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.

Affinage stirs debate, and other cheese news

Cheese makes news every day. That’s why we’ve started collecting links to the most interesting news reports on a special page under the News tab at the top of the blog. Check it whenever you visit CheeseLover.ca. The newest links are shown below.

A feature story in The New York Times on affinage has kicked off debate on the meaning of the word and the value of the practice. What is your take on affinage?

Cheese lovers debate what puts the funk in Funky Town

Affinage inspires evangelical zeal and scoffing among hard-core fromage fanatics

Enjoy the health benefits of raw-milk cheese

How to construct the perfect cheese board

Sikhs rescue Italy’s Parmigiano-Reggiano

Why is our appetite for artisan cheese growing even as our budgets decrease?

Popularity of stealing cheese makes perfect sense

Sue Riedl: Tea and cheese pairings? Pass the kettle

Swiss cheeses: 450 varieties, each unique

Anger at restriction on cheese advertising

Carboncino’s ash rind hides an aromatic molten middle

Popular French cheese isn’t what it once was

The Great Israeli Cottage Cheese Uprising

Kraft recalls macaroni and cheese

What’s going on below Murray’s Cheese Shop in Manhattan

Slow Food spotlights the dairy traditions of Africa at Cheese 2011

The best of Cheese 2011 at Bra, according to experts from New York’s top cheese shop

Cheese, please: In praise of all places gooey

Sue Riedl: Love cheese? Eat local? Go here

Photos celebrating our love affair with cheese

Slow Food helps diehard farmers hang onto tradition

How well do you know cheese?

Good cheeses come in small packages

Overwhelmed cheesemakers decide to pull the plug

Cracker Barrel secretly replaces almost everything with cheese

Italian Frittata: It’s not just for breakfast

Ontario backs goat dairy, sheep’s-milk cheesemaker

Fifth Town Artisan Cheese president steps down

Petra Kassun-Mutch: How cheese saved my life

Canadian James Kraft churned out a giant, and other cheese news

 

Canadian James Kraft founded the second largest food conglomerate in the world.

Cheese makes news every day. That’s why we’ve started collecting links to the most interesting news reports of the week on a special page under the News tab at the top of the blog. Check it whenever you visit CheeseLover.ca.

Canadian James Kraft churned out a cheese giant

Agropur to make Boursin cheeses in Canada

Far Flung Foods: Cheesemonger to Windsor

A cheesy ad campaign in Portugal

Kraft launches an eBook to promote its Philadelphia cream cheese

An ode to Alberta cheese

Kraft strengthens Mac & Cheese brand with unified packaging

Madame Fromage: Monastic Cheese Board Redux

Natural Pastures Cheese in B.C. gets a loan from Ottawa

Springbank Cheese stars in Taste of Alberta

The secret to great fudge is . . . Kaft Velveeta?

Feds help New Brunswick dairy farmers explore specialty cheese

Brits introduce Blue Brew made with Stilton whey

Sue Riedl: Become a chairman of the (cheese) board

Video: Making mozzarella on an industrial scale

How an ex-policeman became a cheese man

U.S. cheesemakers may face more onerous safety regulations

Eating cheese helps combat dental problems

Video: How to build the perfect cheese board

Asian demand for cream cheese skyrockets

Grilled cheese: Slices of childhood, melted and mobile

Shrimp and grilled-cheese sandwiches make great gourmet fare for Grey Cup

Into the caves at Roquefort and other cheese news

The village of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon sits on a limestone plateau. Underneath the area are cheese caves. Photo by Roquefort Tourist Office.

Cheese makes news every day. That’s why we’ve started collecting links to the most interesting news reports of the week on a special page under the News tab at the top of the blog. Check it whenever you visit CheeseLover.ca.

Roquefort, France: Where the blue blood of blue cheeses lives

La Belle Province rivals La France when it comes to great fromage

Mom to the Screaming Masses: Making Ricotta Cheese

As cheesemaking blooms, so can listeria

Quebecers warned of door-to-door cheese salesmen

Sue Riedl: mellow yellow Le Douanier cheese

Canada avoids lengthy list of cheese recalls in the U.S.

