Best Bites: Outstanding cheeses of 2016

Bibi, made by Fromagerie Domaine Féodale in Berthierville, Québec.

OMG! Bibi made by Fromagerie Domaine Féodale in Berthierville, Québec.

We bring the curtain down on 2016 with friends in fromage recalling the memorable cheeses that crossed their palates during the past 12 months. In alphabetical order, here is a baker’s dozen of outstanding cheeses of the year—plus a special mention for the 2016 Canadian Cheese of the Year and a word of advice for producers of non-dairy cheeses.

Check out the tasting notes and make up your shopping list for the next visit to a cheese shop or, better yet, right to the cheesemaker.

Bibi – Fromagerie Domaine Féodale, Québec

Bibi is a delicious, oozy, creamy, finger-licking good Camembert-style cheese made by Guy Dessureault and Lise Mercier at Fromagerie Domaine Féodale. This cheese ranks in my very selective OMG! category. It is best enjoyed and savoured with a very special person. Make the experience part of a road trip as you will have to drive to the fromagerie, halfway between Montréal and Trois-Rivières, to buy it. It is a regional treasure! The warm hospitality of the two cheesemakers and their staff, at their recently expanded facility north of Berthierville, will make you feel like you are part of their family.

—Gurth Pretty, Senior Category Manager, Deli Cheese, Loblaw Companies

Blossom Blue, made by Moonstruck Organic Cheese on Vancouver Island.

Blossom Blue made by Moonstruck Organic Cheese on Vancouver Island.

Blossom’s Blue – Moonstruck Organic Cheese, British Columbia

Blossom’s Blue is an aged blue cheese made entirely with the unpasteurised, organic milk of Moonstruck Dairy’s own Jersey herd. Its texture is firm and dense, yet slightly crumbly. It is a touch sweet with the rich flavor of Jersey milk and a has great balance of salt and strength.

—Jonah Benton, Co-owner, Benton Brothers Fine Cheese, Vancouver

Fromagerie Au Fond Des Bois near Rexton, New Brunswick.

Goats at Fromagerie Au Fond Des Bois near Rexton, New Brunswick.

Cabrie – Au Fond des Bois, New Brunswick

Belgium-born Didier Laurent is cheesemaker and owner at Fromagerie Au Fond Des Bois located, as its French name implies, “deep in the woods” near Rexton, New Brunswick, on 267 acres of land bordered by the St. Nicholas River. All of Didier’s cheeses are made exclusively from the milk of his own goats with no additives. The 98 dairy goats raised in his goat house include Nubians, Alpines and Saanens. This is a goat’s milk bloomy-rind cheese that could easily pass for cow’s milk cheese with a soft and flowing texture with a rich, salty, earthy flavour. I love this cheese with Pinot Noir or a bubbly.

—Heather Rankin, Co-owner, Obladee, a Wine Bar, Halifax

Cheesemaker Lyndell Findlay at Blue Harbour Cheese in Halifax.

Cheesemaker Lyndell Findlay at Blue Harbour Cheese in Halifax.

Electric Blue – Blue Harbour Cheese, Nova Scotia

This cheese is a relatively new blue from urban cheesemaker Lyndell Findlay. She is one of the few sheep’s milk cheese producers in Nova Scotia. She purchases her milk from a farm in Stewiack and makes the cheese at her facility on Robie Street in Halifax’s North End—the first of its kind here in the city. The cheese reminds me of a mild Roquefort with a creamy, chalky texture, delicate bite and slightly sweet finish. Perfect for the “blue-fearful” cheeselover, it’s very accessible. It pairs really well with our local, aromatic whites like Tidal Bay, especially those with a touch of balanced sweetness.

—Heather Rankin, Co-owner, Obladee, a Wine Bar, Halifax

Fuoco made by Fromagerie Fuoco north of Montréal, Québec.

Fuoco made by Fromagerie Fuoco north of Montréal, Québec.

Fuoco – Fromagerie Fuoco, Québec

We don’t see much water buffalo milk cheese in Nova Scotia, so this is a real treat. It’s made without rennet (perhaps coagulated with an acid instead) so it is suitable for strict vegetarians. It’s a semi-soft soft, washed rind cheese with a friendlier “fetor” than some washed-rinds! At peak ripeness it is totally decadent, rich and oozy with hazelnut and salted butter notes. Superb with a full, fruity white wine or Saison (beer).

—Heather Rankin, Co-owner, Obladee, a Wine Bar, Halifax

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Cheesemaker Shep Ysselstein of Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese near Woodstock, Ontario.

Five Brothers Reserve – Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese, Ontario

It’s a rarity, but there might be some of the 2016 stock left if folks move fast. Available at Gunn’s Hill, it’s a coveted 18-month batch, released only in December of every year. Ripened for an additional 10 months, Five Brothers Reserve becomes more rustic in appearance, almost “leathered,” with its rind developing shades of darker brown. The “eyes” in the paste are more pronounced and tiny crystals are present, a result of the aging process, a sign of a good cheese! Enjoy its fruity and malty aroma on the nose. This cheese is complex while keeping its smooth and creamy texture and finishes with a subtle bite. Waves of scotch-y, malt-y and caramel flavours ride over your palate and linger for a long time.

—Vanessa Simmons, Cheese Sommelier, Savvy Company, Ottawa

Ile-aux-Grues, 2-year cheddar, takes its name from its island home in the St. Lawrence River near Québec City.

Ile-aux-Grues, 2-year cheddar, takes its name from its island home in the St. Lawrence River near Québec City.

