Best Bites: Outstanding cheese of 2017

Le Paillasson: squeaky, slightly salty, warm on the inside.

It’s time to bring the curtain down on another year—and to recall memorable cheeses of 2017, with the help of friends in fromage.

The year just ended has been quite a memorable one for Janice Beaton, what with the closing of Janice Beaton Fine Cheese in Calgary and other dramatic changes in her life: “There is no way that I can leave the cheese world; I just had to change the way I personally operated within it.”

After the closing of the shop, Janice focused on a more personal way of serving cheese lovers by operating a stall in the very busy Calgary Farmers’ Market.

Five Brothers: Best seller.

Five Brothers—Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese, Woodstock, Ontario

“Our stall at the market was great. It was a combination of being Calgary’s first cheese shop and being the market ‘deli’! It was amazing. Lots of our downtown shop customers frequented the stall, and at the same time, we developed a new following, vis-à-vis being in the city’s busiest farmers’ market. I had two staff who worked in the stall from the time we opened there, and after we closed the shop in June, I was able to work in the stall a great deal.

“The number one selling cheese in the stall was Five Brothers from Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese. We LOVE that cheese, and obviously, so too our customers. What I have noticed over the five years of selling Five Brothers (and let me say, I found it originally at The Great Canadian Cheese Festival) is how it has evolved. Deepened, grown, developed nuances. Like a good human evolution! It has gained complexity and depth in a way that causes me to take my hat off to Shep Ysselstein and his commitment to excelling at his craft. And learning and growing.

“I cast my most memorable cheese vote in Gunn’s Hill direction, due to the resounding response we received when we introduced Five Brothers to our customers, and to their returning in droves to come back for more.”

La Paillasson: Enjoy on the grill or fried in a pan,

Le Paillasson—Les Fromages de L’Isle d’Orléans, Sainte-Famille, Québec

While vacationing in the Quebec City region this past summer, Gurth Pretty, Senior Specialist, Deli Cheese, Loblaw Companies, returned to Les Fromages de L’Isle d’Orléans.

“I had not been back, since 2005, when researching for my first book, The Definitive Guide to Canadian Artisanal and Fine Cheese. WOW! Lots of changes: bigger cheese production facility, cheese shop, sampling area, more cheese produced and sold. The shop was busy with customers.

“I sampled their Le Paillasson cheese, freshly grilled for us. It was squeaky, slightly salty, warm on the inside and yet retained its texture. YUMMY! We bought several to enjoy later on the grill or fried in the pan.”

Small Batch Cheddar: Sharp and creamy.

Small Batch Cheddar—Farm Boy, Ottawa

It’s the first cheese Farm Boy has sold under its own label, but it’s produced by Bright Cheese & Butter in Bright, Ontario, a small independent producer that has been making cheese since 1874. Arguably, that makes Bright Cheese the oldest continuing cheesemaker in Ontario.

The extra old cheddar is a collaboration between a cheese lover in the executive suite at Farm Boy in Ottawa and the tiny cheese plant located in farm land between Kitchener and Woodstock, Ontario.

As soon as it was introduced in Farm Boy’s 23 stores across Ontario, the Small Batch Cheddar became a best-seller, largely the result of the perfect balance between sharpness and creaminess—everything that a Canadian cheddar should be.

Full disclosure: Two days a week, I cheesemonger at the Farm Boy store in Pickering, Ontario.

Five more exceptional bites

Here are five exceptional cheeses savoured by Vanessa Simmons of Savvy Company,  Ottawa, our favourite cheese sommelier, during the past year:

Milkhouse Tomme: Meaty and rich.

Milkhouse Tomme—Milkhouse Farm & Dairy, Smiths Falls, Ontario

A raw sheep milk cheese from Milkhouse Dairy that has really come into its own with its meaty richness.

Five Brothers Reserve—Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese, Woodstock, Ontario

Extra aged special release from Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese, a treat for the cheese lover on your list with its complex layers of butter over butter.

Zoey—Mariposa Dairy, Lindsay, Ontario

Grassy, herbal, with earthy aromas and flavours.

Brie—Golden Ears Cheesecrafters, Maple Ridge, B.C.

Buttery, mushroomy, soft, rustic, luxurious goodness, a hidden gem if you live in British Columbia.

Le Ménestrel—Les Fromagiers de la Table Ronde, Sainte-Sophie, Québec

A washed-rind cheese made with pasteurized organic milk. Pale straw to copper colour rind with a smooth paste, which tastes of butter, cream, nut and dried grass.

SAVE THE DATE!

The first-ever Canadian Artisan Cheese Night Market takes place June 7 in Toronto at historic St. Lawrence Market, in conjunction with Canadian Cheese Awards/Le Concours des fromages fins canadiens, the biggest cheese judging and competition in Canada.

The Great Canadian Cheese Festival, generally held on the first weekend of June in Prince Edward County, is on hiatus in 2018, so we can focus all our resources on developing the Night Market concept for consumers and the inaugural Canadian Cheese Expo for the trade.

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

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