Cheese Tasting Gala: What a deal for $25 per person!

Who will win Canadian Cheese of the Year honours?

Who will be named Canadian Cheese of the Year?

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

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

The competition culminates on Monday, April 7, when the Awards Ceremony begins at 3 p.m. with the announcement of 30 award winners plus the Canadian Cheese of Year followed by an Awards Reception at 5 p.m. The Awards Tasting Gala begins at 6 p.m. with the winners as well as finalists on display for tasting by the public.

Qui sera connue sous le nom de fromage de l'année?

Qui sera connue sous le nom de fromage de l’année?

More than 50 different cheeses will be available for sampling, including Canadian Cheese of the Year and 30 other award winners. Admission to the age-of-majority event includes:

Tickets are for sale only online at <http://tinyurl.com/Awards-Tickets>. Admission is $25 per person for the Awards Tasting Gala. A limited number of tickets are also available for the Awards Ceremony and Reception at $25 each.

Guests at the Tasting Gala can enhance their experience by engaging with “experts in the crowd” in red aprons–like cheese educator Julia Rogers–who will have you tasting and talking cheese like a pro from your very first bite.

Anita Stewart, culinary activist, author, founder of Food Day Canada and Food Laureate, University of Guelph, will host the festivities.

For additional information, please visit CheeseAwards.ca or telephone 1-866-865-2628.

Click here for a preview of the finalists in the search for the best artisan cheeses made in Canada.

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.

Loblaw Companies is the Marquee Sponsor.

Loblaw Companies is Marquee Sponsor.

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.

World's best food market is the Host Sponsor.

World’s best food market is Host Sponsor.

The Official Cheesemongers of the Awards are 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 being organized 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.

Canadian Cheese Awards
St. Lawrence Market North
92 Front Street East, Toronto
Monday, April 7, 2014
Website CheeseAwards.ca
Telephone 1-866-865-2628.

Psst! If Toronto on April 7 doesn’t work for you, the winners will be featured at The Great Canadian Cheese Festival on June 7 and 8. To save 15% off the ticket price for admission to the Cheese Festival, enter the promo code CF14AT before starting your order: http://cheesefestival.ca/tickets/

Lamb/goat cheese combo aces sandwich contest

North African Lamb Sandwich with Chévre,  Harissa and Figs

North African Lamb Sandwich with Chévre, Harissa and Figs.

A Montréal bartender’s concoction of lamb with chévre, harissa and figs on ciabatta was judged the best of the best in ACE Bakery’s Canada’s Best Sandwich Contest that ended today with a sandwich showdown at Loblaws Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto.

Along with the national title, Jean Émond won a $10,000 prize and $10,000 donation towards his charity of choice, World Wildlife Fund Canada. 

“I really wasn’t expecting this, but I’m so excited my recipe has earned the title of Canada’s Best Sandwich!” said Émond. “I love being adventurous in the kitchen and it’s so rewarding to know my creativity is paying off.”

Émond developed the recipe through a step-by-step process starting with his chosen protein, lamb.  From there, he layered on various ingredients and spices to create the perfect balance of flavours. See the recipe below.

Émond tends bar at Cabaret la Tulipe in Montreal. His favourite cocktail to make is Gin Fizz.

Close to 1,000 recipes were submitted from across Canada. Four regional finalists faced off this morning, creating their sandwiches in front of a judging panel and live audience at Loblaws Maple Leaf Gardens.

After tasting each of the creations, Bob Blumer, host of Food Network Canada’s World’s Weirdest Restaurants, Julie Van Rosendaal, popular Calgary-based blogger behind DinnerWithJulie.com, and Marcus Mariathas, ACE Bakery’s master baker, evaluated each recipe based on taste appeal, creativity, innovation and originality in order to select a winner.

The other three finalists were Ashley Seely from Rothesay, New Brunswick, Meghan Légère from Toronto, and, Linh Huynh from Calgary. Each finalist received $1,000 cash prize and $1,000 to donate towards their charity of choice.

One of North America’s leading artisan bakeries, ACE Bakery opened in 1993 in Toronto creating hand-made, European-style rustic breads.  The gentle shaping of each loaf, long fermentation periods, and a stone deck oven all work to create exceptionally flavourful bread with a pleasing texture and crisp crust. The breads contain no preservatives and are made with the finest ingredients. ACE Bakery’s baguettes and artisan breads are available at hundreds of restaurants, hotels, caterers, grocery and gourmet food shops across Canada, throughout the United States and the Caribbean.

ACE Bakery Canada’s Best Sandwich Contest

Winner: North African Lamb Sandwich with Harissa and Figs
Creator: Jean Émond
Region: Québec
Serving: Serves 4
The seductive flavours of Morocco mingle in this tender lamb sandwich with the spicy heat of harissa, and the sweet temptation of honey and figs.