Ile-aux-Grues, 2-year cheddar – Société Coopérative Agricole de l’Île-aux-Grues, Québec

At home, my personal favourite, everyday go-to cheese continues to be Ile-aux-Grues 2-year cheddar. I am never without at least 10 kg on hand. Enough flavor for character, not too much to overpower cooking or more sensitive palates. Perfect for grilled cheese, baguette and cheese, plowman’s lunch, omelettes, host gifts and drop-in entertaining.

—Andy Shay, Cheese Buyer, Sobeys Ontario

Maasdammer made by Triple Island Cheese in Cherryville, B.C.

Maasdammer – Triple Island Cheese Farm, British Columbia

The Tuijtels family up in Cherryville, B.C., has been producing this and many other cheeses according to their generations-old family recipes. They prefer to focus on high quality milk, and not an overly large production. This gives the Maasdammer its deep, buttery, sweet taste. Great as a base for fondue and with a crisp dry Reisling.

—Jonah Benton, Co-owner, Benton Brothers Fine Cheese, Vancouver

Margaret Peters-Morris of Glengarry Fine Cheese near Cornwall, Ontario.

Margaret Peters-Morris of Glengarry Fine Cheese near Cornwall, Ontario.

Nevis – Glengarry Fine Cheese, Ontario

Another rarity to find in stores. We featured it in Savvy Cool Curds for November and it was nothing short of knock-your-socks-off yummy! Nevis comes in a larger format wheel as a washed rind cow milk cheese. A dark gold basket weave exterior compliments a golden straw interior which is cheddar-like in texture. Nevis is all buttery goodness with a tangy finish.

—Vanessa Simmons, Cheese Sommelier, Savvy Company, Ottawa

Rathtrevor made by Little Qualicum Cheeseworks in Parksville on Vancouver Island.

Rathtrevor made by Little Qualicum Cheeseworks in Parksville on Vancouver Island.

Rathtrevor – Little Qualicum Cheeseworks, British Columbia

From Little Qualicum Cheeseworks in Parksville on Vancouver Island, Rathtrevor has quickly become one of our favorite local cheeses. Made with the unpasturised milk from their own mixed herd of Ayrshire, Brown and Canadienne cows, this Alpine-style cheese is nutty, sweet and delicious. Great on its own with a glass of wine, but also a fantastic melter.

—Jonah Benton, Co-owner, Benton Brothers Fine Cheese, Vancouver

Glasgow Glen Farm is a family affair for Jeff MCourt, his wife and two children.

Glasgow Glen Farm is a family affair for Jeff MCourt, his wife and two children.

The Ewesual – Glasgow Glen Farm, Prince Edward Island

This is a hard, 18-month, sheep’s milk Gouda made by Jeff McCourt at Glasgow Glen. Jeff bought Martina TerBeek’s business “The Cheeselady” in 2012 which was one of PEI’s only artisanal cheese business operating for 25 years specializing in Gouda. The farm is a 12-acre lot, overlooking Hunter River and Rustico Bay. This cheese has a parmesan-like flavour and texture—sharp, buttery, herbaceous, nutty,and a touch crumbly. Perfect with a hearty glass of Red.

—Heather Rankin, Co-owner, Obladee, a Wine Bar, Halifax

Note to dairy-free cheese producers

As Canadians continue to re-examine their diets and understand that diet is a key measure in controlling health, there is rising interest in alternatives to traditional cheese.

I tried cheeses from Fauxmagerie Zengarry (Glengarry, Ontario) and Nuts For Cheese (London, Ontario) and while several of these are very good (Zengary Gruyere with cumin and Nuts for Cheese Chipotle Cheddar and Super Blue) they are not to be compared to traditional cheeses. My advice to these cheesemakers is to learn from the traditional techniques, embrace their creations for what they are, because they are good, but avoid the copy of traditional names and the implied similarity of flavor and texture experience. I can see lots of people finding this interesting.

—Andy Shay, Cheese Buyer, Sobeys Ontario

Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar: Canadian Cheese of the Year.

Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar: Canadian Cheese of the Year.

Canadian Cheese of the Year

For most of 2016—until the last of it disappeared in a shrimp bake a few days ago, there was always a kilo or more of Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar in the cheese fridge at CheeseLover.ca.

Crowned Cheese of the Year in the 2016 Canadian Cheese Awards, the old-style cheddar, made according to an Orkney island recipe, is truly a Canadian classic. Now generally available across Canada, it’s a must-try cheese, if you’ve not sampled it already.

A highlight of 2016 for us was a visit to Cows Creamery in Charlottetown, P.E. I., home of Avonlea, several other outstanding cheeses, fabulous ice cream and awesome chocolates—not to mention a huge selection of T-shirts featuring cows in many different settings.

The warm hospitality shown to us by Scott Linkletter, proprietor, and Armand Bernard, cheesemaker, only made the visit more memorable.

—Georgs Kolesnikovs, Cheesehead-in-Chief at CheeseLover.ca and founder of The Great Canadian Cheese Festival and Canadian Cheese Awards/Le Concours des fromages fins canadiens.

Biggest selection of best cheeses in Canada at #TGCCF

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What a huge selection of artisan cheese!

Twenty-two category winners at the recent Canadian Cheese Awards, and the Canadian Cheese of the Year, Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar, will be in the spotlight. Plus another 100 more artisan and farmstead cheeses from coast to coast.

Clearly, the biggest selection of the best cheeses ever available for sampling and purchase in one place, that’s what cheese lovers will find at the sixth annual Great Canadian Cheese Festival in Picton on June 4-5.

