Best cheeses of the “British Empire” in 2010

Lori Legacey, cheesemaker at Mariposa Dairy, has a sniff of a 19-kilo wheel of cheddar. The dairy's Lindsay Bandage Cheddar beat out 40 other goat-milk cheeses in the British Empire Cheese Competition. Photo by Lisa Gervais/The Lindsay Post.

Here are the results of the cheese competition at the 83rd annual British Empire Cheese Show organized by Central Ontario Cheesemakers Association:

The Alexis De Portneuf division of cheese giant Saputo was crowned Grand Champion.

Quebec cheesemaker Fromagerie La Vache à Maillotte was named Reserve Champion.

Fifth Town Artisan Cheese, an artisan cheesemaker  in Ontario’s Prince Edward County, was honoured with the Finica Food Specialties Award.

In the cheddar class, Parmalat Canada was recognized as Grand Champion. Reserve Champion honours went to Fromagerie Isle-aux-Grues.

Glengarry Fine Cheese, after an excellent showing at Royal Winter Fair, picked up several more awards at British Empire, as reported in Eastern Ontario AgriNews.

Here are the top three in each class of the competition:

ARTISAN

Goat Milk Cheese

  1. Lindsay Bandage Cheddar, Mariposa Dairy (Finica Food Specialties)
  2. Cape Vessey, Fifth Town Artisan Cheese
  3. Operetta, Fifth Town Artisan Cheese

Sheep Milk Cheese

  1. Bonnie and Floyd, Fifth Town Artisan Cheese
  2. Toscano, Monforte Dairy
  3. Wishing Tree, Fifth Town Artisan Cheese

SPECIALTY CLASS

Hard Cheese Type

  1. Glengarry Fen, Glengarry Fine Cheese
  2. Lankaaster Aged, Glengarry Fine Cheese
  3. Romano, St. Albert Cheese Co-Operative

Firm Cheese Type

  1. Lankaaster Medium, Glengarry Fine Cheese
  2. Nouvelle France, Agropur
  3. Fondue Prestigio, Agropur

Swiss Cheese Type

  1. Artisan, Agropur
  2. Swiss, Fromagerie Lemaire
  3. Mont Gleason, Saputo/Fromagerie 1860 DuVillage

Semi-Firm Cheese Type

  1. Raclette du Village, Saputo/Fromagerie 1860 DuVillage
  2. Le Cabouron, Fromagerie Blackburn (Fromages CDA)
  3. Le Cendre, Saputo/Fromagerie 1860 DuVillage

Fresh Cheese Type

  1. Mascarpone, Arla Foods
  2. Ricotta, Quality Cheese
  3. Prestigio Ricotta, Agropur

Soft Rind Cheese Type

  1. St. Honoré, Saputo/Alexis De Portneuf
  2. Triple Crème du Village, Saputo/Fromagerie 1860 DuVillage
  3. Cendre de Lune, Saputo/Fromagerie 1860 DuVillage

Smear Ripened Type

  1. Mamirolle, Fromagerie Eco Delices (Fromages CDA)
  2. Mont Jacob, Fromagerie Blackburn (Fromages CDA)
  3. Raclette, Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser (Fromages CDA)

Flavoured Soft Type

  1. Lady Laurier d’Arthabaska, Saputo/Fromagerie 1860 DuVillage
  2. Raclette Oka, Agropur
  3. Chevalier Tomato Basil, Agropur

Flavoured Firm Type

  1. Lankaaster Chive, Glengarry Fine Cheese
  2. Smoked Cheddar, Parmalat Canada
  3. Lankaaster Cumin, Glengarry Fine Cheese

Blue Veined Cheese

  1. Celtic Blue, Glengarry Fine Cheese
  2. La Roche Noire, Saputo/Alexis De Portneuf
  3. Bleubry, Saputo/Alexis De Portneuf

American Style Type

  1. Brick, St. Albert Cheese Co-Operative
  2. Monterey Jack, Bothwell Cheese
  3. American Mozzarella, Parmalat Canada

Pasta Filata Type

  1. Bocconcini, International Cheese
  2. Burrata, Quality Cheese
  3. Fresh Mozzarella, Quality Cheese

Goat Milk Cheese

  1. Le Paillot de Chevre, Saputo/Alexis De Portneuf
  2. Rondoux Chevre, Agropur
  3. Chevrita, Agropur

Sheep Milk Cheese

  1. Allegretto, Fromagerie La Vache a Maillotte
  2. Bedda Fedda, Fifth Town Artisan Cheese
  3. Blossom, Monforte Dairy

Process Cheese

  1. Spreadable Cream Cheese Product, Parmalat Canada
  2. Spreadable Cream Cheese Product, Parmalat Canada
  3. Spreadable Cream Cheese Product, Parmalat Canada

