be about work, but we also wanted to take a step back, get out of the city and go to our farm,” Nile explained of the move. “We’ll work up there, and also take up any projects and hobbies we’ve really wanted to do. It’s an exploratory summer in that sense and we’ve both been excited about it for a long time.”

Chef Jamie Kennedy works his magic in the converted barn on his farm in Prince Edward County.

The brothers are looking to discover new interests outside the restaurant business, including learning to craft handmade utility knives using wood and metal found around the family farm. With the help of YouTube, they plan to teach themselves to build a forge and try their hands at knife making during their down time.

The Kennedy brothers will bring a special version of the J.K. Fries stand to The Great Canadian Cheese Festival on June 3-4, with a braised-beef poutine, an artful take on the iconic, indulgent dish that his father made famous when he became the first Canadian chef to introduce poutine on a fine-dining menu.

“It’s an elevated version of the classic Quebecois poutine,” Nile explains. “We use braised, tender beef in a thick, salty, flavourful gravy and in place of cheese curds we’re using an aged cheddar from Monforte Dairy, who make a really nice cow’s milk cheddar.”

The Kennedy boys will be serving up the braised-beef poutine and the fries at the Festival’s Artisan Food Court on both Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 4pm.

Meanwhile, Jamie Kennedy is hosting a fabulous feast at his Prince Edward County Farm on Saturday evening as part of his popular Summer Dinner Series. Award-winning cheesemakers Jean Morin and Marie-Chantal Houde will be among the lucky 55 guests—with their fromage featured on the cheese plate.

Jackson Kennedy tosses double-fried French fries, made with local Yukon Gold potatoes, fresh thyme and sea salt.

When he’s not slinging their much-loved poutine dishes to hungry festival-goers, Nile is eager to explore what’s new at this year’s Festival. He’s attended the past few years both to work and to observe.

“What’s great about the Cheese Festival, especially with all these local producers coming, people can taste all these amazing cheeses and it gives them ideas about what’s possible,” Nile said.

“More and more these days, people are interested in sourcing locally, but they might not realize how much is available and how many varieties are available so close to home. The Festival is great for that.”

—Phoebe Powell, senior roving reporter at CheeseLover.ca, is a freelance writer based in Toronto. Her last blog post was on La Moutonnière: Happy sheep make award-winning cheese.

 

 

 

Blog follower wins Weekend VIP Passes to #TGCCF

Patty Golling: Weekend VIP at #TGCCF.

Patty Golling will be headed to the upcoming Great Canadian Cheese Festival as a guest of CheeseLover.ca with a pair of Weekend VIP Passes in hand.

Patty won the tickets in a draw from among the last 50 subscribers to sign up for CheeseLover.ca in the box in the upper right of the blog home page.

Patty lives in Kitchener, Ontario, is retired and has loved cheese since childhood. Her favourite style of cheese is Swiss.

Here’s what is included in a complimentary Weekend VIP Pass to the seventh annual Great Canadian Cheese Festival in Picton, Ontario, on June 3-4, 2017.

  1. More than 500 foods and beverages for sampling and purchase, including 200 artisan and farmstead cheeses.
  2. Chance to meet Canada’s outstanding cheesemakers face-to-face, including from the best of Québec.
  3. Informative Cheese Seminars on a variety of topics. Rush seating.
  4. Express access to more than 100 exhibitors and vendors, including specialty foods, small-batch wine, craft beer, craft cider and—NEW!—spirits.  Admission at 10 a.m., one hour before show opens to public.
  5. SWAG! An insulated Festival tote bag for your purchases and a souvenir Festival glass for sampling wine, beer and cider (19+).
  6. Local VQA wines and cider available for purchase by bottle or case (19+).
  7. Dairy Farm, with animals and displays, including the sweetest water buffalo you’ll ever meet.
  8. Food Court, featuring—NEW!— J.K. Fries and Braised-Beef Poutine from Jamie Kennedy Kitchens.
  9. Live music by Starpainters trio in the Prince Edward County Pavilion.
  10. Ample FREE parking.

In the upper right of the blog page, enter your email address to be notified of new posts at CheeseLover.ca. You’ll be entered in a draw for a pair of tickets to the 2017 Great Canadian Cheese Festival. One winner drawn from every 50 new subscribers.

Cheese Festival information: http://cheesefestival.ca

For cheese lovers, all roads lead to Picton on June 3-4

Informative Cheese Seminars are included in the price of admission at #TGCCF.

Top 10 reasons why you won’t want to miss the seventh annual Great Canadian Cheese Festival in Picton, Ontario, on June 3-4, 2017.

