Best bites: Outstanding cheeses of 2012

This is the third year Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar has been selected as one of the outstanding cheeses of the year at CheeseLover.ca.

This is the third year in succession that Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar has been selected as one of the outstanding cheeses of the year at CheeseLover.ca.

We bring the curtain down on 2012 with friends in fromage recalling the memorable cheeses that crossed their palates this year. In alphabetical order, here are 20 outstanding cheeses of the year just ending—and one terrific cinnamon butter:

Any cheese made by Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese
Regardless if I’m eating his curds or the harder aged cheeses Shep Ysselstein is best known for, his cheeses never disappoint, they’re always outstanding bites to remember. He is truly a talented cheesemaker to watch.
—Wendy Furtenbacher, Blogger, CurdyGirl

Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar, COWS Creamery
I was in P.E.I in the summer and finally got to meet Scott Linkletter,  owner of COWS Creamery, and Armand Bernard, the cheesemaker. Ate Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar (still good everytime I have it) looking out over New London Bay as the sun was setting.
Sue Riedl, Cheese Columnist, The Globe and Mail

Bella Casara Mozzarella di Buffala, Quality Cheese
Discovered shortly after my trip to Italy when I was experiencing serious fresh cheese withdrawals. Enjoy the fresh, mild, milky flavor and smooth silky texture of this oh-so-versatile cheese made from Ontario buffalo (Yes, water buffalo) milk.  The small, soft, delicate hand-pulled rounds pair perfectly with both sweet and savory accoutrements. Click here for more tasting notes.
—Vanessa Simmons, Cheese Sommelier, Savvy Company

Black River 8-Year Cheddar, Black River Cheese
While many Black River cheddars have a characteristic bitterness, the 8-year has lost this. It is incredibly thick and smooth in the mouth, rich and nutty, with a hint of caramel.
—Andy Shay, Cheese Buyer, Sobeys Ontario

Monforte Dairy's Bliss makes our Best Bites list for the second time.

Monforte Dairy’s Bliss makes our Best Bites list for the second time.

Bliss, Monforte Dairy
I had been waiting and waiting for Bliss to be available after trying a sample in 2011. Finally, in May, I scored some at the Brickworks farmers’ market in Toronto. Worth the wait!
Sue Riedl, Cheese Columnist, The Globe and Mail

Brebiou, Fromagerie de Chaumes
Brebiou is a pasteurized sheep’s milk bloomy rind from Fromagerie des Chaumes in southwest France that I thoroughly enjoyed discovering. Click here for more tasting notes.
—Jackie Armet, Cheese Co-ordinator , The Great Canadian Cheese Festival

Brie Paysan, Fromagerie de la Presbytere
It’s been consistently beautiful this year, especially when ripe. If purchased, folks should hold it for an extra while. This is my favourite example of “vegetal” notes in a cheese.
—Vanessa Simmons, Cheese Sommelier, Savvy Company

Downey’s Cinnamon Honey Butter
My personal favourite this year is Downey’s cinnamon butter. It was a breakfast favourite of my youth, and I knew the family that made it in upstate New York. Through sleuthing with Gerry Albright and Sue Riedl, it turns out this is a heritage Canadian product! Many people remember McFeeter’s Honey Butter. The McFeeters licenced honey butter to the Downeys in Eastern Ontario. The Downeys later moved the company to New York. Whether you like the history or not, it is an awesome breakfast treat on toast. Sobeys is very happy to offer this heritage Ontario product again—now made in Pennsylvania.
—Andy Shay, Cheese Buyer, Sobeys Ontario

Figaro, Glengarry Fine Cheese
My favourite Canadian cheese of late has been Figaro, by Glengarry Fine Cheese, because it is unique (though I believe modeled after a style of Robiola) and risk-taking (very moist, difficult to package and transport) and absolutely delicious (yeasty aromas, complex texture, musky finish).
—Julia Rogers, Cheese Educator, Cheese Culture

How can a cheese that looks as good as Fleuron not be selected for the annual honour roll? Photo by Vanessa Simmons.

How can a cheese that looks as good as Fleuron not be selected for the annual honour roll? Photo by Vanessa Simmons.

