Savvy Cool Curds: Canadian Cheese-of-the-Month Club

The Cool Curds graphic says it all: Cheese has been delivered at your door.

Savvy Cool Curds graphic says it all: Cheese has been delivered go your door.

Just in time for Christmas, Debbie Trenholm and I are thrilled to announce the first all-Canadian artisan cheese-of-the-month club in Canada: Savvy Cool Curds.

Savvy Cool Curds is our “whey” of strengthening the bond between Canadian cheese producers and consumers, sharing the stories behind the uber-talented, passionate, creative and often eclectic individuals who give so much of themselves for the enjoyment of others through one of the world’s favourite foods.

image001Over close to ten years of working with cheesemakers, distributors, industry associations, cheesemongers, retailers and sommeliers across our nation, never has it been so important to support local. Even in the face of increased competition from imports, Canadian cheesemakers are shining on a world culinary stage, trending big wins in major competitions such as the American Cheese Society Competition and the World Cheese Awards. Proof positive that we don’t have to look farther than our own backyard for a wide variety of tasty artisan cheese that rivals any across the globe.

For $55/month ($60 after December 30), your Savvy Cool Curds subscription brings all this cheesy goodness right to your front door.

Each month, a different Canadian artisan producer will take the spotlight and you’ll receive a package to delight: 4-5 hand-selected delicious cheeses (just less than 1 kg), plus my tasting notes, tips and tricks, along with cheese-laden recipes in our Curd On The Street eZine. Plus, you’ll become a VIP member of the Savvy Company family, giving you VIP invitations and special discounts to Savvy Events featuring Canadian artisan cheese, wines, and craft beer, too!

Our first months feature delicious Canadian artisan cheeses from Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese, Cow’s Creamery, Back Forty Artisan Cheese, Fromagerie Les Folies Bergères, and new on the scene Lighthall Vineyards & Dairy.

Canadian artisan cheese brings joy to my life everyday. Cow, sheep, goat and buffalo milk cheeses. Cheddar, aged and sharp, washed rind, soft and delicate, fresh, fruity, blue and bold or rustic and vegetal, they’re all so delicious.

Through Savvy Cool Curds, you, too, can experience the same cheesy pleasure. It’s the gift that keeps on giving (for others or yourself). Sign up today and spread the curd!

                                 —Guest blog by Vanessa Simmons, Cheese Sommelier, Curator, Savvy Cool Curds, Savvy Company

How to get to the Cheese Festival without driving

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You don’t own a car? Or you don’t want to drive! No problem! We have ways to get you to The Great Canadian Cheese Festival without wheels of your own.

From Toronto:

Join a guided bus tour from Toronto to the Cheese Festival organized by Culinary Adventure Company, with tastings at two wineries, gourmet lunch and Grab & Go Breakfast at CHEESEWERKS. Click here for more info and tickets.

From Ottawa and Kingston:

Enjoy a roundtrip coach package with Savvy Company leaving from Ottawa with pick-ups in Kingston. After an afternoon at the Cheese Festival, you will tour the back roads of Prince Edward County to visit two wineries, then back to Picton Fairgrounds for a fun dinner at Makers+Mongers in Cheeseburger Paradise. Click here for more info and tickets.

Entirely on your own:

Getting to Picton without a car is doable—but it calls for two steps. First, get to Belleville by Greyhound or Via Rail. Then, use the local transportation service, Deseronto Transit, to get to the Fairgrounds. Match up the two schedules and you’ll be enjoying cheese in no time. Another helpful resource: Prince Edward County Ride Share.

Save 10% off admission prices by ordering tickets online in advance. No waiting in line as the Express Entrance will quickly whisk you into all the deliciousness. Enter the promo code CF15WEB before starting your online ticket order here: http://cheesefestival.ca/tickets/

We look forward to welcoming you to the biggest cheese show in Canada.

—Festival Organizing Group aka Cheese FOG

 

Best Bites: Twelve outstanding cheeses of 2014

We lower the curtain on 2014 with Vanessa Simmons, respected cheese sommelier at Savvy Company in Ottawa, recalling the 12 Canadian cheeses that made the year memorable for her palate. Check out her tasting notes and make up your shopping list for the next visit to a cheese shop.

Glengarry-Celtic-Blue

  • Celtic Blue Reserve: Glengarry Fine Cheese
  • Even more robust, buttery than the Celtic Blue we know and love from Glengarry Fine Cheese.

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  • Taliah: Taliah
  • New-on-the-scene earthy ewe’s milk clothbound cheddar from Québec.

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  • Lenberg Farms Classic Reserve by Celebrity Lindsay Bandaged Cheddar: Mariposa Dairy
  • Continues to wow year after year. Tangy, fruity, yet clean.

