Michael Blackie has a ball with feta and elk at Cooks/Curds

People's Choice at Cooks & Curds. Photo by If Music Be Food of Love, Play On.

A unique feta and elk dish created by Chef Michael Blackie expressly for The Great Canadian Cheese Festival was voted the most popular dish by close to 400 guests at Cooks & Curds Cheese Gala, the social and gastronomic highlight of the Festival.

Chef Blackie, head of cuisine at National Arts Centre in Ottawa, named his creation Clarmell Feta Cheese Pistachio Crusted Sphere with Pulled Lip Sticky Chipotle-Saskatoonberry Elk.

Plainly put, Chef Blackie, using two kinds of rice flour, made a crusted ball with goat feta from Clarmell Farms and served it on a bed of pulled elk.

In reality, a fusion of flavours—rice, pistachio, olives, chipotle, brown sugar, honey, carrots, celery, onion and garlic—powered the dish to People’s Choice honours, with a scattering of Saskatoon berries providing a lovely Canadian finish.

Paired with a fruity, silky St. Laurent 2007 from Prince Edward County’s Harwood Estate Vineyards, Chef Blackie’s creation was a standout among standouts at the Gala in historic Crystal Palace. See the menu below.

Michael Blackie’s name is widely known because of his prestigious position at the National Arts Centre, but what is Clarmell Feta?

Clarmell Farms is a fifth-generation dairy farm on the Rideau River in Manotick, within Ottawa’s city limits, that moved from cow’s milk into goat’s milk two years ago. The Clarmell Farms feta and chevre are made with single-herd milk by Margaret Morris-Peters at nearby Glengarry Cheesemaking and Dairy Supply.

Quantities are limited, so buy it when you can at the farm’s store, open Mondays to Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., at 3401 River Road (within Ottawa’s city limits) or at Nicastro’s Food Emporium, 1558 Merivale Road, and Manotick Village Butcher, 2-5556 Manotick Main Street.

Chef Michael Blackie of National Arts Centre, Ottawa.

Chef Blackie was born in Leicestershire, England, and raised in Montreal. Following his apprenticeship, he worked as chef with Jamie Kennedy at the Founders Club, a private food establishment at Toronto’s SkyDome (now the Rogers Centre).

Chef Blackie also held positions as sous-chef at Toronto’s Westin Harbour Castle; Executive Chef at the Pierre Marques in Mexico; executive sous-chef at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Hong Kong, which was voted “Best Hotel in Hong Kong” by Asiamoney Magazine and won both the “Gold List Award” and “Best Hotel in Asia” awards by Condé Nast; and executive chef at the Oberoi in Bali, Indonesia-a five-star hotel that was given the highest overall score in the “Leading Hotels of the World” Quality Awards.

Chef Blackie visited Shanghai, Hong Kong and Macau in 2008 as guest chef on the “Canadian Asian Cuisine Tour,” and was a host chef on the “Exposing Canadian Cuisine” tour to Munich, Frankfurt, Hamburg and Zurich, sponsored by Ontario Tourism and Air Canada. In 2007, he won the Silver Medal in the Canadian Culinary Championship in Whistler, B.C., and prior to taking the helm at National Arts Centre two years ago, Chef Blackie was the culinary mastermind behind Perspectives Restaurant at the Brookstreet resort in Kanata, one of Canada’s top restaurants.

Click to view larger image of the Cooks & Curds menu.

The Cooks & Curds Cheese Gala at The Great Canadian Cheese Festival was co-ordinated by the singular Ivy Knight.

Photo of the People’s Choice winner by If Music Be the Food of Love, Play On. Read the review of Cooks & Curds.