Fleuron, Les Fromagiers de la Table Ronde
A beautiful rustic creamy blue that is simply stunning. I think the photo speaks for itself. How could this not make the list?
—Vanessa Simmons, Cheese Sommelier, Savvy Company

Fromagerie Du Champ a la Meule
Le Fetard, Les Metayeres and Le Victor et Berthold are three awesome cheese from Québec made at Fromagerie Du Champ a la Meule that I hope we in Ontario can purchase really, really soon!
—Jackie Armet, Cheese Co-ordinator , The Great Canadian Cheese Festival

Golden Blyth, Blyth Farm
A delicious, mild goat’s milk Gouda produced by Paul van Dorp near Blyth, Ontario
Gurth Pretty, Senior Category Manager, Deli Cheese, at Loblaws

Grey Rush, Primeridge Pure
I’m a sucker for the plain as it is so versatile, but I find myself craving the chili, and this summer I was blown over by the frozen cheesecake made with their exceptional cream cheese.
—Wendy Furtenbacher, Blogger, CurdyGirl

Cheddar Île-aux-Grues, Fromagerie Ile-aux-grues
It has a lovely sharp bite while maintaining a creamy crumby flavour.
—Jackie Armet, Cheese Co-ordinator , The Great Canadian Cheese Festival

Mascotte, Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser
A washed rind, semi-soft, goat’s milk cheese. Slight tang to it.
Gurth Pretty, Senior Category Manager, Deli Cheese, at Loblaws

Nostrala, Kootenay Alpine Cheese
At The Great Canadian Cheese Festival, I sampled (and sampled) Nostrala and again was reminded how amazing it is and that I should buy it much more! Click here for more tasting notes.
Sue Riedl, Cheese Columnist, The Globe and Mail

Sensations Applewood Smoked Cheddar, aged 2 years, Sobeys
A thermalized cheddar made in Québec. Like a campfire, you can taste the nuance. Would be perfect with a single malt!
—Andy Shay, Cheese Buyer, Sobeys Ontario

Fromagerie Les Folies Bergères deserves to be on the best-of-2012 list if only for the artistry of its packaging.

Fromagerie Les Folies Bergères deserves to be on the best-of-2012 list if only for the artistry of its packaging.

Sorcière Bien Aimée, Fromagerie Les Folies Bergères
A soft, unctuous goat’s milk cheese is new to the luxurious lineup of Fromagerie Les Folies Bergères cheeses. Click here for my tasting notes. Again, keep until it’s soft and ooey-gooey good.
—Vanessa Simmons, Cheese Sommelier, Savvy Company

Tuxedo Triple Creme
A delicious triple-cream from France.
Gurth Pretty, Senior Category Manager, Deli Cheese, at Loblaws

Wendy’s Own Camembert
A sheep’s milk Camembert that I made in a class at George Brown taught by Ruth Klahsen. I was not expecting success, but one out of the five cheeses I affineured actually turned out well. I was really proud of myself.
—Wendy Furtenbacher, Blogger, CurdyGirl

See also:

Outstanding cheeses of 2011

Outstanding cheeses of 2010

Cheese Gala: Manitoba chef meets Ontario ricottta

Chef Talia Syrie of Winnipeg, Manitoba

Ricotta-Stuffed Blintzes, Wine-Braised Leeks, House-Smoked Walnuts and Berry Compote:

One of eight tasting dishes prepared by eight outstanding chefs from across Canada for the Cooks & Curds Gala at the 2012 Great Canadian Cheese Festival on Saturday evening, June 2, presented by Swallow.

The Gala is the culinary and social highlight of the Cheese Festival. The first sitting at 6:00 p.m. has SOLD OUT. Second sitting at 7:00 p.m. now on sale. Don’t delay ordering your tickets!

Chefs use Canadian cheeses to create mouth-watering tasting dishes that are paired with Canadian wine, craft beer and cider. The strolling dinner concludes with an after-dinner cheese board presented by Dairy Farmers of Canada, sweets and wine.

Food Network celebrity chef Bob Blumer will make a guest appearance to prepare his signature blue-cheese cappucino made with Alpindon from Kootenay Alpine Cheese and Devil’s Rock Creamy Blue from Thornloe Cheese.

Ivy Knight, editor-in-chief of Swallow, the new online food and drink magazine, serves as Gala Co-ordinator.

Cheese Gala: A cook and curds from British Columbia

Chef Jimmy Stewart of Whistler, British Columbia.

Aerated Triple Cream Camembert with Phyllo Crisps and Spiced Almonds

One of eight tasting dishes prepared by eight outstanding chefs from across Canada for the Cooks & Curds Gala at the 2012 Great Canadian Cheese Festival on Saturday evening, June 2, presented by Swallow.

The Gala is the culinary and social highlight of the Cheese Festival. The first sitting at 6:00 p.m. has SOLD OUT. Second sitting at 7:00 p.m. now on sale. Don’t delay ordering your tickets!

