Best bites: Outstanding cheeses of 2012

This is the third year Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar has been selected as one of the outstanding cheeses of the year at CheeseLover.ca.

This is the third year in succession that Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar has been selected as one of the outstanding cheeses of the year at CheeseLover.ca.

We bring the curtain down on 2012 with friends in fromage recalling the memorable cheeses that crossed their palates this year. In alphabetical order, here are 20 outstanding cheeses of the year just ending—and one terrific cinnamon butter:

Any cheese made by Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese
Regardless if I’m eating his curds or the harder aged cheeses Shep Ysselstein is best known for, his cheeses never disappoint, they’re always outstanding bites to remember. He is truly a talented cheesemaker to watch.
—Wendy Furtenbacher, Blogger, CurdyGirl

Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar, COWS Creamery
I was in P.E.I in the summer and finally got to meet Scott Linkletter,  owner of COWS Creamery, and Armand Bernard, the cheesemaker. Ate Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar (still good everytime I have it) looking out over New London Bay as the sun was setting.
Sue Riedl, Cheese Columnist, The Globe and Mail

Bella Casara Mozzarella di Buffala, Quality Cheese
Discovered shortly after my trip to Italy when I was experiencing serious fresh cheese withdrawals. Enjoy the fresh, mild, milky flavor and smooth silky texture of this oh-so-versatile cheese made from Ontario buffalo (Yes, water buffalo) milk.  The small, soft, delicate hand-pulled rounds pair perfectly with both sweet and savory accoutrements. Click here for more tasting notes.
—Vanessa Simmons, Cheese Sommelier, Savvy Company

Black River 8-Year Cheddar, Black River Cheese
While many Black River cheddars have a characteristic bitterness, the 8-year has lost this. It is incredibly thick and smooth in the mouth, rich and nutty, with a hint of caramel.
—Andy Shay, Cheese Buyer, Sobeys Ontario

Monforte Dairy's Bliss makes our Best Bites list for the second time.

Monforte Dairy’s Bliss makes our Best Bites list for the second time.

Bliss, Monforte Dairy
I had been waiting and waiting for Bliss to be available after trying a sample in 2011. Finally, in May, I scored some at the Brickworks farmers’ market in Toronto. Worth the wait!
Sue Riedl, Cheese Columnist, The Globe and Mail

Brebiou, Fromagerie de Chaumes
Brebiou is a pasteurized sheep’s milk bloomy rind from Fromagerie des Chaumes in southwest France that I thoroughly enjoyed discovering. Click here for more tasting notes.
—Jackie Armet, Cheese Co-ordinator , The Great Canadian Cheese Festival

Brie Paysan, Fromagerie de la Presbytere
It’s been consistently beautiful this year, especially when ripe. If purchased, folks should hold it for an extra while. This is my favourite example of “vegetal” notes in a cheese.
—Vanessa Simmons, Cheese Sommelier, Savvy Company

Downey’s Cinnamon Honey Butter
My personal favourite this year is Downey’s cinnamon butter. It was a breakfast favourite of my youth, and I knew the family that made it in upstate New York. Through sleuthing with Gerry Albright and Sue Riedl, it turns out this is a heritage Canadian product! Many people remember McFeeter’s Honey Butter. The McFeeters licenced honey butter to the Downeys in Eastern Ontario. The Downeys later moved the company to New York. Whether you like the history or not, it is an awesome breakfast treat on toast. Sobeys is very happy to offer this heritage Ontario product again—now made in Pennsylvania.
—Andy Shay, Cheese Buyer, Sobeys Ontario

Figaro, Glengarry Fine Cheese
My favourite Canadian cheese of late has been Figaro, by Glengarry Fine Cheese, because it is unique (though I believe modeled after a style of Robiola) and risk-taking (very moist, difficult to package and transport) and absolutely delicious (yeasty aromas, complex texture, musky finish).
—Julia Rogers, Cheese Educator, Cheese Culture

How can a cheese that looks as good as Fleuron not be selected for the annual honour roll? Photo by Vanessa Simmons.

How can a cheese that looks as good as Fleuron not be selected for the annual honour roll? Photo by Vanessa Simmons.