CHEDDAR

Mild White or Coloured Cheddar – Less than 2 months of age, 40 lb. or more

  1. Parmalat Canada
  2. Empire Cheese & Butter Coop
  3. Black River Cheese

Medium White Cheddar – 3 to 6 months of age, 40 lb. or more

  1. Parmalat Canada
  2. Fromagerie Isle-aux-Grues
  3. Amalgamated Dairies

Medium Coloured Cheddar – 3 to 6 months of age, 40 lb. or more

  1. Parmalat Canada
  2. Bothwell Cheese
  3. Empire Cheese & Butter Co-op

Marbled Cheddar – any age, 40 lb. or more

  1. Bothwell Cheese
  2. Empire Cheese & Butter Co-Op
  3. St. Albert Cheese Co-Operative

Mature Cheddar – 12 to 15 months of age, 40 lb. or more

  1. Parmalat Canada
  2. St. Albert Cheese
  3. Fromagerie Isle-aux-Grues

Extra Mature Cheddar – 24 to 36 months of age, 40 lb. or more

  1. Parmalat Canada
  2. Maple Dale Cheese
  3. St. Albert Cheese Co-Operative

Cheese just one delight at Slow Food/Evergreen Picnic at Brick Works in Toronto

A 90-minute nap was in order after three hours of grazing at the fourth annual Slow Food/Evergreen Picnic at Brick Works in Toronto today. A capacity crowd of 1,200 sampled the best of Ontario’s sustainable harvest as presented by top chefs and leading producers, supported by a bevy of winemakers, craft brewers and producers of fruit wine and hard cider.

Here’s how the Brick Works Picnic works: A chef, such as Giacomo Pasquini of Vertical Restaurant creates a dish—Tortello, in this example—using fresh ingredients from Bzikot-family run Best Baa Farm—sheep’s milk ricotta and a brebis frais filling—with a light lamb jus and vegetables—dried organic veggies and live kale sprouts—grown by Pfenning family-run Pfenning’s Organic Farm.

The tortello is served in a simple presentation mere seconds after it is made by the chef’s crew in one of 66—Yes, 66!—food stations spread through the renovated Brick Works, a singular cultural showcase devoted to urban sustainability and green living.

Monforte Dairy provided the Toscano cheese that was at the heart of the savoury thyme pound cake created by Table 17.

Fifth Town Artisan Cheese was the only cheesemaker with a display of its own. Petra Cooper (at left) spread the gospel while Ezra Title of Chez Vous presented double-baked fingerlings made with double-smoked bacon and three Fifth Town cheeses, Cape Vessey, Chevre and Plain Jane.

At the Cheese Boutique display, Afrim Pristine was kept busy cutting a 10-year-old cheddar that the cheese shop purchased from historic Forfar Dairy before it churned its last curds in 2008.

But cheese played only a small role in the event overall as some of the best cooks in Ontario showed their mastery of a wide variety of agricultural products from close to home. Among the many stand-outs:

Stand-outs in adult beverages:

Here’s an excellent selection of Suresh Doss photographs from the Picnic. See also the photo essay by Jamie Drummond at Good Food Revolution.

If you’re a foodie within reach of Toronto, the annual Picnic at Brick Works to benefit Slow Food Toronto and Evergreen is an event not to be missed.

—Georgs Kolesnikovs

Even after the nap and a brush of teeth, the marvellous taste of Zane Caplansky’s smoked meat lingers on the palate . . .

The joy of working over lunch—with Canadian cheese

Jamie Kennedy's take on poutine at Gilead Cafe.

Planning is well under way for the first Great Canadian Cheese Festival in 2011. That often means lunch meetings which, happily, means cheese on the table.

I had a chance to meet with Canadian cheese maven Kathy Guidi over lunch at Jamie Kennedy’s Gilead Cafe recently. What a treat it was to talk to Kathy—what with her decades of experience in Canadian cheese—and to enjoy one of Chef’s unique poutines: perfect frites with a healthy dollop of sauce bolognaise laced with Monforte Dairy’s Toscano cheese. I could have easily ordered a second serving but we had decided on a cheese plate for dessert, so I had to hold myself in check.