Chefs use Canadian cheeses to create mouth-watering tasting dishes that are paired with Canadian wine, craft beer and cider. The strolling dinner concludes with an after-dinner cheese board presented by Dairy Farmers of Canada, sweets and wine.

Food Network celebrity chef Bob Blumer will make a guest appearance to prepare his signature blue-cheese cappucino made with Alpindon from Kootenay Alpine Cheese and Devil’s Rock Creamy Blue from Thornloe Cheese.

Ivy Knight, editor-in-chief of Swallow, the new online food and drink magazine, serves as Gala Co-ordinator.

Canadian cheeses winners in largest U.S. competition

Big winners at ACS: Alastair MacKenzie and Lucille Giroux of La Moutonnière of Ste-Hélène de Chester, Quebec.

Eighteen Canadian cheeses were honoured at this year’s American Cheese Society Judging and Competition held in Seattle on the weekend. It’s the largest cheese competition in the Americas with 225 producers from 34 U.S. states, Canada and Mexico delivering a record 1,462 cheeses and cultured dairy products for judging.

Fifteen of the winners are Quebec cheeses, two are British Columbia (Kootenay Alpine Cheese), and one is Ontario (Fifth Town Artisan Cheese). La Moutonnière won four times, the most wins for a single cheesemaker from Canada.

SOFT RIPENED CHEESES

Open Category, made from sheep’s or mixed milks

1st – Soeur Angele
Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser
Quebec

Triple Crème – soft ripened/cream added

2nd – Brie Le Trappeur Triple Crème
Damafro
Quebec

Cheesemaker Simon Hamel at work in the make room of Fromagerie Éco-Délices in Plessisville, Québec.

AMERICAN ORIGINALS

Oka

2nd – Douanier
Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser
Quebec

3rd – Mamirolle
Eco Delices
Quebec

AMERICAN MADE/INTERNATIONAL STYLE

Open Category, made from cow’s milk

2nd – Raclette Nature
Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser
Quebec

Emmental-style made from cow’s milk with eye formation

2nd – Frere Jacques
Fromagerie Abbaye St-Benoit
Quebec

3rd – Mont-Gleason
La Fromagerie 1860 DuVillage
Quebec

BLUE MOLD CHEESES

Blue-veined made from cow’s milk with a rind or external coating

3rd – Benedictin
Fromagerie Abbaye St-Benoit
Quebec

Blue-veined made from sheep’s milk or mixed milk with a rind or external coating

1st – Bleu de La Moutonnière
La Moutonnière
Quebec

FETA CHEESES

Feta made from sheep’s milk or mixed milks

2nd – Feta Naturel
La Moutonnière
Quebec

For Wayne and Denise Harris, Kootenay Alpine Cheese is family operation—from soil management to the finished award-winning product—with daughters Nadine and Erin. Photo by Imageobcura Nelson BC.

FARMSTEAD CHEESES

Open Category cow’s milk cheeses, hard

2nd – Alpindon
Kootenay Alpine Cheese
British Columbia

2nd – Nostrala
Kootenay Alpine Cheese
British Columbia

Open Category sheep’s milk and mixed milk

2nd – Fleur des Monts
La Moutonnière
Quebec

FRESH SHEEP’S MILK CHEESES

Open to all shapes and styles of rindless, unaged, fresh sheep’s milk cheeses

3rd – Cabanon
La Moutonnière
Quebec

WASHED RIND CHEESES

Open Category made from cow’s milk

2nd – Magie de Madawaska
Fromagerie Le Détour
Quebec

3rd – Guillaume Tell
Domaine Feodal
Quebec

3rd – Cantonnier
La Fromagerie 1860 DuVillage
Quebec

Open Category made from sheep’s milk or mixed milks

3rd – Bonnie and Floyd
Fifth Town Artisan Cheese
Ontario

Stephanie Diamant is the veteran cheesemaker at Fifth Town Artisan Cheese in Prince Edward County, Ontario.

Unlike other cheese competitions, where cheeses are graded down for technical defects, the American Cheese Society’s goal is to give positive recognition to those cheeses that are of the highest quality in their aesthetic evaluation (i.e. flavor, aroma, and texture), as well as their technical evaluation. As a result, the highest quality cheeses are those that the Society feels deserve the recognition of an American Cheese Society award, based on a minimum number of points awarded (totaling 100 points possible) for First, Second, or Third Place. In categories, or subcategories, where the minimum number of points is not earned, no awards are given.