Fleuron, Les Fromagiers de la Table Ronde
A beautiful rustic creamy blue that is simply stunning. I think the photo speaks for itself. How could this not make the list?
—Vanessa Simmons, Cheese Sommelier, Savvy Company

Fromagerie Du Champ a la Meule
Le Fetard, Les Metayeres and Le Victor et Berthold are three awesome cheese from Québec made at Fromagerie Du Champ a la Meule that I hope we in Ontario can purchase really, really soon!
—Jackie Armet, Cheese Co-ordinator , The Great Canadian Cheese Festival

Golden Blyth, Blyth Farm
A delicious, mild goat’s milk Gouda produced by Paul van Dorp near Blyth, Ontario
Gurth Pretty, Senior Category Manager, Deli Cheese, at Loblaws

Grey Rush, Primeridge Pure
I’m a sucker for the plain as it is so versatile, but I find myself craving the chili, and this summer I was blown over by the frozen cheesecake made with their exceptional cream cheese.
—Wendy Furtenbacher, Blogger, CurdyGirl

Cheddar Île-aux-Grues, Fromagerie Ile-aux-grues
It has a lovely sharp bite while maintaining a creamy crumby flavour.
—Jackie Armet, Cheese Co-ordinator , The Great Canadian Cheese Festival

Mascotte, Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser
A washed rind, semi-soft, goat’s milk cheese. Slight tang to it.
Gurth Pretty, Senior Category Manager, Deli Cheese, at Loblaws

Nostrala, Kootenay Alpine Cheese
At The Great Canadian Cheese Festival, I sampled (and sampled) Nostrala and again was reminded how amazing it is and that I should buy it much more! Click here for more tasting notes.
Sue Riedl, Cheese Columnist, The Globe and Mail

Sensations Applewood Smoked Cheddar, aged 2 years, Sobeys
A thermalized cheddar made in Québec. Like a campfire, you can taste the nuance. Would be perfect with a single malt!
—Andy Shay, Cheese Buyer, Sobeys Ontario

Fromagerie Les Folies Bergères deserves to be on the best-of-2012 list if only for the artistry of its packaging.

Fromagerie Les Folies Bergères deserves to be on the best-of-2012 list if only for the artistry of its packaging.

Sorcière Bien Aimée, Fromagerie Les Folies Bergères
A soft, unctuous goat’s milk cheese is new to the luxurious lineup of Fromagerie Les Folies Bergères cheeses. Click here for my tasting notes. Again, keep until it’s soft and ooey-gooey good.
—Vanessa Simmons, Cheese Sommelier, Savvy Company

Tuxedo Triple Creme
A delicious triple-cream from France.
Gurth Pretty, Senior Category Manager, Deli Cheese, at Loblaws

Wendy’s Own Camembert
A sheep’s milk Camembert that I made in a class at George Brown taught by Ruth Klahsen. I was not expecting success, but one out of the five cheeses I affineured actually turned out well. I was really proud of myself.
—Wendy Furtenbacher, Blogger, CurdyGirl

See also:

Outstanding cheeses of 2011

Outstanding cheeses of 2010

The warm and wonderful aroma of making cheese at home

Brown eggs give Jāņu siers a yellowish look. The cheese is eaten sliced, with butter, never on bread.

Brown eggs give Jāņu siers a yellowish look. The cheese is eaten sliced, with butter.

The sweet smell of dairy in the house that comes from making cheese at home is one of my favourite things at Christmas. Holding milk at 90 to 95C for 15 minutes so curd separates from whey is a sure way to create that warm and wonderful aroma.

Every December, the winter solstice finds me in the kitchen, happily making a midsummer cheese, a caraway-speckled pressed fresh cheese called Jāņu siers in Latvian, my native language.

In Latvia, the cheese is a core ingredient in celebrations marking the summer solstice, a festival called Jāņi. I like the cheese too much to eat it only once a year, thus, the tradition of making it at midwinter and giving small wheels as gifts to family and friends at Christmas.

Here’s what I posted about the cheese on St. John’s Day a few years back:

Jāņu siers, what kind of cheese is that?” you ask. It’s a caraway-speckled fresh cheese that I make at home.

Jāņu siers in Latvian, my native language, is, literally, John’s cheese in English. When I want to sound fancy, I call it Midsummer’s Night.

In Latvia, for more than a thousand years, it has been made at the summer solstice to mark the midsummer festival of Jani. That festival was celebrated last night by Latvians all over the world on the eve of St. John’s Day. For many, it’s the most important holiday of the year.

In Latvia, farms are bedecked with garlands of oak and birch branches and meadow flowers. Nearly everyone leaves the city for the open air so that the shortest night of the year can be spent in the merry company of friends in the country. Bonfires are lit, special songs are sung, dancing is a universal element during the festival. The traditional caraway-seed cheese and lots of beer are on the menu.

Tradition has it that this is the one night of the year that you must never sleep. Girls pick meadow flowers to make wreaths for their hair, while men named Jānis get a bushy crown of oak leaves around their heads. (Jānis is the most popular male name in Latvia and comparable to John.) Eating, singing, drinking and dancing ensue the whole night long. Although the sun sets briefly, it doesn’t get dark in the higher latitude of Latvia and everyone must be awake to greet the rising sun in the morning. A naked romp into the nearest lake or river is a must for men—and the women who cheer them on. Young couples like to go into the forest and search for the legendary fern blossom. Or so they say. And when you greet the morning sun, you have to wash your face in the grass’s morning dew, which on Jāņi morning is said to have particularly beneficial properties.