Close to 40 Canadian cheese producers, including the crème of the crème of Quebec, will be on hand to share their passion and their stories with thousands of cheese lovers. There’s even an opportunity to socialize with cheesemakers at Raclette Rave, the Saturday evening social highlight of the Festival.

Is there anything better than fresh cheese curds?

Is there anything better than fresh cheese curds?

Thanks to St. Albert Cheese Co-op, the first 1,000 ticket holders admitted on Saturday will enjoy a sample package of freshly made cheese curds. Soft and creamy, St. Albert curds have a delightful squeaky sound when chewed. On Sunday, the first 1,000 ticket holders will chowdown on grilled-cheese sandwiches freshly made by competing chefs using a blend of 14 award-winning cheeses. Yes, 14!

Also on Sunday, there is free admission to watch County chefs compete in the Road to Royal Chef Challenge being hosted by Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in conjunction with the Festival.

But there is more to #TGCCF than cheese, in fact, more than 500 foods and beverages are on offer. Included in price of admission: informative cheese seminars presented by Dairy Farmers of Canada, artisan foods galore, fine wine, craft beer, crisp cider, plus a souvenir tote, a souvenir glass, live music, dairy farm animals, food court and FREE parking.

Tickets are sold at the door but buying them online in advance means speedy access to all the deliciousness via the Express Entrance. Admission is $50 per person, seniors, $45. Children under 15 admitted free. Click to order tickets online.

Want to save a pile of money? Come as a group!

Here are the award-winning cheeses you will be able to sample and purchase on June 4-5:

Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar: 2016 Canadian Cheese of the Year.

Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar: 2016 Canadian Cheese of the Year.

CHEESE OF THE YEAR — FROMAGE D’EXCEPTION
Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar

Cows Creamery

Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island/L’Île-du-Prince-Édouard

MAIN CATEGORIES — CATÉGORIES PRINCIPALES

FRESH CHEESE – FROMAGE FRAIS

 
SEMI-SOFT CHEESE – FROMAGE À PÂTE SEMI-FERME
FIRM CHEESE – FROMAGE À PÂTE FERME
FIRM CHEESE WITH HOLES – FROMAGE À PÂTE FERME AVEC OUVERTURES
·      Oka l’Artisan – Agropur, Saint-Hubert, Québec
 
MIXED RIND CHEESE – FROMAGE À CROÛTE MIXTE
  • Zoey, Lenberg Farms Classic Reserve by Celebrity – Mariposa Dairy, Lindsay, Ontario
BLOOMY RIND CHEESE – PÂTE MOLLE À CROÛTE FLEURIE

 

OLD CHEDDAR (aged from 9 to 18 months) – CHEDDAR FORT (entre 9 et 18 mois d’affinage)
  • Lindsay Bandaged Goat Cheddar, Lenberg Farms Classic Reserve by Celebrity – Mariposa Dairy, Lindsay, Ontario
 

AGED CHEDDAR (aged more than 18 months) – CHEDDAR VIEILLI (plus de 18 mois d’affinage)

  • Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar – Cows Creamery, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
GOUDA CHEESE – FROMAGE GOUDA
BLUE CHEESE –  FROMAGE À PÂTE PERSILLÉE
FLAVOURED CHEESE – FROMAGE AROMATISÉ
SPECIAL AWARDS — PRIX SPÉCIAUX
BEST COW CHEESE – MEILLEUR FROMAGE DE LAIT DE VACHE
·      Appletree Smoked Cheddar – Cows Creamery, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
BEST GOAT CHEESE – MEILLEUR FROMAGE DE LAIT DE CHÈVRE
  • Lindsay Bandaged Goat Cheddar, Lenberg Farms Classic Reserve by Celebrity – Mariposa Dairy, Lindsay, Ontario
BEST SHEEP CHEESE – MEILLEUR FROMAGE DE LAIT DE BREBIS
BEST BLENDED-MILK CHEESE – MEILLEUR FROMAGE DE LAIT MIXTE
  • Zoey, Lenberg Farms Classic Reserve by Celebrity – Mariposa Dairy, Lindsay, Ontario
BEST FARMSTEAD CHEESE – MEILLEUR FROMAGE FERMIER
BEST ORGANIC CHEESE – MEILLEUR FROMAGE BIOLOGIQUE
BEST RAW-MILK CHEESE – MEILLEUR FROMAGE DE LAIT CRU
BEST NEW CHEESE – MEILLEUR NOUVEAU FROMAGE (Introduced to market in 2015/Mis en marché en 2015)
  • Zoey, Lenberg Farms Classic Reserve by Celebrity – Mariposa Dairy, Lindsay, Ontario
REGIONAL AWARDS — PRIX RÉGIONAUX
BEST ONTARIO CHEESE – MEILLEUR FROMAGE DE L’ONTARIO
  • Tania, Lenberg Farms Classic Reserve by Celebrity – Mariposa Dairy, Lindsay, Ontario
BEST QUEBEC CHEESE – MEILLEUR FROMAGE DU QUÉBEC
BEST ATLANTIC CANADA CHEESE – MEILLEUR FROMAGE DES PROVINCES ATLANTIQUES
  • Appletree Smoked Cheddar – Cows Creamery, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island

Fromage-AmourTradition_4coul-e1419193019649The Great Canadian Cheese Festival is produced by Cheese Lover Productions with the generous support of Celebrate Ontario. Dairy Farmers of Canada is Diamond Sponsor, Prince Edward County is Gold Sponsor, Bay of Quinte Region is Principal Partner.

Picton Fairgrounds is located in the heart of Prince Edward County, south of Belleville in Bay of Quinte Region. One hour from Kingston, two hours from Toronto, three hours from Ottawa and New York State, and less than four hours from Montreal.

