Best Bites: Ten most memorable Canadian cheeses of 2018

It’s time to bring the curtain down on another year and to recall the memorable Canadian cheese tasted during 2018—with the help of friends in fromage.

Plus an outstanding butter, one of several grass-fed butters that have appeared on the market this year.

Vanessa Simmons, cheese sommelier at Savvy Company and Savvy Cool Curds, the first artisan cheese-of-the-month club featuring hard-to-come-by cheese made across Canada, selected five very different cheeses:

Hatley Road – Fromagerie La Station, Compton, Québec

Hatley has been showing beautifully in 2018 on cheeseboards as a rich, full flavour washed-rind cheese made with organic farmstead milk. A blend of milky, fruity and nutty flavours balanced with salt. As far as award winners go, it’s not hard to see why!

Fleuron – Fromagerie de la Table Ronde, Sainte-Sophie, Québec

A natural, rustic, salt and pepper looking rind covers this elegant, tall column-shaped organic cow’s milk blue cheese. Inside hides a soft, often oozy, pale ivory paste with slate-grey veining, concentrated closer to the centre of the cheese. Earthy, woody and fungal aromas blend nicely with vegetal, creamy and slight salty flavours, making it the perfect mid-range blue for tasting pleasure.

Figaro – Glengarry Fine Cheese, Lancaster, Ontario

Ever since I started in the Canadian cheese industry, Figaro has made and remained on my Top 10 list.  Yeasty and rich, lactic, full of creamy, tangy flavour, it’s always a crowd-pleaser, disappearing in minutes!

Cranberry Chèvre – Mariposa Dairy, Lindsay, Ontario 

Cranberry Chèvre is nothing short of “wow” as a perfect blend of both sweet and savoury flavours where fruity goodness meets tarty tang rounded off by the mild spicy hint of cinnamon. As a final step in making the cheese, plump cranberries are hand-rolled onto the fresh chèvre logs to ensure full coverage and less damage to the fruit—guaranteeing a gorgeous display for your holiday cheese board.

Maggie’s Cheese Ball – Fromagerie Les Folies Bergères, Saint-Sixte, Québec

This holiday treasure is only available locally, and seasonally at Christmas time—made with love by Maggie Paradis. A blend of her local cow, goat and sheep milk cheeses, it’s a savoury sensation rolled in crushed pecans, rich and velvety in texture and sharp with a mild onion flavour.

Here are two picks from Jackie Armet, cheese co-ordinator at Canadian Cheese Awards and The Great Canadian Cheese Festival:

Grey Owl – Fromagerie Le Détour, Témiscouata-sur-le-Lac, Québec

At every meeting of the Awards and Cheese Festival organizing committee, I’m asked to bring a selection of Canadian cheeses for us to graze on while planning our cheese events. One cheese that stopped the discussion was Grey Owl. It was in perfect condition, with its beautiful contrast in paste and rind, and a dazzling flavour of lemon and tang in your month. It took us 20 minutes to get back to our meeting. It is cheese that always starts a conversation.

Mountainoak Farmstead 2-year Aged Gouda – Mountainoak Cheese, New Hamburg, Ontario

Everyone needs a go-to cheese. With a texture like parmesan, the subtle crunch, quality milk and consistency, you can’t help snacking on this cheese. Well done, Mountainoak!

For Janice Beaton of Janice Beaton Cheese Partners, there is only a single highlight:

Big Momma – Monforte Dairy, Stratford, Ontario

Hands down for me this year’s Best Bite was Big Momma, from Ruth Khlasen and Monforte Dairy. It blew me away. Perhaps I had the good fortune of tasting from a sublime piece—lucky me! The combination of pillowy, creamy smooth texture and the outstanding flavour of water buffalo milk, it t was all sweetness and light. With a good measure of enduring flavour underpinning the whole experience: gently lactic and subtly earthy. Wowza! It’s been a while since I’ve been transported when cheese hits my palate. Big Momma took me there!

Whenever we visit La Belle Province, we seek out outstanding cheese that we cannot find in Ontario, fromage that is provincially licensed and thus not available outside Québec. At Yannick Fromagerie, in the Vieux Limoilou neighbourhood of Québec City, Nathalie Filion, introduced us to one such cheese:

Kénogami – Fromagerie Lehmann, Hébertville, Québec

Kénogami, a soft washed-rind beauty made by Fromagerie Lehmann with thermized milk from Brown Swiss cows in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region. It presents a wonderful soft, herbal aroma and tastes of cream, butter and nut.

The Lehmann family is very conscientious about the care they provide both to their animals and to their pasture. The farm uses no GMOs, no pesticides and no chemical fertilizer. They rely on a variety of wild plants to feed the small herd in the summer and in the winter they feed them hay and grain produced on the farm.

