Fresh: Water buffalo mozzarella at its best

Buffalo Mozzarella from Élevages Buffalo Maciocia.

Fresh mozzarella made in Québec with water buffalo milk—just like it has been made in Italy since the 12th century—is now available to cheese lovers in Ontario.

Élevages Buffalo Maciocia, home of the largest water-buffalo herd in Canada, has teamed with Fromagerie Polyethnique to make its Buffalo Mozzarella by hand and with Off The Bone Meat Products to distribute the cheese to retailers, such as Scheffler’s Delicatessen & Cheese at St. Lawrence Market in Toronto, the same day or next day.

Mozzarella di bufala is at its best within two or three days of production. It’s soft and elastic and delicious from Day One but seems to gain buttery flavour by the second or third day.

Élevages Buffalo Maciocia first entered the Québec market and then Ontario with its Bufala Yogurt, a richer yogurt than what’s made with cow’s milk. It now also offers Bufala Majestic, a semi-firm ripened cheese with a mixed rind that’s made by Lucille Giroux at Fromagerie Moutonnière. We fell in love with Majestic when we sampled it at Rendez-vous Gourmet Québec in Toronto on Monday. Creamy, with lots of character and a pinch of saltiness.

Élevages Buffalo Maciocia, located in Saint Charles sur Richelieu one hour northeast of Montréal, imported 285 water buffalo from Vermont in 2009. Since then, the herd has grown to 500 head with 150 giving milk at any time.

Water buffalo at Élevages Buffalo Maciocia.

Water buffalo at Élevages Buffalo Maciocia.

Louis Hébert, who manages the cheese operation for the Maciocia family, points out that water buffalo produce milk “rich in fat and protein which is very tasty and can be tolerated by many lactose intolerant people.”

It took five years to develop the water buffalo herd and the process of making the mozzarella the way owner Mario Maciocia wanted it to taste. Much trial and error, experts and equipment from Italy, and $300,000 from the federal and Quebec government helped make it happen.

The Maciocia mozzarella is not the first produced in Québec—the vast majority of the milk produced is still bought by the giant Saputo for factory processing—but Maciocia offers a hand-crafted product. The cheese is stretched and spun by hand, delivered to the consumer within 24 to 48 hours. The production happens Wednesday to Friday, destined for sale in delicatessens, cheese shops and restaurants from Thursday to Sunday.

Louis Herbert of Élevages Buffalo Maciocia. is flanked by Rebecca Guida and Alfredo Santangelo of Off the Bone Meat Products.

Louis Herbert of Élevages Buffalo Maciocia is flanked by Rebecca Guida and Alfredo Santangelo of Off the Bone Meat Products.

As is the case with cheese curds, freshness is one of the best guarantees of quality.

“There is nothing like eating a mozzarella made ​​in the morning,” says Mario Maciocia, something that is not possible with even the fastest transport plane from Italy.

The challenge of immediate distribution was not insurmountable, according to Louis Hébert. After all, Québecers already have experience in the field of rapid distribution of fresh products, thanks to the popularity of cheese curds. For both curds and mozza, quality is directly proportional to the time that elapses between the moment the cheese is made and when it arrives on your table.

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Jamie Kennedy: Good food as a way of life

Jamie Kennedy's first cookbook in more than a decade.

Jamie Kennedy’s first cookbook in more than a decade.

J.K. The Jamie Kennedy Cookbook is much more than a cookbook. It’s a warm and personal memoir by one of Canada’s most influential chefs connecting a collection of 121 of his favourite recipes—with appealing reportage photography rather than the highly stylized photos usually seen in cookbooks.

The new book is very much like J.K. himself: Personable, down to earth, without a hint of ego or pretense, with a vision of good food as a way of life seasoned by four decades at the leading edge of gastronomy in Canada.

Like no one before him, Jamie Kennedy popularized eating and cooking with local, sustainable and seasonal ingredients, a theme that runs through the book.

Official launch party at Gilead Café & Wine Bar last night.

Official launch party at Gilead Café & Wine Bar last night.

For cheese lovers, there are two chapters on cheese featuring a dozen recipes that we cannot wait to try—all using Ontario cheese, of course. Here’s a sampling:

  • Pickled Vegetables with Niagara Gold Fondue
  • Sheep’s Milk Cheese-Filled Squash Flower with Fresh Tomato Sauce
  • Potato Gnocchi with Thunder Oak Gouda Sauce
  • Wild Rice Crackers that are always included in J.K. cheese plates.

J.K. makes special mention of the cheddars from Black River Cheese, the gouda from Thunder Oak Cheese Farm, and Niagara Gold from Upper Canada Cheese. Cape Vessey, a firm goat cheese made by the original Fifth Town Artisan Cheese, is also cited. He gives credit to Petra Kassun-Mutch of Fifth Town and Ruth Klahsen of Monforte Dairy for helping to reshape and revitalize the artisan cheese industry in Ontario.