 

Cheese of the Year : Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar

Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar: 2016 Canadian Cheese of the Year.

Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar: 2016 Canadian Cheese of the Year.

Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar made by Cows Creamery in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, was proclaimed Cheese of the Year at the conclusion of the 2016 Canadian Cheese Awards in Montréal on Thursday.

Awards were also presented to 31 category winners during the Awards Ceremony at glittering Time Supper Club to bring to a climax the biennial cheese judging and competition that is open to all milks—cow, goat, sheep and water Buffalo—used in cheesemaking in Canada.

Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar was also honoured as Best Aged Cheddar (aged more than 18 months).

Appletree Smoked Cheddar, also made by Cows Creamery, also won big :

  • Best Smoked Cheese
  • Best Cow’s Milk Cheese
  • Best Atlantic Canada Cheese.
Happy winners: Andrea White and Armand Bertrand of Cows Creamery.

Happy winners: Andrea White and Armand Bertrand of Cows Creamery.

Here are the complete results of what has become the biggest cheese competition in Canada. It is sponsored by Loblaw Companies and Provigo, with support from Dairy Farmers of Canada and Desjardins Group.

The presenting sponsor is The Great Canadian Cheese Festival in Picton, Ontario, where the Cheese of the Year and other award winners will be in the spotlight on June 4-5.

FROMAGE D’EXCEPTION – CHEESE OF THE YEAR
·      Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar

·      Cows Creamery

·      Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island

MAIN CATEGORIES (17) CATÉGORIES PRINCIPALES

FRESH CHEESE – FROMAGE FRAIS

·      Bella Casara Mascarpone – Quality Cheese, Vaughan, Ontario
FRESH PASTA FILATA – FROMAGE À PÂTE FILÉE
·      President’s Choice® Formaggio di Bufala – Loblaw Companies, Brampton, Ontario
 SEMI-SOFT CHEESE – FROMAGE À PÂTE SEMI-FERME
·      Baluchon – Fromagerie F.X. Pichet, Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pérade, Québec
FIRM CHEESE – FROMAGE À PÂTE FERME
·      Pionnier – Fromagerie Nouvelle France, Racine, Québec
FIRM CHEESE WITH HOLES – FROMAGE À PÂTE FERME AVEC OUVERTURES
·      Oka l’Artisan – Agropur, Saint-Hubert, Québec
WASHED RIND CHEESE – FROMAGE À CROÛTE LAVÉE
·      Chemin Hatley – Fromagerie la Station de Compton, Compton, Québec
 
MIXED RIND CHEESE – FROMAGE À CROÛTE MIXTE
·      Zoey, Lenberg Farms Classic Reserve by Celebrity – Mariposa Dairy, Lindsay, Ontario
BLOOMY RIND CHEESE – PÂTE MOLLE À CROÛTE FLEURIE
·      Le Sabot de Blanchette – Fromagerie La Suisse Normande, Saint-Roch-Ouest, Québec
MILD & MEDIUM CHEDDAR (aged up to 9 months) – CHEDDAR DOUX & MOYEN (maximum de 9 mois d’affinage)
·      Cheddar moyen – Fromagerie Perron, Saint-Prime, Québec
OLD CHEDDAR (aged from 9 to 18 months) – CHEDDAR FORT (entre 9 et 18 mois d’affinage)
·      Lindsay Bandaged Goat Cheddar, Lenberg Farms Classic Reserve by Celebrity – Mariposa Dairy, Lindsay, Ontario
 AGED CHEDDAR (aged more than 18 months) – CHEDDAR VIEILLI (plus de 18 mois d’affinage)
·      Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar – Cows Creamery, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
GOUDA CHEESE – FROMAGE GOUDA
·      Old Growler – That Dutchman’s Cheese Farm, Upper Economy, Nova Scotia
BLUE CHEESE – FROMAGE À PÂTE PERSILLÉE
·      Dragon’s Breath Blue – That Dutchman’s Cheese Farm, Upper Economy, Nova Scotia
FLAVOURED CHEESE – FROMAGE AROMATISÉ
·      Le Fréchette – Ail & Fines Herbes – Fromagerie Nouvelle France, Racine, Québec
SMOKED CHEESE -FROMAGE FUMÉ
·      Appletree Smoked Cheddar – Cows Creamery, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
FETA / CHEESE IN BRINE – FETA / FROMAGE EN SAUMURE
·      President’s Choice® Feta Light – Loblaw Companies, Brampton, Ontario
 GRILLING CHEESE – FROMAGE À GRILLER
·      Le Paillasson de l’isle d’Orléans – Les Fromages de l’isle d’Orléans, Sainte-Famille, Île d’Orléans, Québec
 

The biennial competition attracted 301 entriers from across Canada.

The biennial competition attracted 301 entries from across Canada.