Jāņu siers is always eaten with unsalted butter and never on bread. For the full effect, consume with Zelta, a Latvian lager available in Canada.

This midwinter, I went organic with all ingredients (full-strength milk, pressed cottage cheese, brown eggs and butter) except caraway seeds and salt sourced from Organic Meadows in Guelph, Ontario.

—Georgs Kolesnikovs

Georgs Kolesnikovs, Cheese-Head-in-Chief at CheeseLover.ca, was born in Latvia but has lived in Canada most of his life, in Ontario, Québec and the Northwest Territories.

Merry Christmas to cheese lovers everywhere!

px_cl_Xmas-12-PiedDeVent-cowsOur favourite Christmas greeting this year comes from Fromagerie du Pied-de-Vent on Îles de la Madeleine via Plaisirs Gourmets.

As you can see, the image shows a herd of cows of the famed Canadienne heritage breed at pasture on the rolling hills of the Magdalen Islands—with the sun’s rays piercing through clouds. Those rays, in the local dialect, are called pied-de-vent.

 

Sun's rays piercing through clouds appear on packaging.

Sun’s rays piercing through clouds appear on packaging.

Click here to read more about Pied-de-Vent, the Canadienne breed and my pilgrimages to the islands in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in a piece I wrote last year for a special edition of Culture: the word on cheese.

—Georgs Kolesnikovs

Georgs Kolesnikovs, Cheese-Head-in-Chief of CheeseLover, is founder of The Great Canadian Cheese Festival.

Cheese appreciation: A great gift idea for Christmas

Cheese Education Guild: Learn by tasting the best in cheese.

Cheese Education Guild: Learn by tasting the best in cheese.

Here’s a great gift idea for the budding caseophile in your life—even if the caseophile happens to be you yourself.

A class in Cheese Appreciation will be offered by the Cheese Education Guild, on Wednesday evenings during January-February at Cheesewerks in Toronto.

In the course of 24 hours over eight Wednesdays, you’ll receive a thorough introduction to cheese and cheese enjoyment:

  • How to sense a cheese*
  • Words to describe cheese*
  • Cheese through the ages
  • Basic cheese and wine pairing*
  • Old and New World varieties
  • Developing a Cheese Vocabulary
  • Categories of cheese*
  • Handling and storage (general)*
  • Milk and ingredient terms
  • Processes in cheese-making*
  • Blue, goat and pasta filata cheeses*
  • Cheese ingredients*
  • Types of milk*
  • What makes a cheese superior

* Indicates tasting will be included in the presentation.

The cost of the eight-week course is $575 + HST which covers the class, cheese for tasting, workshop materials, testing and Certificate of Achievement. The class is limited to 30 persons. The first class is January 9, 2013, at Cheesewerks,  56 Bathurst Street, Toronto.

Mario Krisko (left) and Lisa McAlpine of Cheese Education Guild.

Mario Krisko (left) and Lisa McAlpine of Cheese Education Guild.

Your instructors are Lisa McAlpine and Maria Krisko who took over the Cheese Education Guild after founder Kathy Guidi retired to the U.S. Virgin Islands two years ago.

Canadian_Cheese_GuideThe Cheese Education Guild is the oldest cheese school dedicated to cheese appreciation in Canada. It was founded in 2005 by Guidi when she launched Artisan Cheese Marketing as a cheese public relations, education and marketing company designed to meet the education needs of the growing North American cheese industry.

Through a series of three Cheese Appreciation courses, students explore and compare hundreds of cheeses so that they can experience the artistry in a truly great cheese and understand the challenges facing cheesemakers. The January-February course is Cheese Appreciation, Level 1.

Click here for more information on the Cheese Education Guild and its offerings.

Click here for information on Canadian Cheese: A Pocket Guide authored by Kathy Guidi, a must-have, must-read for any cheese lover.

You’re becoming a true caseophile when . . . Part 2

Vacherin Mont d'Or: The true meaning of Christmas?

Vacherin Mont d’Or: The true meaning of Christmas?

By Perry Manti

You know you’re becoming a true caseophile when . . .

. . . on your next vacation to London, you plan on ditching your wife at the British Museum while you check Neal’s Yard Dairy.

. . . your Grade Four students are more familiar with Avonlea Cheddar than with Anne of Green Gables.

. . . your students can’t find Istanbul on a map, but they know exactly where Epoisses comes from.