  1. More than 500 foods and beverages for sampling and purchase, including 200 artisan and farmstead cheeses.
  2. Chance to meet Canada’s outstanding cheesemakers face-to-face, including many from Québec.
  3. Informative Cheese Seminars on a variety of topics.
  4. Express access to more than 100 exhibitors and vendors, including specialty foods, small-batch wine, craft beer, craft cider and—NEW!—spirits.
  5. SWAG! An insulated Festival tote bag for your purchases and a souvenir Festival glass for sampling wine, beer and cider (19+).
  6. Local VQA wines and cider available for purchase by bottle or case (19+).
  7. Dairy Farm, with animals and displays, including the sweetest water buffalo you’ll ever meet.
  8. Food Court, featuring—NEW!— J.K. Fries and Braised-Beef Poutine from Jamie Kennedy Kitchens.
  9. Live music by Starpainters trio in the Prince Edward County Pavilion.
  10. Ample FREE parking.

More than 5,000 cheese lovers are expected to attend, sampling and purchasing close to 200 different cheeses made by artisan producers from the Atlantic to the Pacific. It’s the biggest artisan cheese show in Canada, indeed, in North America, with an estimated 500 foods and beverages in total on offer.

Meet Canada’s best cheesemakers, including Armand Bernard of Cows Creamery in P.E.I., at Canada’s biggest cheese show.

Cheesemakers, specialty food producers, small-batch wineries, craft breweries and cideries, and other exhibitors and vendors have reserved 100+ booths making the event at the Picton Fairgrounds one of the biggest artisan food markets in Ontario.

TICKET OPTIONS:

  • Super Saturday (June 3) or Super Sunday (June 4): All attractions listed above PLUS EXTRAS such as informative Cheese Seminars, an insulated Festival tote bag for your purchases, a souvenir Festival glass for sampling wine, beer and cider (19+), live music and more. Super Ticket $50 plus tax per day.
  • BEST BUY: Weekend VIP Pass (June 3 and 4): Admission Saturday and Sunday with VIP access at 10 a.m., one hour before show opens to public. PLUS reserved seating at informative Cheese Seminars. Includes all attractions listed above PLUS EXTRAS such as Cheese Seminars, an insulated Festival tote bag for your purchases, a souvenir Festival glass for sampling wine, beer and cider (19+), live music and more. Weekend VIP Pass $75 plus tax.

Tickets can be ordered online in advance at http://cheesefestival.ca/tickets/ or purchased at the door.

The Great Canadian Cheese Festival is the only place where you can taste and buy 200 different Canadian artisan and farmstead cheeses—plus specialty foods galore.

The Festival’s main attraction, the Artisan Cheese & Fine Food Fair, is open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, June 3 and 4. Families are welcome. Children 15 and younger FREE when accompanied by an adult. Special pricing for groups of 10+.

There is so much to do at the Cheese Festival—and in must-visit Prince Edward County—that you’ll want to make a weekend of it. Check out featured accommodations in Prince Edward County, Belleville and Kingston at http://cheesefestival.ca/where-to-stay/

The Festival also offers special events like Gastronomy on the Farm with Jamie Kennedy, Cooking with Cheese Class with Cynthia Peters and a Quinte Cheese Tour. For additional information, visit CheeseFestival.ca. For assistance, email info@cheesefestival.ca or telephone 1.866.865.2628.

The Great Canadian Cheese Festival is produced by Cheese Lover Productions with the generous support of Celebrate Ontario. Prince Edward County is Gold Sponsor, Bay of Quinte Region is Principal Partner and Stonemill Bakehouse is Official Bread Supplier.

Picton Fairgrounds is located in the heart of Prince Edward County, south of Belleville in Bay of Quinte Region. One hour from Kingston, two hours from Toronto, three hours from Ottawa and New York State, and less than four hours from Montreal.

THE GREAT CANADIAN CHEESE FESTIVAL
June 3-4, 2017, Picton, Ontario
1.866.865.2628
http://cheesefestival.ca


 

Best Bites: Outstanding cheeses of 2016

Bibi, made by Fromagerie Domaine Féodale in Berthierville, Québec.

OMG! Bibi made by Fromagerie Domaine Féodale in Berthierville, Québec.

We bring the curtain down on 2016 with friends in fromage recalling the memorable cheeses that crossed their palates during the past 12 months. In alphabetical order, here is a baker’s dozen of outstanding cheeses of the year—plus a special mention for the 2016 Canadian Cheese of the Year and a word of advice for producers of non-dairy cheeses.

Check out the tasting notes and make up your shopping list for the next visit to a cheese shop or, better yet, right to the cheesemaker.

Bibi – Fromagerie Domaine Féodale, Québec

Bibi is a delicious, oozy, creamy, finger-licking good Camembert-style cheese made by Guy Dessureault and Lise Mercier at Fromagerie Domaine Féodale. This cheese ranks in my very selective OMG! category. It is best enjoyed and savoured with a very special person. Make the experience part of a road trip as you will have to drive to the fromagerie, halfway between Montréal and Trois-Rivières, to buy it. It is a regional treasure! The warm hospitality of the two cheesemakers and their staff, at their recently expanded facility north of Berthierville, will make you feel like you are part of their family.

