Grand Champion 50 years in the making at Quality Cheese

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A half-century after Almerigo Borgo Sr. emigrated from Italy and started making what to this day is his favourite cheese, his Ricotta was named the best of the best at the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix last night when it was honored as the 2013 Grand Champion.

Albert Borgo and his wife, Gabriella, were in the audience for the awards ceremony in Montreal and they were pleased when their Ricotta was judged Best Fresh Cheese early in the evening. Just before the Grand Champion was announced, Gabriella whispered to Albert: “Is there a chance we could win?” Albert replied, “No, no chance.”

Surprise!

Moments later Albert was on the stage accepting the award for the family business, Quality Cheese of Vaughan, Ontario, while Gabriella texted the good news to his brother, Bill, the cheesemaker. There are four generations involved in the business. The father still “comes by and pokes around the plant.”

“I’m not used to being treated like a rock star,” Albert said later.”This is really incredible, and a great honour for my father and my brothers.”

Being the first Ontario cheese producer to win the Grand Prix was akin to the “Leafs beating the Canadiens,” Albert said. Quebec cheesemakers have dominated the competition since its inception.

Albert Borgo. I'm not used to being treated like a rock star.

Albert Borgo. I’m not used to being treated like a rock star.

Chef Michael Howell of Wolfville, Nova Scotia, a member of the jury that selected the Grand Champion and 19 category winners, praised the Ricotta made by Quality Cheese: “I’ve traveled in Italy from top to bottom and tasted many a Ricotta, but there is no question, this Ricotta is the best I’ve ever tasted.”

Sponsored and hosted every two years by Dairy Farmers of Canada, the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix celebrates the high quality, versatility and great taste of Canadian cheese made from 100% Canadian cow’s milk.

The first time many of the winners will be available for tasting and purchase by the public in one place will be at the third annual Great Canadian Cheese Festival on June 1-2 in Picton in Ontario’s Prince Edward County, just south of Belleville in Bay of Quinte Region.

A stunning dessert

A stunning dessert made with the Grand Champion Ricotta concluded the Grand Prix Gala. From the left, Mise en bouche de Ricotta in its natural state, an exquisite Creme Brule made with the Ricotta and Coureur de Bois Maple Syrup, and a delicious Tarte Tatin with Ricotta Imperial-style.

For more on the Grand Champion, watch the video.

Winning smiles of the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix

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A proud Pauline Morin shares the joy of sons Jean, right front, and Dominic, left rear, and grandson Thomas as Fromagerie du Presbytere dominated the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix with three awards, Best Blue and Best Organic for Blue d’Elizabeth and Best Swiss-type Cheese for Louis d’Or 18 months.

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Jan Schalkwyk of Sylvan Star Cheese was honored twice for his Grizzly Gouda, for Best Farmstead and Best Gouda. His secret? Feed the cows well as quality milk makes quality cheese.

Andrea White

Andrea White with one of two awards for Cows Creamery. It won Best Flavoured Cheese with Applewood Smoked Cheddar and Best Aged Cheddar (1 to 3 years) with Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar.

Arlla Foods won twice, with

Arlla Foods won twice, Best Mozzarella with Tre Stelle Mozzarella and Best Sewmi-Soft with Tre Stelle Feta.

Shep

Shep Ysselstein of Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese, a relative newcomer on the cheese scene, won Best Firm Cheese with Gunn’s Hill Five Brothers.

Wayne Lain

Wayne Lain of Maple Dale Cheese won Best Medium Cheddar (4 to 9 months) with its Medium Cheddar.

Robin Ferguson of Black River Cheese

Robin Ferguson of Black River Cheese won Best Aged Cheddar (more than 3 years) with 5-Year Aged Cheddar.

Our apologies for not being able to photograph every winner, but photos of all winning cheeses are posted here.

Quality Cheese Ricotta wins Canadian Cheese Grand Prix

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What shockeroo!

For the first time in the eight renditions of the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix, a fresh cheese was named Grand Champion, the first time an Ontario cheese was named the best cheese in Canada.

The history-making cheese is Ricotta made by Quality Cheese of Vaughan, Ontario.

A jury of top Canadian food industry experts selected it from 19 impressive category winners in the Grand Prix.