. . . at staff meetings, your teaching colleagues are far more interested in the cheese boards you bring than what the Principal has to say.

. . . if given a choice between a kilogram of Beaufort and a date with Halle Barry, you’d definitely go for the cheese.

. . . for you, the true meaning of Christmas involves Vacherin Mont d’Or.

. . . on Christmas morning, your spouse has to explain to you that buttons of Crottin de Chavignol do not make good stocking stuffers.

. . . the screen saver on your computer is a picture of a cheese cart.

. . . you realize that 90% of the time, the person working behind the cheese counter knows less about cheese than you do.

. . .  you suffered serious emotional trauma when Fifth Town shut down production.

Perry Manti, a teacher by profession, was in the first graduating class of the Professional Fromager program at George Brown College in Toronto. His first humorous essay on the meaning of being a caseophile appeared on CheeseLover.ca last week.

No Djoking! Donkey cheese Pule costs $1,100 per kilo

Novak Djokovic, the world’s No. 1 tennis player, has purchased the entire world’s supply of an ultra-rare, ultra-expensive cheese made from donkey milk for a chain of restaurants he is opening in his home country of Serbia. Click here to read more.

Editorial advisory posted later: Actually, the story did turn out to be a joke. Djokovic has not purchased any donkey cheese, which is made at a small reserve in Zasavica, about 50 miles west of Belgrade. The manager of Djokovic’s restaurant in Belgrade was given a sample of the cheese and was offered an exclusive on the product. That’s it. Click here for the full exposé.

You’re becoming a true caseophile when . . .

When we asked Perry Manti for photo, he said he was camera-shy and instead sent along this image of a Monforte Toscano wheel that he is aging at home. See below for details on the affinage.

When we asked Perry Manti for photo, he said he was camera-shy and instead sent along this image of a Monforte Toscano that he aged at home. See below for affinage details.

By PERRY MANTI

You know you’re becoming a true caseophile when . . .

. . . your parents start asking what kind of cheese you want for your birthday.

. . . the GPS unit in your car is programmed to always lead you to the cheese shop.

. . . you stub your toe and angrily yell “Idiazabal!”

. . . you wish Chanel would finally come out with a fragrance that smells like Brie de Meaux.

. . . you fantasize about Kraft going bankrupt.

. . . your spouse, based on what you often mumble in your sleep, suspects you’re having a torrid affair with some Italian hussy named “Taleggio.”

. . . you enjoy holding your socks to your nose because it reminds you of Limburger.

. . . you seriously wonder what cheddar from giraffe’s milk might taste like.

. . . you have to say to your wife “Oh, that bra! Sorry dear, I thought you were asking about the Slow Food Movement. Try looking in the clothes drier.”

. . . you proudly refer to yourself and fellow pecorino aficionados as “pecorheads.”

. . . your spouse puts her foot down and simply refuses to allow you to convert the entire basement of your home into a cheese cave.

. . . you sincerely hope Louis Pasteur is burning in Hell.

. . . you have a reoccurring erotic dream involving a goat and a tub full of warm curds.

. . . your colleagues are beginning to believe you’ve joined some bizarre cult that worships Thunder Oak Gouda.

. . . you believe Saturday is the best day of the week because you get to taste cheese at George Brown College.

. . . your vision of Hell includes the image of Ronald McDonald pushing a cheese cart.

. . . your expectant wife unequivocally rejects your idea of naming the child “Pliny the Elder.”

. . . your spouse catches you on the Internet, in the middle of the night, ogling pictures of Montgomery Cheddar.

. . . you book off sick at work so you can surreptitiously attend a local cheese convention.

. . . you mumble “Mildly lactic on the attack, a little barny, notes of citrus, lingering nuttiness on the finish.” Then, you open your eyes to discover the Baskin-Robbins staff behind the counter staring at you in utter disbelief.

. . . you stop going to church and begin turning to your cheesemonger for spiritual advice.

. . . you dream about living in a house shaped like a Valencay.

. . . you have a nightmare about a large piece of Cabrales biting you back.

. . . you embrace your spouse and tenderly whisper, “Je t’aime ma petite Chabichou du Poitou.”

. . . you dream of one day seeing Max McCalman on Dancing with the Stars.

Perry Manti, a teacher by profession, was in the first graduating class of the Professional Fromager program at George Brown College in Toronto. The Toscano in the photo above was two to three months old when he purchased it at Monforte Dairy: “I rubbed it every week with Kalamata olive oil. I aged it in my cantina for an additional three months. The rind became soft and edible. The paste became somewhat darker than a typical Toscano and developed a fruity aroma.”

Perry presented the aged cheese to Monforte where it became the inspiration for  Athena: “Quite frankly, I thought their final version was better than mine. It turned out well for them, as they sold out.”