Restos take note: All cheese is not created equal

It's a lovely dish at Currah's Cafe & Restaurant in Picton but the baked "brie" is pedestrian.

I’m not a cheese snob. Sure, I have a preference for farmstead and artisan cheese, but several industrial cheeses are among my favourites. Having said that . . . here comes the big BUT:

All cheese is not created equal. Two restaurants recently demonstrated that.

At Currah’s Cafe & Restaurant in Picton, Ontario, we ordered baked brie. The menu said the brie was Canadian, so we asked the waiter who the producer was. At first he said he did not know. We had to prod him to ask the kitchen. Off he went, and back he came: “It’s Danish brie.”

“Oh,” we said, “the menu says it’s Canadian.”

“No, it doesn’t,” he replied.

“Oh, yes, it does,” we insisted, and off he went to look at a menu.

“You’re right,” he said. “Someone in the kitchen lied.”

“Well . . . could you please ask who the producer is? We like to know what we’ll be eating.”

After a few minutes, he returned with the news: “It’s from Montreal.”

“OK, that’s a big city. Who or where in Montreal?”

“All they know is it says ARS on the package.”

Hmmm, never heard of a cheesemaker in Quebec called ARS. (Later, thanks to Google, we discover ARS Foods, a specialy foods supplier.) When the dish arrived, the presentation was lovely and the onion marmalade quite nice, but the cheese was, well, pedestrian.

With so many stunning soft cheeses in Quebec that will easily match genuine Brie from France, why would Currah’s, which clearly aims to play with the big boys on the resto scene in Prince Edward County, chose to go with a no-name pretender?

It's a good-looking poutine at Rubbs Barbecue Bistro in Campbellford but the cheese curds are blah.

In Campbellford, a half-hour north of Picton, Rubbs Barbecue Bistro serves a good-looking poutine. The fries are chunky, the gravy beefy, and the cheese curds are layered through the dish. Here’s the but again: When one asks about the source of the cheese, “Sysco” is the response.

Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with Sysco, which helps serve millions of meals in restaurants, hotels and others across Canada, but just a few minutes down the road from Rubbs is one of the finest producers of cheese curd and cheddar in Ontario: Empire Cheese & Butter Co-op.

At Empire, which dates back to 1870, cheese is made in the traditional way in open-style vats, with no additives to boost production and no flavours added.

All cheese is not created equal. All restaurants are not either.

—Georgs Kolesnikovs

Georgs Kolesnikovs, Cheesehead-in-Chief at CheeseLover.ca, will gladly return to Currah’s and Rubbs when they bring the cheese they serve up a notch.

Grilled-cheese sandwiches taste better afloat

A grilled-cheese sandwich—with fine cheese, good bread and lots of butter—is great eating just about any time, but when you’re aboard your boat, cruising around Lake Ontario’s Golden Horseshoe for two weeks, it’s golden.

We tried grilling a sandwich using a light rye with caraway with, for the first time, German Limburger cheese (above) and it turned out sharp yet delicious. Later that day, when I talked with Julia Rogers on the phone about The Great Canadian Cheese Festival, I mentioned the Limburger variation and she suggested we sometime try Pont-l’Évêque, the pungent cheese of Normandy. Which we will do.

Another delicious sandwich resulted from the use of St. Albert Extra Old Cheddar. Cheddar is such a natural on toasted bread, but we did expect Extra Old Cheddar to have more oomph. On the other hand, as I believe it’s aged only 22 months, our expectations were unreasonable.

But, combine the St. Albert with a supermarket Blue such as the Danish Rosenborg, and it immediately became our favourite of the cruise. The Blue gives the Cheddar the zing that we love. (We almost always have Rosenborg Castello in the cheese bin. Not so much for snacking or eating as for use in salads. It’s inexpensive and readily available in supermarkets.)

Our all-time favourite grilled-cheese was the Camembert and Blue combination we enjoyed maybe 15 years ago, also on a boat, this time in Southwest Florida. The sharp Blue was the perfect counterpoint to the creaminess of the Camembert, all of it oozing out of crusty French bread, well-buttered, of course!