Sponsored and hosted every two years by Dairy Farmers of Canada, the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix celebrates the high quality, versatility and great taste of Canadian cheese made from 100% Canadian cow’s milk. The winners were announced tonight during a gala at the Hyatt Regency in Montreal.

“The Ricotta’s refined and balanced taste really stood out during the competition “, says Chef Danny St. Pierre, Canadian Cheese Grand Prix jury member. “This confirms that a fresh cheese can have as much depth as an aged cheese”.

Quality Cheese’s Ricotta is lauded for its creamy texture and milky aroma. Quality Cheese manufactures, distributes and retails Italian speciality cheeses and boasts a team representing four generations of cheesemaking.

Their products are so popular that fans flock to their Vaughan, Ontario, location to buy the cheese fresh.

The Grand Champion and 19 category winners were selected from a record 225 cheese entries submitted by cheesemakers from Prince Edward Island to British Columbia. The submissions were then narrowed down to 58 finalists by the jury in February.

“We are seeing an impressive variety of Canadian cheeses being developed to satisfy various culinary tastes and trends”, says Mr. St. Pierre. “It’s fascinating to see all the things we can do with these cheeses, be it topping a cracker with an aged Cheddar or using a fresh cheese to make a wild blueberry cheesecake. So take out your cooking aprons and discover the winners of the 8th Canadian Cheese Grand Prix!”

Indeed, Canada’s vibrant and unique cheesemaking craft has evolved to the point that new types of cheese are continually being added to the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix. This year, two new categories were introduced: “Gouda’’ and “Fresh Cheese with Grilling Properties.”

Canadian Cheese Grand Prix Jury members tasted, touched and smelled each cheese, evaluating them for appearance, flavour, colour, texture and body, and salt content before determining the following winners.

The first time many of the winners will be available for tasting and purchase by the public in one place will be at the third annual Great Canadian Cheese Festival on June 1-2 in Picton in Ontario’s Prince Edward County.

Here are the 2013 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix category winners. Click on any image for a larger view.

Grizzly-Gouda_smFARMHOUSE CHEESE

Bleu-d'Elizabeth_smORGANIC CHEESE

Ricotta_smFRESH CHEESE

Queso-Fresco-Cheese_smFRESH CHEESE WITH GRILLING PROPERTIES

Le-Noble_smSOFT CHEESE WITH BLOOMY RIND

Tre-Stelle-Feta_smSEMI-SOFT CHEESE

Le-Mamirolle_smWASHED OR MIXED RIND CHEESE (SOFT, SEMI-SOFT AND FIRM)

Gunn's-Hill-Five-Brothers_smFIRM CHEESE

Grizzly-Gouda_smGOUDA

Bleu-d'Elizabeth_smSWISS-TYPE CHEESE

Tre-Stelle-Mozzarella-Cheese_smMOZZARELLA (BALL, BRICK OR CYLINDER)

  • Tre Stelle Mozzarella Cheese ~ Arla Foods, Ontario

Bleu-d'Elizabeth_smBLUE CHEESE (VARIOUS RINDS, WITH OR WITHOUT VEINING)

Applewood-Smoked-Cheddar_smFLAVOURED CHEESE WITH ADDED NON-PARTICULATE FLAVOURINGS

Raclette-de-Comton-au-Poivre_smFLAVOURED CHEESE WITH ADDED PARTICULATE SOLIDS AND FLAVOURINGS

L'Ancetre-Organic-Mild-Chedda_smrMILD CHEDDAR (AGED 3 MONTHS)

Maple-Dale-Medium-Cheddar_smMEDIUM CHEDDAR (AGED 4 TO 9 MONTHS)*

Fromagerie-Perron-1-Year-Aged-Cheddar-sm OLD CHEDDAR (AGED FROM 9 MONTHS TO A YEAR)

Avonlea-Clothbound-Cheddar_smAGED CHEDDAR (MORE THAN 1 YEAR UP TO 3 YEARS)

  • Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar ~ Cows Creamery, Prince Edward Island
 Black-River-5-Year-Aged-Cheddar_smAGED CHEDDAR (MORE THAN 3 YEARS)

Photos courtesy of Dairy Farmers of Canada.