The cheese plate featured:

Le Rassembleu, an organic farmstead blue cheese from Fromagiers de la Table Ronde in the Laurentides region of Quebec. It has a lively creamy flavour, with the aroma of hay. The producers are fourth-generation cheesemakers.

Mouton Rouge, on the other hand, pleases the nose with a fresh and grassy aroma. A raw sheep-milk cheese created by Ewenity Dairy Co-operative in Southwestern Ontario, it has a lovely buttery taste that plays against the nutty reddish rind.

Grey Owl, a pasteurized goat-milk chèvre from Fromagerie la Detour in the Bas-Saint-Laurent region of Quebec, near the New Brunswick border, looks and tastes outstanding, from its snowy white interior to riper regions to the black ash exterior.

Le Bleu d’Élizabeth, Pied-de-Vent and Louis d'Or at the home office.

A working lunch in the home office with festival co-ordinator Kip Jacques isn’t half bad either when the cheese plate features:

Pied-de-Vent, from the Magdalen Islands in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, is an an all-time favorite of mine. Smelly, creamy and tasty, Pied-de-Vent is my idea of a great cheese. Despite what some cheesemongers may tell you, it is available in Ontario.

Louis d’Or, a flavourful, complex Gruyere-like washed-rind cheese is made with the raw milk of the cheesemaker’s own Holstein and Jersey cows at Fromagerie du Presbytère in Central Quebec. Quite possibly, it’s Canada’s best “Swiss cheese.”

Le Bleu d’Élizabeth comes from the same Fromagerie du Presbytère and is an outstanding example of a Quebec blue. No, it’s defintely not named after Queen Elizabeth but rather Sainte-Élizabeth de Warwick. The creamery occupies a former rectory in the village.

There is one other cheese plate in my notes from another working lunch but it was so disappointing that the proper thing to do would be to return to the name restaurant for another tasting before naming names.

One name I’d like to mention is Ezra’s Pound, a fair-trade coffee shop on Toronto’s Dupont Street. I’m so glad Andy Shay, a man of many talents when it comes to cheese, suggested we meet there as the croissants are to die for.

—Georgs Kolesnikovs

Have we mentioned that Georgs Kolesnikovs, Cheese-Head-in-Chief at CheeseLover.ca, loves his cheese?

A Canadian cheese plate fit for the G20

Le Belle de Jersey ~ Les Bergeries du Fjord

Thank goodness the G20 madness in Toronto is over. The politicians have departed, the hooligans are in jail, the barricades are coming down. As far as we can see, the only bright note was the promotional opportunity for Canadian cheese.

The main meal for the assembled world leaders in the Royal York Hotel began with an appetizer of fresh Atlantic seafood followed by custom-aged filet mignon from the Spring Creek Ranch in Alberta.

Blue Juliette ~ Salt Spring Island Cheese

They then sampled a selection of four Canadian cheeses: Blue Juliette from Salt Spring Island Cheese in British Columbia, a Toscano from Ontario’s Monforte Dairy, and two Quebec artisan offerings—Le Belle de Jersey from Les Bergeries du Fjord and La Fleurmier from Laiterie Charlevoix.

(No snide remarks, please, about the preponderance of soft “girly” cheeses at this alpha-male feast.)

Each course was paired with red and white Canadian wines, and the food will be served on white bone Villeroy & Boch china. A dessert buffet featured Nanaimo bars and the work of two Toronto chocolatiers.

Julia Rogers of Cheese Culture, a leading expert on Canadian cheeses, and foreign fromage, too, was delighted for the cheese producers involved:

“Bravo to the creative Canadian cheesemakers who’ve managed to score some face-time with the world’s leaders. The selection features delicate, surface-ripened Fleurmier, from Québec’s dairy mecca: the Charlevoix region. Belle de Jersey highlights the rich milk of English Channel Island cows—a rare breed in Canada—in a supple, Reblochon-esque washed rind. B.C.’s contribution comes from David Wood, whose Salt Spring Island cheeses are appreciated across the country. Blue Juliette is a petite, pillowy round with earthy, mineral flavours and a steely blue-grey complexion. Rounding out the plate, and giving it some muscle, is Monforte Dairy’s Toscano, a firm and forthright sheep milk offering that despite its Ontario origin, expresses Central Italian caccio di pecora typicity.”