Curé-Hébert – Fromagerie l’Autre Versant, Hébertville, Québec

There is something special about the climate and the soil in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region as the final outstanding cheese of the 2018 Top 10 comes from a fromagerie a few kilometres from Fromagerie Lehmann.

Curé-Hébert is semi-soft, washed-rind farm cheese made with raw milk drawn from the Fromagerie l’Autre Versant’s herd of Ayrshire cows. Its orange-brown rind is partially covered by a fluffy white coat. Curé-Hébert features a mild aroma of cream, butter, mushroom and a hint of sweetness (honey or caramel). It tastes very slightly rustic and sweet.

Andy Shay, a long-time friend in fromage who recently moved from Sobeys Ontario to oversee cheese and charcuterie at Jan K Overweel Ltd., threw us a curve, albeit a welcome one:

Can-Dairy founders Mitch Yurkiw and Drew McIver.

Actually, mine is not cheese, but butter, and a tiny amount of cheese. Emerald Grasslands sets a new benchmark in the fast-growing Canadian butter category. Clarksburg-based Can-Dairy founders Mitch Yurkiw and Drew McIver are trying to make the world a better place, one delicious pat of butter at a time!

They contract milk only with Jersey cow farmers, known for their extra thick and yellow cream. But these are not just ordinary Jersey cows, they are certified grass fed on regenerative (sustainable) organic farms. With this amazing milk, Emerald Grasslands churns, a more gentle process on the fat structure, the butter and produces 84% MF butter—perfect for baking pastries.  For their salted version they sourced hand-harvested sea salt from Vancouver Island Salt Company, near Courtenay, British Columbia.

The result of all this care in sourcing and production is a mind-blowing, super-creamy butter that is rich and with floral notes, a rusticity of cows and just the right hint of salt. Truly. the way to make the most of an artisan crusty bread.  We rarely have a chance to taste the wonders of Echire or Isigny St. Mere, but now, maybe that is OK.

Rich and Drew are next using some of their milk for making Cheddar. I had the chance to taste an early prototype and as a guy who buys Iles aux Grues 2-year cheddar by the 40 lb block, I can tell you we should all hope to see this cheese in a store one day soon!

—Georgs Kolesnikovs, cheese-head-in-chief at CheeseLover.ca, is the founder of Canadian Cheese Awards and The Great Canadian Cheese Festival.

Video Wednesday: Brief history of cheese

Award-winning cheese board for holidays, or any occasion

Here are five sure bets for an outstanding cheese board at Christmas. They are the five highest-scoring cheeses in the final round of judging at the 2018 Canadian Cheese Awards, the biggest cheese judging and competition in the land.

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How many nominees for Cheese of the Year have you tasted?

Le Baluchon: 2014 Cheese of the Year. This year, it’s nominated for Best Organic Cheese.

Here you have them, the 117 finalists in the 2018 Canadian Cheese Awards competition, the biggest independent judging of cheese in Canada.

Winners and all finalists will be introduced to the public at Canada’s first-ever Artisan Cheese Night Market on June 7 at historic St. Lawrence Market in Toronto.

MAIN CATEGORIES (19) CATÉGORIES PRINCIPALES

FRESH CHEESE – FROMAGE FRAIS

FRESH PASTA FILATA CHEESE – FROMAGE À PÂTE FILÉE

SEMI-SOFT CHEESE – FROMAGE À PÂTE  SEMI-FILÉE

FETA/CHEESE IN BRINE – Feta / FROMAGE EN SAUMURE

FIRM CHEESE –  FROMAGE À PÂTE FERME

FIRM CHEESE WITH HOLES (Swiss-style) – FROMAGE À PÂTE FERME AVEC OUVERTURES

WASHED RIND CHEESE – FROMAGE À CROÛTE LAVÉE

MIXED RIND CHEESE – FROMAGE À CROÛTE MIXTE

BLOOMY RIND CHEESE – PÂTE MOLLE À CROÛTE FLEURIE

LACTIC RIPENED CHEESE – Fromage Lactique à croûte fleurie

MILD & MEDIUM CHEDDAR (aged up to 9 months) – CHEDDAR DOUX & MOYEN (maximum de 9 mois d’affinage)

OLD CHEDDAR (aged from 9 to 18 months) – CHEDDAR FORT (entre 9 et 18 mois d’affinage)

AGED CHEDDAR (aged more than 18 months) – CHEDDAR VIEILLI (plus de 18 mois d’affinage)

  • Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar — Cows Creamery, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
  • Cows Creamery 3 Year Old Cheddar— Cows Creamery, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
  • Cows Creamery 2 Year Old Cheddar — Cows Creamery, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island