SPECIAL AWARDS (9) PRIX SPÉCIAUX

BEST COW CHEESE – MEILLEUR FROMAGE DE LAIT DE VACHE
·      Appletree Smoked Cheddar – Cows Creamery, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
BEST GOAT CHEESE – MEILLEUR FROMAGE DE LAIT DE CHÈVRE
·      Lindsay Bandaged Goat Cheddar, Lenberg Farms Classic Reserve by Celebrity – Mariposa Dairy, Lindsay, Ontario
 BEST SHEEP CHEESE – MEILLEUR FROMAGE DE LAIT DE BREBIS
·      Zacharie Cloutier – Fromagerie Nouvelle France, Racine, Québec
BEST WATER BUFFALO CHEESE – MEILLEUR FROMAGE DE LAIT DE BUFFLONNE
·      Fuoco – Fromagerie Fuoco, Saint-Lin-Laurentides, Québec
BEST BLENDED-MILK CHEESE – MEILLEUR FROMAGE DE LAIT MIXTE
·      Zoey, Lenberg Farms Classic Reserve by Celebrity – Mariposa Dairy, Lindsay, Ontario
BEST FARMSTEAD CHEESE – MEILLEUR FROMAGE FERMIER
·      Baluchon – Fromagerie F.X. Pichet, Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pérade, Québec
BEST ORGANIC CHEESE – MEILLEUR FROMAGE BIOLOGIQUE
·      Baluchon – Fromagerie F.X. Pichet, Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pérade, Québec
 BEST RAW-MILK CHEESE – MEILLEUR FROMAGE DE LAIT CRU
·      Le Pionnier – Fromagerie Nouvelle France, Racine, Québec
BEST NEW CHEESE – MEILLEUR NOUVEAU FROMAGE (Introduced to market in 2015/Mis en marché en 2015)
·      Zoey, Lenberg Farms Classic Reserve by Celebrity – Mariposa Dairy, Lindsay, Ontario
REGIONAL AWARDS (5) PRIX RÉGIONAUX

BEST B.C. CHEESE – MEILLEUR FROMAGE DE LA COLOMBIE BRITANNIQUE

·      Traditional Clothbound Cheddar – The Farm House Natural Cheeses, Agassiz, British Columbia
BEST ALBERTA CHEESE – MEILLEUR FROMAGE DE L’OUEST
·      Natural Smoked Gouda Medium – Sylvan Star Cheese, Red Deer, Alberta
BEST ONTARIO CHEESE – MEILLEUR FROMAGE DE L’ONTARIO
·      Tania, Lenberg Farms Classic Reserve by Celebrity – Mariposa Dairy, Lindsay, Ontario
BEST QUEBEC CHEESE – MEILLEUR FROMAGE DU QUÉBEC
·      Le Pionnier – Fromagerie Nouvelle France, Racine, Québec
BEST ATLANTIC CANADA CHEESE – MEILLEUR FROMAGE DES PROVINCES ATLANTIQUES
·      Appletree Smoked Cheddar – Cows Creamery, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island

The Canadian Cheese Awards is the first cheese competition in Canada open to all milks used in cheese making – cow, goat, sheep and water buffalo – with only pure natural cheese accepted for judging. That means with no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives, and no modified milk ingredients.

http://www.cheeseawards.ca

Le Concours des fromages fins canadiens est le premier et le plus grand au Canada ouvert à tous les fromages produits au Canada à partir du lait pur de vaches, de chèvres, de brebis ou de bufflonnes canadiennes – sans colorant artificiel, parfum, agent de conservation  ni substance laitière modifiée.

http://www.cheeseawards.ca/accueil/

Awards Tasting Gala at Time Supper Club in Montréal drew 460 fans of Canadian cheese.

Awards Tasting Gala at Time Supper Club in Montréal drew 460 fans of Canadian cheese. Photo: Anne Munro.

Who will win Canadian Cheese of the Year on Thursday?

Le Baluchon: Cheese of the Year in 2014.

Le Baluchon: Cheese of the Year at the previous Canadian Cheese Awards.

The anticipation is building toward the climax of the 2016 Canadian Cheese Awards/Le Concours des fromages fins canadiens this Thursday in Montréal.

  • Will a Quebec cheese again be crowned Canadian Cheese of the Year?
  • Which cheese will be named Best Quebec Cheese of 2016? There are seven Quebec finalists within a few points of each other.
  • What about Best Ontario Cheese? There are five finalists in a tight race.
  • Who will win Best Blue Cheese, Best Cheddar and Best Gouda and 14 other main categories?

All together, 32 different champions will be crowned on Thursday, April 14, at the Awards Ceremony and Reception at popular Time Supper Club in downtown Montréal. The public is invited to the Awards Tasting Gala starting at 6 p.m.

More than 100 cheeses will be in the spotlight at the Tasting Gala, finalists and winners in the biggest cheese competition in Canada. Many cheesemakers will be present to engage with cheese lovers.

Admission includes more than 100 different cheese to sample as often as you wish, plus crackers, charcuterie and condiments. All you can eat, really! Wine, beer, sparkling water and juices available for purchase.

Click here to order tickets online at $25 per person plus tax. A ticket purchased in advance will provide speedy access to all the deliciousness inside Time Supper Club at 997 rue Saint-Jacques in Montréal. Tickets will also be sold at the door.

Time Supper Club is a short walk west of Palais des Congrès in downtown Montreal, two blocks from Bonaventure Metro Station. Originally, Palais des Congrès was announced as the venue for the Awards.

At the previous Canadian Cheese Awards in 2014, Le Baluchon, made by Marie-Claude Harvey and her team at Fromagerie F.X. Pichet in Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pérade, Québec, was honoured as Cheese of the Year. This year, Le Baluchon is a finalist in three categories. It is also in the running for Best Quebec Cheese and Cheese of the Year in all Canada.

Competition is extremely close for Best Québec Cheese honours. There are seven finalists, in alphabetical order:

Best Ontario Cheese is also tightly contested, with five finalists:

  • Bella Casara Mascarpone – Quality Cheese, Vaughan, Ontario
  • Castello Smoked Gorgonzola – Arla Foods Canada, Concord, Ontario
  • Lindsay Bandaged Goat Cheddar, Lenberg Farms Classic Reserve by Celebrity – Mariposa Dairy, Lindsay, Ontario
  • Mountainoak Chili Pepper Smoked – Mountainoak Cheese, New Hamburg, Ontario
  • Tania, Lenberg Farms Classic Reserve by Celebrity – Mariposa Dairy, Lindsay, Ontario.