—Georgs Kolesnikovs

Georgs Kolesnikovs, Cheese-Head-in-Chief at CheeseLover.ca, loves boating as much as he enjoys cheese.

Ontario Cheese Society goes pan-Canadian

The Ontario Cheese Society is transforming into a Canadian organization to represent and promote artisan, farmstead and specialty cheesemakers coast to coast.

Since its inception as a provincial body in 2004, the Society has grown to include more than 100 active members as Canada’s only value-chain-based cheese organization. Its membership includes all levels of the value chain from cheese producers and dairy farmers to cheesemongers, retailers, distributors, supporting industry, food writers, academics and cheese enthusiasts alike.

A new logo and revamped website are in the works for Canadian Cheese Society.

“It became clear to us that cheese producers and cheese lovers in other provinces would be interested in—and benefit from—becoming part of a unique value-chain organization,” says Gurth Pretty, Ontario Cheese Society chair and president of the new Canadian organization. “At our annual general meeting in April 2010, the board of directors presented a proposal to expand our mission across Canada.”

Members endorsed the proposal and the hunt was on for a new name for the new organization. In August, a member survey revealed emphatic support for the new name, with 81 per cent favouring Canadian Cheese Society. It will be a bilingual organization, known in French as la Société des fromages canadiens.

The transformation to the new name and new organization will officially take place January 1, 2011, with the unveiling of a new logo and a revamped website. The Canadian Cheese Society’s first conference will take place in Toronto in the spring of 2011.

The Society objectives are:

  • to promote and support the attainment of the common goal of its members, which is to grow and develop the artisan/farmstead/specialty cheese sector;
  • to organize networking and educational opportunities for members;
  • to provide co-promotion opportunities;
  • to advocate the importance of the artisan/farmstead/specialty cheese community to policy makers and the consumer;
  • to facilitate professional development opportunities for its members.

There are four levels of membership:

  1. Cheesemaker
  2. Supporting Industry
  3. Professional
  4. Enthusiast

For more information about the Canadian Cheese Society, visit www.ontariocheese.org or contact Gurth Pretty at gurth@cheeseofcanada.ca or (416) 346-4236.

For background on the transformation, see the earlier report by CheeseLover.ca.

World’s largest goat cheese and other cheese news

Mamma mia, caprino! Italians set world record with 535-kg wheel of goat cheese.

Cheese makes news every day. That’s why we’ve started collecting links to the most interesting news reports of the week on a special page under the News tab at the top of the blog. Check it whenever you visit CheeseLover.ca.

3,000 goats in Italy help make world’s largest goat cheese

Stick to beans and hard cheese if you want a baby girl, say scientists

Extra Aged Pleasant Ridge Reserve takes Best of Show at ACS 2010

American Cheese Society nibbles through 1,462 entries in tasting competition

Long-term growth in U.S. cheese consumption may slow

Petaluma: cheese capitol of California

Where to find a Krispy Kreme cheeseburger

Supermodel Gisele chows down on cheese bread

France’s Comté region known for cheese

Hoppy marriage: cheese and beer

Tomme d’Aquitaine takes cheese worship to a whole new level

Dill improves everything, including Havarti

Eat cheese, lose weight

The Summer of a Thousand Cheeses: book about cheese-making in New York

Best Bud of Booze: Drunken Goat Cheese

Recipes for health: Cottage cheese and herb loaf

Cabot Creamery: Largest cheese producer in Vermont

Cougar Gold: 23 years old and still tasty

Gouda: Best chased with beer

Since 1937: Kraft Macaroni & Cheese

Le Belle de Jersey recalled because of possible listeria contamination

To the cheese course, prepare to add Camel

Denny’s new Fried Cheese Sandwich is culinary terrorism

Sue Riedl on Belle de Jersey from a new fromagerie in Quebec

Ascutney Mountain cheese a mild Alpine variation

Do I hear a bid of $230 per pound for cheese?

Police patrol unofficial cheese-rolling festival in the U.K.

Curdling till the buffalo come home

Jean-Pierre Gariepy says “Say cheese—or, better yet, cheddar!”

Saputo profit rises 31 percent

Kraft net income grows 13.3 percent

That’s it for now!