Time for a maple-syrup celebration in Prince Edward County

Making maple syrup at Honey Wagon Farms in Prince Edward County.

Days get longer, ice and snow begin to melt, maple syrup starts to run. It must be spring in Canada!

This weekend, you can enjoy one of the oldest agricultural traditions in Canada at the 10th annual Maple in the County Festival in Prince Edward County, Ontario’s newest wine region and fastest-growing culinary destination. Cheese is part of the celebration.

At Black River Cheese, you’ll be able to sample Black River Maple Cheddar and maple ice cream. At Fifth Town Artisan Cheese, the new County Quark—flavoured with maple and natural—and delicious Maple Chevre Tarts will tempt you.

Presented by The Waring House and the Prince Edward County Maple Syrup Producers, Maple in the County was named a Top 100 Festival by Festivals & Events Ontario. Featuring 40 local businesses and organizations, it is a program jam-packed with activities for young and old with trips to sugar bushes, farms, wineries, restaurants and shops across the area on Saturday, March 26, and Sunday, March 27.

Every year, more than 8,000 visitors and locals enjoy a trip to one of our sugar bushes to experience everything from lip-smacking pancake breakfasts, sugar shack demonstrations, sugar bush tours, taffy on snow, maple kettle corn, wagon rides, lumberjack shows, baby animals or an antique tractor display. When your belly is full, head out to the wineries and breweries to try some maple-inspired wine, or Barley Days Brewery’s new Sugar Shack Ale, using Fosterholm Farms maple syrup.

Kick up your heels and bring your sweetie to the Sugar Shack Soirée for a beavertail in Waring Hall on Saturday night and enjoy the sounds of The Reasons. Join indie song writing duo The Family Creative Workshop on Friday night and hear storytelling and song writing at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church. Take the whole family to a special performance and workshop for children on “music building” at the Bloomfield United Church with David and Kimberly Maracle from the Tyendinaga Reserve.

The 10th anniversary Maple in the County Family Event will be taking place on Saturday at the Wellington Arena hall from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Join old-time performers Sheesham and Lotus in an interactive performance and workshop, hear live music from Andy Forgie and Jeannette Arsenault, and be amazed at the papier mache building, stilt walking and puppet show from Small Pond Arts. Make maple-themed crafts with Spark Box studio, and enjoy a celebratory free 10th anniversary cupcake from Just Sweets Retro Bakery.

A full list of activities, events and locations can be found at the Maple in the County website, www.mapleinthecounty.ca, by calling 613-393-2796 or in the brochure and map available at any one of the Maple in the County participating locations.

Video: Fromagerie La Station in the Eastern Townships

It’s Video Wednesday again!

We take you to the Eastern Townships of Québec to visit Fromagerie La Station de Compton, an organic farmstead cheese producer best known for its award-winning Alfred Le Fermier. The clip is a tad promotional at the beginning but it does provides a nice introduction to the fourth generation of the Bolduc family, their 170-hectare farm, their 70 Holstein cows and their delicious cheeses.

Cheese educator Julia Rogers of Cheese Culture toured the cheesemaking operation for Le Gourmet TV. Click here and here for a two-part video.

Fromagerie La Station will be among the many cheesemakers at The Great Canadian Cheese Festival on June 4-5 at Picton, Ontario, thanks to Plaisirs Gourmets. Julia Rogers will lead two tutored tastings, Cheese Tasting 101 and Taste of Québec.

Desperately seeking cheese in Montreal restaurants

What restaurants, bistros and cafes in Montreal present really nice artisan cheese plates? Or have artisan cheese on display and for sale?

Which chefs in Montreal do a wonderful job of using artisan cheese to create outstanding dishes on their menus?

Those are the questions I urgently need answers for because an international food magazine has given me the editorial assignment to produce such a featured report for an upcoming edition. Alas, I’ve let the assignment slide and now the deadline is imminent. I have a pile of notes from frequent visits to Montreal but I’d love feedback from locals.

When you eat out in Montreal, where do you go for a real treat in a cheese plate or a cheese dish?

Where is the best poutine served? Who grills the best cheese sandwich? Who makes the best cheesecake or the cheesiest pizza?

In Montreal itself and within an hour’s drive of downtown.

Please leave a comment or send me an email. I’ll give you a research credit in a future post.

Thank you for your help.

—Georgs Kolesnikovs

Our Cheesehead-in-Chief is a lifelong journalist. In his other life, he publishes Circumnavigator, an annual magazine about voyaging the world in specialized powerboats.

Calling all cheese lovers to Prince Edward County!

That's the slogan of Dairy Farmers of Canada, Diamond Sponsor of The Great Canadian Cheese Festival.

Historic Crystal Palace and the Picton Fairgrounds all around it will make for quite a mouth-watering scene on June 4-5.

That’s when the first-ever Great Canadian Cheese Festival takes place, bringing together the country’s leading cheesemakers from coast-to-coast so cheese lovers can meet to learn, talk, taste and buy the best in artisan, farmstead and specialty cheese—and sample fine wine, craft beer, cider and artisanal foods.

The two-day Festival features:

On Saturday, June 4, a keynote presentation to kick off proceedings, a full day of cheese-tasting seminars, pairing cheese with wine, beer and cider, a buffet lunch and, in the evening, outstanding chefs using cheese to create tasting dishes for the Cooks & Curds Cheese Gala.

Think cheesemaker Ruth Klahsen, cheese educator Julia Rogers and sommelier Andrew Laliberté among the tasting presenters. Think Jamie Kennedy, Michael Blackie and Anthony Rose among the renowned chefs.