Cheese addiction: Vegan propaganda or real facts?

Bring out your inner cheesemaker

Pro-cheese policy thus runs counter to anti-cheese policy in the U.S.

David Lebovitz: The complete lowdown on Swiss-cheese fondue

Raw-milk-cheese battle in Missouri and other cheese news

Morningland Dairy refuses to destroy $250,000 of raw-milk cheese.

Cheese makes news every day. That’s why we’ve started collecting links to the most interesting news reports of the week on a special page under the News tab at the top of the blog. Check it whenever you visit CheeseLover.ca.

Supporters of gourmet cheese made from raw milk square off against U.S. government

Missouri dairy defies order on raw-milk cheese

Stock market undecided about Saputo prospects

Turning waste from cheese production into ethanol fuel in Wisconsin

DFA enters ethnic cheese market in U.S.

High cheese prices boost Saputo profit

Canada’s wine and cheese has come a long way

What’s the diff between cheese food and cheese product?

Ending world hunger, one grilled-cheese sandwich at a time

Canada’s biggest ricotta producer gets public funding to renovate its packaging and production space

British dairy farmers call for country-of-origin labelling for cheese

World’s first cheese billboard revealed in London

Artisan cheesemaking brings a new slice of life to California dairy farmers

Missouri dairy farm ordered to destroy 50,000 pounds of raw-milk cheese

Armenian cheese program will promote Armenian brand internationally

Starbucks tests alcohol, cheese offerings

Guinness World Record set for world’s largest Mac & Cheese: 2,469 pounds

First World Championship Cheese Dip Competition

Breaking news: Why is cheese so hard to remove from the pot after cooking?

Limburger produced by only one cheesemaker in the U.S.

Say bonjour to cheese gougeres

Okanagan goat cheeses that ooze with family values

Without cheese, there is no fun!

Un fromage unique à Racine

Changing the cheese tastes of Vancouver and other cheese news

Cheese makes news every day. That’s why we’ve started collecting links to the most interesting news reports of the week on a special page under the News tab at the top of the blog. Check it whenever you visit CheeseLover.ca.

Allison Spurrell, with her mother Alice, owns Les Amis du Fromage, Vancouver’s leading cheese shop.

Converting cheeseheads into cheese connoisseurs in Vancouver (Photo)

Cooking show online promotes cheese in Wisconsin

Herding goats and making cheese in Tuscany

Cheese truck delivers

What to do with those dreaded cheese nubs

Sue Riedl: A mellow blue cheese even skeptics will love

History: The Limburger Cheese War

Video: Cardiff Castle invaded by Cheese Festival

Slideshow: Great British Cheese Festival 2010 at Cardiff Castle

Welsh cheese takes top prize British Cheese Awards

Jessica Biel: Addicted to cheese

Love cheese and chocolate? How about blue-cheese truffles?

Hard cheese a better choice for nutrition

World’s largest macaroni and cheese dish

Leave the curd-making to the pros

Cheese Day’s Parade: the Rose Parade of the Midwest

France drops fight for Gruyere cheese appellation, ceding to Swiss

Miami aims to be capital of artisan cheese in March 2011

Goat whispering in Vermont

Forty-fourth French cheese recognized by EU


Farm House Kabritt and other cheese news

B.C. cheesemaker Debra Amrein-Boyes and husband George Boyes: Honouring aid workers in Haiti.

Cheese makes news every day. That’s why we’ve started collecting links to the most interesting news reports of the week on a special page under the News tab at the top of the blog. Check it whenever you visit CheeseLover.ca.

Go to B.C. if you want to taste this natural goat cheese (Photo above)

Finally, a recipe for cheesy cookies

New York’s Artisanal Cheese names new director of sales

Beer vs. wine debate rages on for which is the better suitor for cheese

World’s most expensive cheese sandwich

Man vs. Food feels the thrill of grilled cheese

Homemade cheddar from down on the farm

Barely Buzzed cheese rubbed with coffee and lavender

Five must-buy cheeses while in France: Max Shrem

The bluer the cheese the better: San Diego football hero