Two cheese tours to tempt your palate

Lori Smith with one of her 200 charges at the Ontario Water Buffalo Company in Stirling.

Lori Smith with one of her 200 charges at the Ontario Water Buffalo Company in Stirling.

For cheese lovers interested in an extra day of cheese-learning and cheese-tasting, a second itinerary has been added to the guided cheese tours offered on the Friday before the third annual Great Canadian Cheese Festival.

The new Quinte Cheese Tour will visit two award-winning cheese producers, Empire Cheese and Maple Dale Cheese, with a lunch stop and tour of Ontario Water Buffalo Company, a pioneering water-buffalo dairy farm. A craft brewery, Church-Key Brewing, and a chocolate maker are also on the itinerary.

The popular County Cheese Tour continues, with stops at Black River Cheese, in operation since 1901, and the new County Cheese Company where cheesemaking will start this summer. Fifth Town Artisan Cheese will be added, if it has re-opened by May 31.

The third annual Great Canadian Cheese Festival takes place Saturday and Sunday, June 1-2, in Crystal Palace on the Prince Edward Fairgrounds in Picton, in the heart of Prince Edward County in Ontario’s Bay of Quinte Region. Cheese tours and a class on cooking with artisan cheese are offered on Friday, May 31.

The Great Canadian Cheese Festival is a multi-faceted event that annually attracts thousands of consumers to meet, learn, taste and buy the best in artisan cheese and fine foods and sample fine wine, craft beer and crisp cider.

Dairy Farmers of Canada is the lead sponsor, presenting seminars throughout the day in the All You Need Is Cheese® Annex.

Bay of Quinte Region is a major sponsor. It will host a guided tasting of Quinte cheeses paired with local wines and beers to help promote the Bay of Quinte Cheese Route.

Taste and buy artisan and farmstead cheese at the biggest cheese show in Canada.

Taste and buy artisan and farmstead cheese at the biggest cheese show in Canada.

The Artisan Cheese & Fine Food Fair features a Dairy Farm display for the enjoyment of young and old. Also on the program are Tutored Tastings where experts offer guidance on a variety of cheese topics. At From the Farm Cooking School, Cynthia Peters leads a hands-on class in cooking with artisan cheese.

Outstanding wine and-dine-with-cheese experiences are offered on Saturday evening. Winners of the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix are on the menu as the cheese course at Gastronomy on the Farm with Jamie Kennedy. Cheesemaker Ruth Klahsen is paired with Chef Michael Hoy for Wine & Dine at Huff Estates Winery. Additional chef-driven events are still to be announced.

Advance ticket sales are under way at www.cheesefestival.ca.

Last year, close to 100 exhibitors and vendors and more than 3,000 consumers made the event the biggest cheese show in Canada representing producers from coast to coast. One-third of the participating cheese producers come from Québec, the leading artisan cheese region in Canada.

Wow! Pulled pork sauced with cheddar fondue

A poached Asian pear, stuffed with pulled pork and topped with two-year-old Black River cheddar fondue was one of the taste treats at the Taste: Community Grown event in Prince Edward County.

It was created and offered by Amelia’s at The Waring House Restaurant, Inn, Conference Center, Spa & Cookery School, with pears supplied by Kendelson Orchards.

Black River Cheese was one of three cheese vendors at Taste, the annual celebration of local foods. Also participating were Empire Cheese & Butter and newcomer County Cheese.

Sail right to the door of County Cheese Company

Our lunch after docking at the County Cheese Company in Waupoos: Marvelous Magie de Ganaraska (right) and Voyageur, a strong blue with a unique hint of sweetness. Click on any image for an enlarged view.

If you sailed to Iles de la Madeleine in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, you could visit Fromagerie du Pied-de-Vent. On the west coast, you could call at Salt Spring Island in the Strait of Georgia and visit Salt Spring Island Cheese. But you’d have to hike or cab to get to the cheese.

In Ontario, you can step off the boat and in less that one minute be inside the County Cheese Company to taste and purchase artisan cheese. Which is what we did this afternoon while on a boating holiday around Prince Edward County.

One-month-old County Cheese Company is based in Waupoos Marina just down the road from County Cider Company and Waupoos Estate Winery.

John Thomson of KendalVale Cheese and now also the County Cheese Company at Waupoos Marina in Prince Edward County.

A Canadian filmmaker turned cheese entrepreneur, John Thomson, opened a retail store adjacent to the Blue Moose Café in the marina on the Civic Holiday weekend. By the spring of 2013, Thomson plans to be producing sheep’s milk cheese in the Old Waupoos Canning Factory building on the marina property.

Thomson isn’t exactly a newcomer to cheese. He started KendalVale Cheese about a year ago. He transports Ontario sheep’s milk to Quebec where it’s turned into fine cheese at La Moutonnière, an established award-winning fromagerie operated by Lucille Giroux and Alastair Mackenzie in the village of Sainte-Hélène-de-Chester.

The KendalVale cheeses—Magie de Ganaraska, Commanda, Voyageur and Champlain—have quickly become favorites with cheese lovers in Ontario and chefs such as Jamie Kennedy. Thomson has set up his own distribution system and also represents the award-winning cheeses of La Moutonnière such as Bleu de La Moutonnière, Fleurs des Monts and Sein d’Hélène.

The County Cheese Company shares a building with Blue Moose Café steps from the docks at Waupoos Marina. County Cheese will operate the café during the fall, winter and spring.

Following the closing of Fifth Town Artisan Cheese early this year. Thomson saw an opportunity to develop a cheese production facility in Prince Edward County, often called the hottest new culinary destination in Ontario. He did consider making a bid for Fifth Town assets but decided to pursue his own direction with the support of Prince Edward/Lennox & Addington Community Futures Development Corporation (PELA CFDC)* and others, including Linda Bell, owner of Waupoos Marina.

By boat or other means, Waupoos is about to become a must-stop on any visit to Prince Edward County.

Black River Cheese Company, which has been producing cheddar in the County since 1901, is a short distance from Waupoos. There is a small dock at the rear of the plant on Black River but we’re not certain it can be reached by anything but a small boat. We’ll have a report on that in a few days.

—Georgs Kolesnikovs, aboard the power yacht At Last!

* PELA CFDC is a community-based, not-for-profit corporation whose objective is to encourage local entrepreneurship and economic development. PELA CFDC specializes in providing business loans, grants, and training.