On Sunday, June 5, a Cheese Fair & Artisan Food Market featuring more than 30 Canadian cheesemakers, more than 100 artisan and farmstead cheeses to sample and purchase, winemakers and craft brewers offering tastings, too, plus a host of artisan food producers, with a tutored tasting of Canadian Cheese Grand Prix winners, a cheesemaking demonstration and whey more.

Think Fromagerie du Presbytère from Québec, Glengarry Fine Cheese from Ontario and Cows Creamery from P.E.I. among the represented cheesemakers from across Canada. Think Harwood Estate Vineyards and Wineries among the wineries, Mill Street Brewery among the craft brewers, and Major Craig’s Chutney among the artisan food producers.

Plus: A six-hour, guided tour of local cheese plants and dairy farms on Friday or Saturday.

Bonus: On Friday, the Festival eve, cheese-themed dinners at County restaurants such as Angéline’s Restaurant & Inn featuring acclaimed chef Michael Potters.

The bad news is the Festival is still almost three months away. The good news is earlybird ticket sales have started—which means money saved on admission can be spent on cheese!

For cheese lovers, culinary tourists and foodies, come the first weekend in June, all roads will lead to Picton in the heart of Prince Edward County, Ontario’s fastest growing culinary destination.

Crystal Palace was built in 1890 on the Picton Fairgrounds in Picton, in the heart of Ontario's Prince Edward County.

Name the cheese, win a $400 Festival pass

Be the first to correctly identify the three cheeses pictured on the cover of Canadian Cheese: A Pocket Guide, by Kathy Guidi, and you’ll win a three-day VIP pass to The Great Canadian Cheese Festival worth $400.

Enter the contest by posting your answer in the Leave-a-Comment form below this post.*

Click on the image for a better view of the three cheeses.

The Great Canadian Cheese Festival will take place June 4-5 in Picton, in the heart of Prince Edward County, Ontario’s fastest-growing culinary destination. Click here for complete information.

The VIP pass includes admission to every single event during the Cheese Festival:

  • All-Day Cheese Tour on Friday, June 3 – $85
  • All-Day Tasting Seminar Program, Saturday, June 4 – $175
  • Cooks & Curds Cheese Gala, Saturday, June 4 – $95
  • Cheese Fair & Artisan Food Market, Sunday, June 5 – $45
  • Total value – $400.

Those are regular prices. Savings are possible by taking advantage of earlybird pricing until April 4. Click here for the Cheese Festival box office.

Canadian Cheese: A Pocket Guide is an outstanding reference to some of the newest, best and most popular cheese made in Canada. It includes concise tasting information for 180 cheeses from coast to coast, with emphasis on artisan varieties, while providing enchanting author and cheesemaker anecdotes, useful information on buying and serving, as well as author insights on popular cheese topics like raw milk cheese, discerning quality, whether to eat the rind (or not), cheesemaking and ingredients.

Chapters:

• Fresh, unripened – versatile, indigenous cheeses
• Soft, Ripened – fragile, runny and unctuous
• Soft Washed Rind – called ‘the stinkers’
• Semi-soft – mild, yet diverse
• Semi-soft Washed Rind – Canada’s new cheese heritage
• Firm – substantial, dependable classics
• Hard – maturity with benefits
• Blues – love ‘em or hate ‘em, they’re anything but ordinary

Kathy Guidi is founder of Cheese Education Guild, a school dedicated to advancement of cheese knowledge and appreciation among food professionals and cheese lovers. She is also president of Artisan Cheese Marketing, a unique cheese public relations and business development company.

With more than 35 years of experience working as a consultant and maitre fromager (cheese master) with cheesemongers, trade organizations and producers, Kathy continues to influence and lead domestic and international cheese circles through her passionate training sessions and public speaking engagements. Born and raised in Milwaukee before moving to Chicago for school and career, Kathy has called Toronto home for 25 years.

Canadian Cheese: A Pocket Guide, published by McArthur & Company of Toronto, is available through Amazon.ca or Indigo.ca and in book stores, cheese shops, select wineries as well as Costco and supermarket book sections across Canada.

* Employees and associates of McArthur & Company, associates and students of Cheese Education Guild and Artisan Cheese Marketing, associates of Cheese Lover Productions, producers of The Great Canadian Cheese Festival, and cheese professionals are ineligible. The contest is open exclusively to consumers and not the trade.

Video: How clothbound cheddar is made in P.E.I.

Welcome to Video Wednesday at CheeseLover.ca!

Today’s clip shows how Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar is made at Cows Creamery in Prince Edward Island under the guidance of head cheesemaker Armand Bernard.

Famously, Cows Creamery has been making ice cream since 1983. In 2006, Cows expanded into cheddar cheese after Cows owner Scott Linkletter visited the Orkney Islands in Northern Scotland where he was taken by the local cheese.  A Scottish cheesemaker provided the recipe which became the foundation for Cows signature cheese, Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar. While developing the recipe for the clothbound cheddar, Linkletter and cheesemaker Bernard created a second cheese, PEI Cheddar.

Cows makes Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar in 10 kilograms wheels, and ages it for 12 months. The award-winning cheese gets the “clothbound” name from the traditional cheddar-making technique of wrapping it in cheese cloth, a method that originated in Somerset, England (the town of Cheddar, where cheddar cheese gets its name from is in Somerset). The name Avonlea comes from link between Prince Edward Island and Anne of Green Gables.

You’ll be able to taste—and purchase—Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar at The Great Canadian Cheese Festival where Cows Creamery will be represented by Cole Snell of Provincial Fine Foods.