Finalists are equally divided between Québec and other cheese-producing regions in Canada. They include large and small producers from Nova Scotia to British Columbia.

The Farm House Natural Cheeses, a small producer in Agassiz, British Columbia, and Quality Cheese in Vaughan, Ontario, each garnered the most nominations as finalists: eight.

The Farm House Natural Cheeses, a small producer in Agassiz, British Columbia, and Quality Cheese in Vaughan, Ontario, each garnered the most nominations as finalists: eight.

The Farm House Natural Cheeses, a small producer in Agassiz, British Columbia, and Quality Cheese in Vaughan, Ontario, each garnered the most nominations as finalists: eight. That Dutchman’s Cheese Farm of Upper Economy, Nova Scotia, has five nominations.

In Québec, Fromagerie du Presbytère of Sainte-Élizabeth-de-Warwick has been named finalist in seven classes. Fromagerie F.X. Pichet of Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pérade, Cheese of the Year in 2014 with Baluchon, is finalist in five classes. Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser of Noyan, one of the pioneers in artisan cheese in Québec, has three nominations.

The independent competition is open to all milks used in cheesemaking in Canada—cow, goat, sheep and water buffalo—with only pure natural cheese accepted for judging. That means with no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives, and no modified milk ingredients.

Loblaw Companies and Provigo are Marquee Sponsors. Additional support is provided by Dairy Farmers of Canada and Desjardins Group. Slow Food Montréal is the presenting partner, Yannick Fromagerie, the logistics partner.

The biennial Canadian Cheese Awards/Le Concours des fromages fin canadiens is organized by The Great Canadian Cheese Festival as a service to the cheese industry and a guide for consumers. The Festival is the biggest artisan cheese show in Canada, held annually the first weekend in June in Picton, Prince Edward County, in Bay of Quinte Region near Belleville, Ontario.

The 2016 Cheese of the Year and other award-winners will be in the spotlight at #TGCCF on June 4-5.

 

Baluchon: A love story

Childhood sweethearts Michel Pichet and Marie-Claude Harvey.

Childhood sweethearts Michel Pichet and Marie-Claude Harvey of award-winning Fromagerie F.X. Pichet. (Click on any image in the blog for an enlarged view.)

Baluchon is the story of a love lost and, two decades later, found again.

Marie-Claude Harvey and Michel Pichet were childhood sweethearts in the village of Champlain, Québec, on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River near Québec City. But by the time they graduated from high school, they had drifted apart. She found a husband, he found a wife, they both had families before their marriages ended.

Twenty years later they met again. He owned an organic dairy farm. She wanted to make cheese. Obviously, their love was still there, now fired by a common passion for dairy farming and cheesemaking. Thus, they married and 10 years ago, Fromagerie F.X. Pichet came to be in Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pérade, Québec. Baluchon was their first-born cheese.

Baluchon: Canadian Cheese of the Year.

Le Baluchon: Canadian Cheese of the Year.

The name in French refers to the small bundle of belongings travelers carried before the advent of mass transportation. Such a traveler, as a mouse character called Hapi, appears on all packaging for cheeses produced at the fromagerie on the 260-acre farm called La Ferme F.X. Pichet, after Michel’s father.

Michel and Marie-Claude are devoted to organic farming and cheesemaking. In Québec, the certification process is rigorous, but they cannot see proceeding otherwise. Michel says: “It’s our way of life.”

Their way of life lead them to dominate the 2014 Canadian Cheese Awards/Le Concours des fromages fins canadiens with Baluchon being named Canadian Cheese of the Year in addition to Best Organic Cheese and Best Semi-Soft Cheese.

In Sélection Caseus 2014, the prestigious competition for Québec cheese, Baluchon was awarded Prix du Public in the semi-soft category. Even five years ago, in the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix, Baluchon was declared best organize cheese.

Even as Baluchon begins to curdle, already the sweet dairy taste is there.

Even as Baluchon begins to curdle, already the sweet dairy taste is there.

Baluchon is exquisite, exemplifying the best in an organic, semi-soft cheese with a washed rind. It is made with thermized cow’s milk and ripened for a minimum of two months. In Québec, thermized milk—heated to 60 degrees Celsius for 15 seconds—is considered raw milk.

Baluchon is a creamy, melt-in-your-mouth cheese that tastes of hazelnut, cream, butter and leaves a slight clover aftertaste, so you really do taste the terroir.

Tour the terroir at La Ferme F.X. Pichet and meet Michel Pichet and his cows in a pictorial we posted on Facebook after a visit in August.

The compact cheese plant is located on the farm in Champlain steps from the family home. Affinage rooms and the retail store are 20 kilometres away in Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pérade.

Now is the time.

Fromagerie F.X. Pichet in Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pérade, Québec.

When they were getting started more than a decade ago, Marie-Claude and Michel consulted André Fouillet, a cheese expert from France, who recommended they use a cheesemaking process he developed when working with Oka, the Canadian classic. Fouillet consulted with a number of Québec fromageries, witness the many semi-soft, washed-rind cheeses produced in the region. Jonathan Portelance, a collaborator at the time, was inspired by the fruity aroma and floral taste of the French Comté.

“But Balachon is unique,” says Marie-Claude, “because of our milk and our way of making cheese. Right from the start, we wanted to use non-pasteurized milk—for the taste. Good cheese starts with good milk. We prefer to use pure, organic milk because the integrity of milk is important to us. With conventional milk, you just don’t know what’s all in the milk.”