Those who have been fortunate enough to attend the Gastronomy on the Farm dinners on the Chef’s own farm in Prince Edward County, held in conjunction with The Great Canadian Cheese Festival, will recognize many photos and the anecdote about a sudden summer rain filling champagne flutes before the reception started.

Those who attended the Cooks & Curds Gala at the first two Cheese Festivals will find the recipes for Chef’s famed frites and his braised beef and braised oxtail poutines in the book.

What would a Jamie Kennedy event be without his famous J.K. Fries?

What would a Jamie Kennedy event be without his famous J.K. Fries?

Scattered throughout the book are testimonials and comments by a broad range of J.K. alumni, food writers, family members and other chefs. Michael Stadtlander, with whom J.K. launched legendary Scaramouche, provides the foreword. Three quotes:

Much of the food we enjoy in Canadian restaurants today is the result of Jamie’s work in the local food movement, as he has influenced generations of chefs who share his pioneering spirit and love for real food.

—Chef Michael Stadtlander, Eigensinn Farm and Hai Sai

Now I realize that just about every major trend that would blow through Toronto in the next decade was already encapsulated in (Jamie Kennedy’s) Wine Bar: Small plates. Reasonable prices. Deliberately casual ambiance. Do-it-yourself chacuterie and preserves. Very serious cheese.

Food writer James Chatto

Nobody ever says it, so I will: Jamie Kennedy is possibly one of the most important chefs in Canada in the last fifty years. Period. Ever. You get what I’m saying? What was Canadian food until forty years ago?

—Chef David McMillan, Joe Beef, Liverpool House and Vin Papillon

We obtain the obligatory autograph from Chef.

We obtain the obligatory autograph from Chef.

Much of the credit for the success of the book belongs to Ivy Knight, who helped J.K. write the text, and to Jo Dickins for the marvelous photographs. Ivy Knight says of the experience: “Jamie has been lauded for years, ever since, at age 25, he took the reigns as head chef at Scaramouche. It absolutely boggles my mind that he has never turned into a raging egomaniac, but instead is kind and calm and has his feet firmly on the ground. I can’t think of any other chef who’s been in the game this long who can still be found working the line during a lunch rush. ”

J.K. says it was truly a collaboration that lead to the finished product published by HarperCollins Publishers and sold by Amazon and Indigo.

It’s must-read. Order it online, buy it in a book store . . . or have lunch at Gilead Café & Wine Bar, buy the book there and ask Chef to autograph it.

 —Georgs Kolesnikovs, cheese-head-in-chief at CheeseLover.ca and founder of The Great Canadian Cheese Festival and Canadian Cheese Awards

Canadian Cheese Guide updated by Kathy Guidi

613UiaJ5qjLKathy Guidi, a leading authority on Canadian cheese, has written an updated edition of her Canadian Cheese: A Pocket Guide published in 2010. Here’s the official announcement on Canadian Cheese: A Guide by the publisher, Firefly Books.

The variety and quality of Canadian cheeses has never been so high nor has it been so popular. New handcrafted cheeses continue to emerge to critical acclaim, winning international awards. At the 2013 Global Cheese Awards in England, an aged Lankaaster by Glengarry Cheesemaking in the small town of Lancaster, Ontario, was declared “Supreme Global Champion.” As Huffington Post put it, “Canada, it’s time to celebrate cheese in a big way.”

This completely revised and updated edition of a cheese lover’s classic does just that. Canadian Cheese: A Guide is a comprehensive reference to some of the newest, best and most popular of Canadian cheeses. New and updated sections, content and photographs include:

  • concise tasting notes for 225 artisan cheeses from coast to coast
  • what’s on your cheese board—Canadian cheese professionals share their favorites
  • wine and beer pairing suggestions
  • tasting notes for Old World cheeses that have influenced New World Canadian styles
  • cheese ladder of appreciation suggestions: if you like this cheese… try this one
  • how to taste cheese like a pro
  • author and cheesemaker anecdotes
  • useful information on buying and serving cheese.

The author shares her insights on such popular cheese topics as raw milk cheese, discerning quality, whether to eat the rind (or not), cheesemaking and ingredients.

Canadian Cheese: A Guide promises to add excitement to readers’ appetites for cheese. It helps make sense of the many cheeses available at grocery stores, cheese boutiques and fromageries, and helps to break the pattern of buying the same, familiar cheese.

Author Kathy Guidi.

Author Kathy Guidi.

Professionally renowned for her work in furthering artisan and specialty cheese in the U.S. and Canada, Kathy Guidi founded the first full curriculum cheese appreciation school in North America and is a founding member of the Cheese Professional Certification Program run by American Cheese Society. Consultant to numerous cheese producers, trade organizations and consulates during a 40-year career, Kathy continues to influence and lead the domestic and international cheese world through her in-depth training  and interactive cheese tasting programs.

The new book is available via Amazon.ca and at book and cheese stores across Canada. For bulk purchases and wholesale discount information, contact Firefly Books.

The “first full curriculum cheese appreciation school in North America” refers to Cheese Education Guild now operated by Lisa McAlpine and Marla Krisko in Toronto.