—Gurth Pretty, Senior Category Manager, Deli Cheese, Loblaw Companies

Blossom Blue, made by Moonstruck Organic Cheese on Vancouver Island.

Blossom Blue made by Moonstruck Organic Cheese on Vancouver Island.

Blossom’s Blue – Moonstruck Organic Cheese, British Columbia

Blossom’s Blue is an aged blue cheese made entirely with the unpasteurised, organic milk of Moonstruck Dairy’s own Jersey herd. Its texture is firm and dense, yet slightly crumbly. It is a touch sweet with the rich flavor of Jersey milk and a has great balance of salt and strength.

—Jonah Benton, Co-owner, Benton Brothers Fine Cheese, Vancouver

Fromagerie Au Fond Des Bois near Rexton, New Brunswick.

Goats at Fromagerie Au Fond Des Bois near Rexton, New Brunswick.

Cabrie – Au Fond des Bois, New Brunswick

Belgium-born Didier Laurent is cheesemaker and owner at Fromagerie Au Fond Des Bois located, as its French name implies, “deep in the woods” near Rexton, New Brunswick, on 267 acres of land bordered by the St. Nicholas River. All of Didier’s cheeses are made exclusively from the milk of his own goats with no additives. The 98 dairy goats raised in his goat house include Nubians, Alpines and Saanens. This is a goat’s milk bloomy-rind cheese that could easily pass for cow’s milk cheese with a soft and flowing texture with a rich, salty, earthy flavour. I love this cheese with Pinot Noir or a bubbly.

—Heather Rankin, Co-owner, Obladee, a Wine Bar, Halifax

Cheesemaker Lyndell Findlay at Blue Harbour Cheese in Halifax.

Cheesemaker Lyndell Findlay at Blue Harbour Cheese in Halifax.

Electric Blue – Blue Harbour Cheese, Nova Scotia

This cheese is a relatively new blue from urban cheesemaker Lyndell Findlay. She is one of the few sheep’s milk cheese producers in Nova Scotia. She purchases her milk from a farm in Stewiack and makes the cheese at her facility on Robie Street in Halifax’s North End—the first of its kind here in the city. The cheese reminds me of a mild Roquefort with a creamy, chalky texture, delicate bite and slightly sweet finish. Perfect for the “blue-fearful” cheeselover, it’s very accessible. It pairs really well with our local, aromatic whites like Tidal Bay, especially those with a touch of balanced sweetness.

—Heather Rankin, Co-owner, Obladee, a Wine Bar, Halifax

Fuoco made by Fromagerie Fuoco north of Montréal, Québec.

Fuoco made by Fromagerie Fuoco north of Montréal, Québec.

Fuoco – Fromagerie Fuoco, Québec

We don’t see much water buffalo milk cheese in Nova Scotia, so this is a real treat. It’s made without rennet (perhaps coagulated with an acid instead) so it is suitable for strict vegetarians. It’s a semi-soft soft, washed rind cheese with a friendlier “fetor” than some washed-rinds! At peak ripeness it is totally decadent, rich and oozy with hazelnut and salted butter notes. Superb with a full, fruity white wine or Saison (beer).

—Heather Rankin, Co-owner, Obladee, a Wine Bar, Halifax

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Cheesemaker Shep Ysselstein of Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese near Woodstock, Ontario.

Five Brothers Reserve – Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese, Ontario

It’s a rarity, but there might be some of the 2016 stock left if folks move fast. Available at Gunn’s Hill, it’s a coveted 18-month batch, released only in December of every year. Ripened for an additional 10 months, Five Brothers Reserve becomes more rustic in appearance, almost “leathered,” with its rind developing shades of darker brown. The “eyes” in the paste are more pronounced and tiny crystals are present, a result of the aging process, a sign of a good cheese! Enjoy its fruity and malty aroma on the nose. This cheese is complex while keeping its smooth and creamy texture and finishes with a subtle bite. Waves of scotch-y, malt-y and caramel flavours ride over your palate and linger for a long time.

—Vanessa Simmons, Cheese Sommelier, Savvy Company, Ottawa

Ile-aux-Grues, 2-year cheddar, takes its name from its island home in the St. Lawrence River near Québec City.

Ile-aux-Grues, 2-year cheddar, takes its name from its island home in the St. Lawrence River near Québec City.

Ile-aux-Grues, 2-year cheddar – Société Coopérative Agricole de l’Île-aux-Grues, Québec

At home, my personal favourite, everyday go-to cheese continues to be Ile-aux-Grues 2-year cheddar. I am never without at least 10 kg on hand. Enough flavor for character, not too much to overpower cooking or more sensitive palates. Perfect for grilled cheese, baguette and cheese, plowman’s lunch, omelettes, host gifts and drop-in entertaining.