An organic milk producer and cheesemaker (who, incidentally, works at giant Saputo) suggested the name Baluchon as the cheese could be served on tables around the world. She still supplies some milk and remains a good friend.

Michel Pichet's talents as an artist are visible at the fromagerie.

Michel Pichet’s talents as an artist are visible at the fromagerie.

Why has Baluchon been so successful?

“Because of the distinctive aroma and taste that’s stems from a certain synergy,” says Marie-Claude. “Our milk comes from a mix of breeds, Holsteins, Swiss Browns and the Canadienne. In our pastures, we have a mix of five or six different plants, grasses, clover, sweat peas and so on. In the plant, we have a mix of talented people. All that ‘team work’ comes together in le Baluchon.”

Cheesemaker Remi Gélinas starts a new batch of Baluchon.

Cheesemaker Remi Gélinas starts a new batch of Baluchon.

Cheesemaker Remi Gélinas is a key member of the team. He’s been with the fromagerie less than two years but has 25 years of experience in cheese and milk production.

Click here for a pictorial of cheesemaking at Fromagerie F.X. Pichet.

What pairs well with Baluchon?

“Any tasty wine, red or white, that has a lot of aroma,” Marie-Claude says, expressing a preference for shiraz. In beer, she suggests a good amber or red.

Where is Baluchon available outside of Québec?

Baluchon now is widely available in cheese shops and Loblaws stores, especially since it was named Cheese of the Year in the spring. Baluchon and F.X. Pichet’s other cheeses are distributed by Fromages CDA which represents members of the Québec Artisan Cheese Guild. Telephone 1-866-448-7997 or 514-648-7997, email info@fromagescda.com.

Now is the time

Marie-Claude Harvey and Michel Pichet: poster children for organic dairy farming and cheesemaking in Québec.

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

Baluchon: Give it as a tasty gift for Christmas

Baluchon is exquisite, exemplifying the best in an organic, semi-soft cheese with a washed rind.

Baluchon is exquisite, exemplifying the best in an organic, semi-soft cheese with a washed rind.

Most years, we make cheese at home to give as Christmas gifts. This year, we are giving Baluchon, Canadian Cheese of the Year.

It’s a simple way to make a cheese lover happy, or to introduce a non-believer to Canadian artisan cheese.

  • Buy the Baluchon.
  • Buy a small slate or board.
  • Wrap Baluchon in plastic wrap so the cheese visible, add a handful of walnuts and apricots, and possibly a Christmas decoration.
  • Wrap in cellophane.
  • Attach a bright ribbon.
  • If your budget permits, add a cheese knife.

To really impress, add a wine or beer.

“Any tasty wine, red or white, that has a lot of aroma,” recommends Marie-Claude Harvey of Fromagerie F.X. Pichet, expressing a personal preference for shiraz. In beer, she suggests a good amber or red.

Voila! A great Christmas gift—easy peasy—and it be tasty.

Voila! A great Christmas gift—easy peasy and it be tasty.

Baluchon now is widely available in cheese shops and Loblaws stores. Baluchon and F.X. Pichet’s other cheeses are distributed by Fromages CDA of Montréal which represents members of the Québec Artisan Cheese Guild. Telephone 1-866-448-7997 or 514-648-7997, email info@fromagescda.com.

Le Baluchon named Canadian Cheese of the Year

Marie-Claude Harvey, Fromagerie FX Pichet, flanked by Georgs Kolesnikovs, chairman, Canadian Cheese Awards, Gurth Pretty, Loblaw Companies, Marquee Sponsor, and Dr. Arthur Hill, Chief Judge, Canadian Cheese Awards.

Marie-Claude Harvey, Fromagerie FX Pichet, flanked by Georgs Kolesnikovs, chairman, Canadian Cheese Awards, Gurth Pretty, Loblaw Companies, Marquee Sponsor, and Dr. Arthur Hill, University of Guelph, who served as Chief Judge, Canadian Cheese Awards.

Winners in the inaugural Canadian Cheese Awards/Le Concours des fromages fins canadiens were announced during an Awards Ceremony, Reception and Tasting Gala on April 7 at St. Lawrence Market North in Toronto.

The new and independent competition, with Loblaw Companies as Marquee Sponsor, has immediately become the biggest cheese competition in Canada with 76 producers from Newfoundland to British Columbia submitting 291 cheeses for judging.

Le Baluchon, an exquisite semi-soft cheese made with organic raw milk, was named Canadian Cheese of the Year, Best Semi-Soft Cheese and Best Organic Cheese. Marie-Claude Harvey, co-owner of Fromagerie FX Pichet in Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pérade, Québec, and her cheese will be in the spotlight at The Great Canadian Cheese Festival on June 7-8.

Le Baluchon: Canadian Cheese of the Year.

Le Baluchon: Canadian Cheese of the Year.