Ingredients:

12 oz. (340 g) lamb tenderloin, cut into thin strips, 3 to 4 inches (7.6 to 10 cm) long
4 ACE Bakery Ciabatta Buns, split

Lamb Marinade

2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp. (5 mL) honey
1 Tbsp. (15 mL) olive oil
1 tsp. (5 mL) harissa paste
1 tsp. (5 mL) kosher salt
½ tsp. (2.5 mL) ras el hanout
½ tsp. (2.5 mL) cumin seeds
½ tsp. (2.5 mL) freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. (30 mL) pine nuts
¼ cup (60 mL) chopped Italian parsley

Spicy Mayo

¼ cup (60 mL) mayonnaise
1 clove minced garlic
1 tsp. (5 mL) honey
1 tsp. (5 mL) harissa paste
pinch ras el hanout

Fig and Goat Cheese Salad

2 fresh figs, diced
2 oz. (56 g) soft goat cheese, crumbled
1 tsp. (5 mL) honey
1 tsp. (5 mL) olive oil
¼ tsp. (1.25 mL) cumin powder
¼ tsp. (1.25 mL) cumin seeds
¼ tsp. (1.25 mL) ras el hanout
6 fresh mint leaves, julienned
1 cup (240 mL) baby arugula

Instructions:

In a large bowl, mix together all the marinade ingredients except the pine nuts and parsley. Add the lamb strips and marinate in the refrigerator for 1 hour to allow the flavours to mingle. Stir fry the lamb in a large wok or a skillet over medium heat until just cooked through, about 3 or 4 minutes. Stir in the pine nuts and parsley and toss to combine. To prepare the Spicy Mayo, combine all the ingredients together in a small bowl. Prepare the Fig and Goat Cheese Salad by gently tossing all the ingredients together in a small bowl until lightly coated. Add the mint and the arugula at the last moment. To assemble the sandwiches, lightly grill the ACE Bakery Ciabatta buns until warm and toasty. Spread the cut sides of each bun with some of the Spicy Mayo. On the bottom bun lay some of the seasoned lamb mixture and drizzle with some of the jus. Finish with the Fig and Goat Cheese Salad and the top bun.

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

Loblaws cracks Parmigiano-Reggiano world record

At 12 noon today, Loblaws stores across Ontario banded together to break the Guinness World Records title for the most Parmigiano-Reggiano wheels cracked simultaneously.

Employees in more than 250 stores were specially trained to crack more than 300 wheels at one time. A representative from the Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese Consortium was in attendance in Toronto at the Loblaws at Maple Leaf Gardens store as the stores attempted the historic endeavour which CheeseLover.ca witnessed at the Pickering store—mainly because we love the smell and taste of freshly cracked DOP Parm.

That’s Nunzio Coppa (left) and Phil Chamberlain displaying their handiwork in Pickering. It took them just over four minutes to crack open the 40-kilogram wheels.

The former record was 176 wheels achieved in 2008. The new record by Loblaws will be tabulated later today.

Parmigiano-Reggiano is a hard Italian cheese produced in the region of Parma, Italy, using the same recipe for almost 1,000 years. Parmigiano-Reggiano has been considered for centuries as the “king of cheese” with its amazing taste and crystalline texture. It is sold exclusively around the world through the Parmigiano-Reggiano Consortium (or Consorzio).

Great Wall of Cheese at Loblaws Maple Leaf Gardens

Artist's rendering of the cheese display at the new Loblaws flagship store.

An 18-feet-tall display of cheese will be one of the attractions at the new Loblaws at Maple Leaf Gardens when it opens to the public at 8 a.m. Wednesday. Here’s how Loblaws describes the display:

The Amazing Wall of Cheese. At a towering 18 feet, it’s quite a sight to see. We carry more than 400 varieties of cheese from around the globe; unique and exciting varieties that cheese lovers won’t be able to resist, including a sensational 100-pound wheel of Stilton – one of only 100 in the world – and the Canadian Grand Champion Louis d’Or. Featuring an extraordinary selection of cheeses available by the full wheel, half wheel or chunk and with a special focus on local Canadian products, our cheese specialists have created a special experience of scents, textures and tastes.

One of the architects of the towering display is Gurth Pretty, author of The Definitive Guide to Canadian Artisanal and Fine Cheese,  who recently joined Loblaws as Senior Category Manager, Deli Cheese.

Loblaws is promoting the new flagship store under the legendary roof at 60 Carlton Street, Toronto, as the Food’s Greatest Stage. Here are more highlights as described by Loblaws:

The Artisan Oven. You won’t be able to resist ACE Bakery’s renowned artisan breads. They’re made from scratch every day using the simplest all-natural ingredients. To top it off, we’re introducing ACE’s back-to-basics rustic Italian Pugliese crusty bread and other varieties made in our stone-deck oven. As the first store to feature a complete ACE Artisan Bakery, it’s a bakery experience you won’t be able to resist.

Chocolate chiselled by the chunk. Our Patisserie is home to irresistible handcrafted chocolate lovingly made with all-natural ingredients. It features a mouth-watering selection of cakes and cupcakes made from scratch, not to mention, ice cream cakes, cheesecakes, donuts, muffins, chocolate pops and more. And, watch first hand as we chisel chocolate from a giant block, or as we dip fruit, pretzels and more into perfectly melted chocolate.

Extraordinary egg white omelettes. Nothing starts the day right like a nutritious egg white omelette made just how you like it, right before your eyes. Our anything-but-ordinary omelettes are made using five free-run egg whites and only our freshest ingredients from throughout the store. Choose from Mushroom Herb, Asparagus & Aged Chedder, Spinach Roasted Tomato & Feta, Western with Pancetta, or Three Cheese & Walnuts. Each is served with fresh tomato salsa. Come add some magic to your morning, with chef inspired daily specials.

Postscript the following day:

Click here for a photo of the great wall of cheese. It must be Canada’s tallest fridge. Here’s an overview and a report on the opening. Here is Sue Riedl’as take on the new flagship supermarket in the Loblaws chain.