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  • Bonnechere 2 year: Back Forty Artisan Cheese
  • One-of-a-kind and very rare to find aged. Packs a punch of flavour with awesome bite on the finish.

magie

  • Magie De Madawaska: Fromagerie le Détour
  • Runny, lucious, creamy, buttery, nutty and ooey-gooey good when perfectly à point (fully ripened).

Canadian Cheese Awards

  •  Bella Casara Mascarpone: Quality Cheese
  • Rich, and oh so sinful, with flavors of butter, cream and a hint of sweet dulce de leche (to quote myself!). Eat right from the spoon.

burrata

  • Quality Cheese Hand-Pulled Burrata: Quality Cheese
  • Heaven. Pure indulgence. Need I say more?

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  •  Sylvan Star Natural Smoked Gouda: Sylvan Star Cheese Farm
  • Surprising! Hints of bacon, maple and smoke, with an overlay of butter and nut rounding out its smooth and supple texture.

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madelaine

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  • Pont Blanc: Au Grés des Champs
  • Texture of soft ice cream sandwich with flavours and aromas of fresh sweet milk and grass that lingers and lingers.

laliberte

See also:

Pilgrimage to a Canadian cheese lover’s Mecca

Vanessa and I stopped shopping for cheese and charcuterie at Marché Jean-Talon when we were left with nothing but coins in our pockets. Photo by SO.

When they want to pay homage to fromage, cheese lovers in Europe make a pilgrimage to France. In the U.S., the destination is Vermont or California. In Canada, there is only one choice: Québec.

Despite much progress in Ontario and British Columbia in the last decade, Québec remains Canada’s leading artisan-cheese region. With about half of Canada’s 180 cheese producers based in Québec, its leading role isn’t likely to end anytime soon.

For Canadian cheese lovers, the easiest way to find Mecca in Québec is to visit Marché Jean-Talon in Montréal. Which is what Significant Other and I did with a great friend in cheese, Vanessa Simmons, cheese sommelier at Savvy Company in Ottawa. We have many friends who love cheese, many friends who love food, but only in Vanessa do SO and I find an appetite for food, drink and adventure to match ours.

We warmed up for Marché Jean-Talon by visiting Complexe Desjardins in downtown Montreal to say hello to cheesemakers taking part in the annual La Fête des fromages d’ici. It was good to see so many producers represented by Plaisirs Gourmets at the show. SO and I sampled our way around for several hours and then caught up with Vanessa to compare notes and purchases. No surprise that our wallets were $150 lighter and bags similarly heavier.

What makes Marché Jean-Talon such a perfect Mecca for cheese lovers is that here one finds:

and across the lane:

Short of spending weeks driving from cheesemaker to cheesemaker around Québec, it doesn’t get much better than this.

Two hours and more than $350 later, here’s what we had in our cooler bags:

OUR HAUL

IN VANESSA’S COOLER

CHARCUTERIE

Smoked meat at Schwartz's, fatty and fabulous.

Smoked meat at Schwartz’s, fatty and fabulous. Photo by VS.

And if all that wasn’t enough, Vanessa forced us to accompany her to Schwartz’s Montréal Hebrew Delicatessen for lunch of the most famous smoked meat in Canada. Oh, the agony!

 —Georgs Kolesnikovs

Georgs Kolesnikovs, cheesehead-in-cheef at CheeseLover.ca and director of The Great Canadian Cheese Festival, lived in Montréal when Oka was still made Trappists at Oka. Way back then, his smoked-meat emporium of record was Bens De Luxe Delicatessen & Restaurant founded in 1908 by Latvian immigrants Ben and Fanny Kravitz.

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

Cheesemaker on hunger strike against bureaucracy

Josef Regli of Canreg Station Farm and Pasture Dairy near Cornwall, Ontario, has gone on a hunger strike to protest attempts by South Stormount township council to apply regulations that are near-impossible for a small producer.

Regli, originally from Switzerland, says he attempted a small expansion when demand for the farmstead cheese he produces started to grow. Regli admits his mistake was not seeking a permit, but once he tried to correct it with the municipality, administrators wanted to treat him like a major cheese producer instead of the tiny farmer he says he is. It meant costs and rules he simply wouldn’t be able to afford.

Read more and watch video: http://ottawa.ctvnews.ca/farmer-battles-bureaucracy-with-extreme-measures-1.106118

Regli and his family have been legally producing sheep’s milk cheese since 2008. Canreg’s cheese has found many fans, including Vanessa Simmons, cheese sommelier at Savvy Company. Click here to read her take on Pecorino Classico.

UPDATE

“Because of the great support and the direct intervention from so many people, the situation is for now somehow under control,” Josef Regli said an email to CheeseLover.ca on December 2. “The Township officials are in the progress of working out a feasible solution together with us.”