CHEESE OF THE YEAR/FROMAGE D’EXCEPTION

Le Baluchon
Fromagerie FX Pichet
Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pérade, Québec

BEST FRESH CHEESE

Bella Casara Mascarpone
Quality Cheese
Vaughan, Ontario

BEST SEMI-SOFT CHEESE

Le Baluchon
Fromagerie FX Pichet
Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pérade, Québec

BEST FETA/CHEESE IN BRINE

Goat Milk Feta
Crystal Springs Cheese
Lethbridge County, Alberta

BEST FIRM CHEESE

Eweda Cru
Best Baa Dairy
Fergus, Ontario

BEST FIRM CHEESE WITH HOLES

Louis d’Or
Fromagerie du Presbytère
Sainte-Élisabeth-de-Warwick, Québec

BEST WASHED RIND CHEESE

La Meule des Champs
Fromagerie Éco-Délices
Plessisville, Québec

BEST MIXED RIND CHEESE

Rang des îles
Fromagerie Médard
Saint-Gédéon, Québec

BEST SOFT CHEESE/BLOOMY RIND CHEESE

Magie de Madawaska
Fromagerie Le Détour
Temiscouata Sur Le Lac, Québec

BEST FLAVOURED CHEESE

Raclette de Compton au Poivre
Fromagerie La Station
Compton, Québec

BEST SMOKED CHEESE

Natural Smoked Gouda
Sylvan Star Cheese
Red Deer, Alberta

BEST MILD/MEDIUM CHEDDAR
(aged up to 9 months)

Cheddar Île-aux-grues
Fromagerie Isle-aux-Grues
L’Isle-aux-Grues, Québec

BEST OLD CHEDDAR
(aged from 9 months to 1 year)

COWS CREAMERY Extra Old Cheddar
COWS CREAMERY
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island

BEST AGED CHEDDAR
(aged 1 to 3 years)

Farm House Traditional Clothbound Cheddar
The Farm House Natural Cheeses
Agassiz, British Columbia

BEST AGED CHEDDAR
(aged 4 years and more)

Agropur Grand Cheddar 5 ans
Agropur
Saint-Hubert, Québec

BEST GOUDA CHEESE

Golden Blyth
Blyth Farm Cheese
Blyth, Ontario

BEST BLUE CHEESE

Dragon’s Breath Blue
That Dutchman’s Farm
Upper Economy, Nova Scotia

BEST COW’S MILK CHEESE

Bella Casara Mascarpone
Quality Cheese
Vaughan, Ontario

BEST GOAT’S MILK CHEESE

Lenberg Farms Classic Reserve by Celebrity Lindsay Bandaged Cheddar
Mariposa Dairy
Lindsay, Ontario

BEST SHEEP’S MILK CHEESE

Lenberg Farms Reserve by Celebrity Tania Sheep Cheese
Mariposa Dairy
Lindsay, Ontario

BEST WATER BUFFALO CHEESE

Buffalo Paneer
Natural Pastures Cheese
Courtenay, British Columbia

BEST BLENDED-MILK CHEESE

Le Verdict d’Alexina
Fromagerie Le Détour
Temiscouata Sur Le Lac, Québec

BEST FARMSTEAD CHEESE

Plain Soft Goat Cheese
Noble Meadows Farm
Nobleford, Alberta

BEST ORGANIC CHEEESE

Le Baluchon
Fromagerie FX Pichet
Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pérade, Québec

BEST RAW-MILK CHEESE

Louis d’Or
Fromagerie du Presbytère
Sainte-Élisabeth-de-Warwick, Québec

BEST NEW CHEESE

Fontina Fumé
Fromagerie de l’Abbaye Saint-Benoît-du-Lac
Saint-Benoît-du-Lac, Québec

BEST BRITISH COLUMBIA CHEESE

Farm House Traditional Clothbound Cheddar
The Farm House Natural Cheeses
Agassiz, British Columbia

BEST ALBERTA CHEESE

Natural Smoked Gouda
Sylvan Star Cheese
Red Deer, Alberta

BEST ONTARIO CHEESE

Bella Casara Mascarpone
Quality Cheese
Vaughan, Ontario

BEST QUEBEC CHEESE

Louis d’Or
Fromagerie du Presbytère
Sainte-Élisabeth-de-Warwick, Québec

BEST ATLANTIC CANADA CHEESE

COWS CREAMERY Extra Old Cheddar
COWS CREAMERY
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island

The new and independent competition, with Loblaw Companies as Marquee Sponsor, has immediately become the biggest cheese competition in Canada with 76 producers from Newfoundland to British Columbia submitting 291 cheeses for judging. Appropriately, the competition reached its climax at the venue National Geographic has called the world’s best food market.

Chief Judge Art Hill and the 10 expert judges who evaluated and scored 291 cheese submitted in the inaugural competition.

Chief Judge Art Hill and 10 expert judges evaluated and scored 291 cheese submitted in the inaugural judging and competition.

Judging took place at University of Guelph, Department of Food Science headed by Dr. Arthur Hill, Chair and Professor in Food Science and an internationally recognized authority in cheese technology.

It is the first cheese competition in Canada open to all milks used in cheesemaking—cow, goat, sheep and water buffalo—with only pure natural cheese accepted for judging. That means with no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives, and no modified milk ingredients.

The Canadian Cheese Awards is sponsored by Loblaw Companies and Dairy Farmers of Canada, La Ferme Black River Game Farm, Plaisirs Gourmets, Palatine Hills Estate Winery, The Grange of Prince Edward Vineyards & Estate Winery, Mill St. Brewery, ACE Bakery, Seed to Sausage and The Great Canadian Cheese Festival, with historic St. Lawrence Market the venue sponsor.

The Official Cheesemongers of the Awards are the cheese shops of St. Lawrence Market: Chris’ Cheesemongers, Olympic Cheese Mart and Scheffler’s Delicatessen & Cheese.

As a service to the cheese industry and as a guide for consumers, Canadian Cheese Awards is produced by The Great Canadian Cheese Festival, the biggest artisan cheese show in Canada that is held annually in June in Ontario’s Prince Edward County, in Bay of Quinte Region near Belleville. Georgs Kolesnikovs, founder and director of the Cheese Festival, serves as Awards Chairman.

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