—Andy Shay, Cheese Buyer, Sobeys Ontario

Maasdammer made by Triple Island Cheese in Cherryville, B.C.

Maasdammer – Triple Island Cheese Farm, British Columbia

The Tuijtels family up in Cherryville, B.C., has been producing this and many other cheeses according to their generations-old family recipes. They prefer to focus on high quality milk, and not an overly large production. This gives the Maasdammer its deep, buttery, sweet taste. Great as a base for fondue and with a crisp dry Reisling.

—Jonah Benton, Co-owner, Benton Brothers Fine Cheese, Vancouver

Margaret Peters-Morris of Glengarry Fine Cheese near Cornwall, Ontario.

Margaret Peters-Morris of Glengarry Fine Cheese near Cornwall, Ontario.

Nevis – Glengarry Fine Cheese, Ontario

Another rarity to find in stores. We featured it in Savvy Cool Curds for November and it was nothing short of knock-your-socks-off yummy! Nevis comes in a larger format wheel as a washed rind cow milk cheese. A dark gold basket weave exterior compliments a golden straw interior which is cheddar-like in texture. Nevis is all buttery goodness with a tangy finish.

—Vanessa Simmons, Cheese Sommelier, Savvy Company, Ottawa

Rathtrevor made by Little Qualicum Cheeseworks in Parksville on Vancouver Island.

Rathtrevor made by Little Qualicum Cheeseworks in Parksville on Vancouver Island.

Rathtrevor – Little Qualicum Cheeseworks, British Columbia

From Little Qualicum Cheeseworks in Parksville on Vancouver Island, Rathtrevor has quickly become one of our favorite local cheeses. Made with the unpasturised milk from their own mixed herd of Ayrshire, Brown and Canadienne cows, this Alpine-style cheese is nutty, sweet and delicious. Great on its own with a glass of wine, but also a fantastic melter.

—Jonah Benton, Co-owner, Benton Brothers Fine Cheese, Vancouver

Glasgow Glen Farm is a family affair for Jeff MCourt, his wife and two children.

Glasgow Glen Farm is a family affair for Jeff MCourt, his wife and two children.

The Ewesual – Glasgow Glen Farm, Prince Edward Island

This is a hard, 18-month, sheep’s milk Gouda made by Jeff McCourt at Glasgow Glen. Jeff bought Martina TerBeek’s business “The Cheeselady” in 2012 which was one of PEI’s only artisanal cheese business operating for 25 years specializing in Gouda. The farm is a 12-acre lot, overlooking Hunter River and Rustico Bay. This cheese has a parmesan-like flavour and texture—sharp, buttery, herbaceous, nutty,and a touch crumbly. Perfect with a hearty glass of Red.

—Heather Rankin, Co-owner, Obladee, a Wine Bar, Halifax

Note to dairy-free cheese producers

As Canadians continue to re-examine their diets and understand that diet is a key measure in controlling health, there is rising interest in alternatives to traditional cheese.

I tried cheeses from Fauxmagerie Zengarry (Glengarry, Ontario) and Nuts For Cheese (London, Ontario) and while several of these are very good (Zengary Gruyere with cumin and Nuts for Cheese Chipotle Cheddar and Super Blue) they are not to be compared to traditional cheeses. My advice to these cheesemakers is to learn from the traditional techniques, embrace their creations for what they are, because they are good, but avoid the copy of traditional names and the implied similarity of flavor and texture experience. I can see lots of people finding this interesting.

—Andy Shay, Cheese Buyer, Sobeys Ontario

Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar: Canadian Cheese of the Year.

Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar: Canadian Cheese of the Year.

Canadian Cheese of the Year

For most of 2016—until the last of it disappeared in a shrimp bake a few days ago, there was always a kilo or more of Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar in the cheese fridge at CheeseLover.ca.

Crowned Cheese of the Year in the 2016 Canadian Cheese Awards, the old-style cheddar, made according to an Orkney island recipe, is truly a Canadian classic. Now generally available across Canada, it’s a must-try cheese, if you’ve not sampled it already.

A highlight of 2016 for us was a visit to Cows Creamery in Charlottetown, P.E. I., home of Avonlea, several other outstanding cheeses, fabulous ice cream and awesome chocolates—not to mention a huge selection of T-shirts featuring cows in many different settings.

The warm hospitality shown to us by Scott Linkletter, proprietor, and Armand Bernard, cheesemaker, only made the visit more memorable.

—Georgs Kolesnikovs, Cheesehead-in-Chief at CheeseLover.ca and founder of The Great Canadian Cheese Festival and Canadian Cheese Awards/Le Concours des fromages fins canadiens.