La Fleurmier ~ Laiterie Charlevoix

Here are links to more information about the G20 cheese plate:

Le Fleurmier
Latterie Charlevoix
Baie-St-Paul, Charlevoix region of Quebec

Le Belle de Jersey
Les Bergeries du Fjord
La Baie, Saguenay region of Québec

Blue Juliette
Salt Spring Island Cheese
Salt Spring Island, Gulf Islands region of British Columbia

Toscano
Monforte Dairy
Stratford, Southwestern Ontario

Toscano ~ Monforte Dairy

At CheeseLover.ca, we’ve enjoyed Le Fermier and Toscano in the past, but now, thanks to the G20, we have Le Belle de Jersey and Blue Juliette on our shopping list.

—Georgs Kolesnikovs

Georgs Kolesnikovs is Cheese-Head-in-Chief at CheeseLover.ca. His date with Le Belle de Jersey and Blue Juliette will have to wait as the cheese bin still is full of souvenirs from Warwick.

Ruth Klahsen leads a renaissance at Monforte

We interview Ruth Klahsen of Monforte Dairy at St. Lawrence Market in Toronto.

The cheese is remarkable, the woman behind the cheese even more so.

First, the cheese. Toscano was the first cheese Ruth Klahsen made when she overcame considerable odds to open Monforte Dairy in Stratford, Ontario, six years ago.

Toscano is one of the oldest cheeses in recorded history, going back some 2,500 years in Italy. The full name is Pecorino Toscano, from “pecora,” Italian for sheep. At Monforte, Ruth uses pasteurized sheep’s milk from Mennonite farmers to make the pressed cheese that’s aged a minimum of six months.

The result is a rustic, earthy taste that lingers long after the swallow. You can taste the farm in the natural rind (which requires two brushings per week during the aging process). A lovely aroma announces it’s a sheep cheese even before you cut into Toscano.

No wonder it has become Monforte’s most successful cheese and a favourite of chefs for the way it grates nicely over pasta or rice. With a dab of fig jam, it works well on a cheese plate, too.

Now, the woman. Ruth Klahsen describes herself as “just an old broad who had a mid-life crisis.”

Prior to 2004, she was a chef in Stratford, at Rundles, Old Prune and the Stratford Festival’s Green Room. Her mid-life crisis was that more than anything, she wanted to make cheese. Thus, it came to pass that she mortgaged everything she owned to raise $250,000 to start a cheesemaking business with Sebastiano Monforte, an expert in the cheese arts. Unfortunately, just before the business was to open, Sebastiano quit. Then, $160,000 worth of cheese had to be discarded because of bacterial issues.

With only $2,000 left in the bank, Ruth soldiered on alone. She selected Toscano out of a book on cheese because she liked its appearance, figured out how to make it, and, well, the rest is history that four years later led Toronto Life magazine to declare that Monforte Dairy “makes the best cheeses in Ontario. Full stop.

Ruth proved to be as inventive in making cheese as she was accomplished but her greatest challenge lay ahead.

In 2008, her landlord raised the rent to a level that was simply uneconomical for an artisan cheesemaker. No matter where she turned, Ruth found dead-ends and eventually closed down operations.

Undaunted, she launched Monforte Renaissance 2010 to raise funds for a new dairy using an innovative model known as Community Shared Agriculture (CSA). In a CSA project, subscribers prepay for product, thus, providing financing.

Monforte has three subscription levels, $200, $500 and $1,000, whereby supporters will receive $250, $750 and $1,500 of Monforte cheese over five years.

Says Ruth on her website: “We think this is a revolutionary concept. Monforte Renaissance 2010 is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to affect directly the politics of food in Ontario. By participating, you’re helping establish a business model that should spearhead meaningful growth in micro-production, making it a more viable way of life for farmers and shepherds while providing consumers with higher quality products. If we can make this work—and we’re confident we can—Renaissance 2010 might just open the door to a new day for farmers and consumers alike.”

Renaissance 2010 is indeed working. To date, 791 subscribers have purchased subscriptions totaling $357,500.

The target is $500,000 from 1,000 subscribers by April 25 when the Monforte Hootenanny for supporters takes place at the Stratford Festival Theatre Lobby.

Click here to sign up. We already have.

—Georgs Kolesnikovs

Georgs Kolesnikovs is Cheese-Head-in-Chief at CheeseLover.ca.