GOUDA CHEESE – FROMAGE GOUDA

BLUE CHEESE – FROMAGE À PÂTE PERSILLÉE

FLAVOURED CHEESE – FROMAGE AROMATISÉ

FLAVOURED FRESH CHEESE – FROMAGES FRAIS AROMATISÉS

SMOKED CHEESE – FROMAGE FUMÉ

GRILLING CHEESE – FROMAGE À GRILLER

SPECIAL AWARDS (9) PRIX SPÉCIAUX

BEST COW’S MILK CHEESE – MEILLEUR FROMAGE DE LAIT DE VACHE

BEST GOAT’S MILK CHEESE – MEILLEUR FROMAGE DE LAIT DE CHÈVRE

BEST SHEEP’S MILK CHEESE – MEILLEUR FROMAGE DE LAIT DE BREBIS

BEST WATER BUFFALO MILK CHEESE – MEILLEUR FROMAGE DE LAIT DE BUFFLONNE

BEST BLENDED-MILK CHEESE – MEILLEUR FROMAGE DE LAIT MIXTE

BEST FARMSTEAD CHEESE – MEILLEUR FROMAGE FERMIER

BEST ORGANIC CHEESE – MEILLEUR FROMAGE BIOLOGIQUE

BEST RAW-MILK CHEESE – MEILLEUR FROMAGE DE LAIT CRU

BEST NEW CHEESE (introduced to market during 2017) – MEILLEUR NOUVEAU FROMAGE (Mis en marché en 2017)

  • Cows Creamery 2 Year Old Cheddar — Cows Creamery, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
  • Cows Creamery 3 Year Old Cheddar — Cows Creamery, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
  • Mountainoak Farmstead 3 Year Old — Mountainoak Cheese, New Hamburg, Ontario

REGIONAL AWARDS (5) PRIX RÉGIONAUX

BEST B.C. CHEESE – MEILLEUR FROMAGE DE LA COLOMBIE BRITANNIQUE

BEST WEST CHEESE – MEILLEUR FROMAGE DE L’OUEST (Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba

BEST ONTARIO CHEESE – MEILLEUR FROMAGE DE L’ONTARIO

BEST QUEBEC CHEESE – MEILLEUR FROMAGE DU QUÉBEC

BEST ATLANTIC CANADA CHEESE – MEILLEUR FROMAGE DES PROVINCES ATLANTIQUES

  • Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar — Cows Creamery, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
  • Cows Creamery Appletree Smoked Cheddar — Cows Creamery, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
  • Cows Creamery 3 Year Old Cheddar — Cows Creamery, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island

Cheese is listed alphabetically within each category or award. Where more than three finalists are shown, there were many entries and close scores. The Cheese of the Year was selected after several rounds of blind tastings of the best cheeses from the above 19 main categories.

For the 2018 competition, judging on technical aspects and aesthetics took place February 22 and 23 at University of Guelph, Department of Food Science, with evaluation of cheese headed by Dr. Arthur Hill, Chair and Professor, Food Science.

The Awards Ceremony takes place June 6 in Toronto at historic St. Lawrence Market. The presentation of winners will be followed by an Awards Tasting Gala open to trade, media, and special guests. The following day, June 7, the inaugural Canadian Cheese Expo trade show for cheese industry, hospitality industry, chefs, media, food writers and bloggers takes place in the afternoon with the first-ever Artisan Cheese Night Market in the evening, open to the public.

The Canadian Cheese of the Year receives a prize of $5,000, thanks to Loblaw Companies, to support a marketing campaign to exploit being named the best cheese in Canada. Champions in each cheese category and provincial or regional champions will also be selected.

In 2018, a special prize of $5,000 for marketing also will be presented to the winner of the Best Cow’s Milk Cheese Award thanks to Dairy Farmers of Canada, our Principal Partner, Cow Milk Cheese.

It is the biggest cheese competition in Canada and the first open to all milks used in cheese making—cow, goat, sheep and water buffalo—with only pure natural cheese accepted for judging. That means with no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives, and no modified milk ingredients.

Canadian Cheese Awards is produced by Cheese Lover Productions which also operates The Great Canadian Cheese Festival in Picton, Ontario. The Cheese Festival is on hiatus in 2018 to allow resources to be devoted to the launch of Artisan Cheese Night Market and related events.

For additional information, mailto:awards@cheeselover.ca or telephone 1.866.865.2628.

Kennedy boys to serve their father’s famed braised-beef poutine at #TGCCF

Chef Jamie Kennedy elevates poutine to a fine-dining experience.

When your father is one of Canada’s most renowned chefs, a passion for food and an appreciation for the restaurant industry come naturally. Nile and Jackson Kennedy grew up around the celebrated kitchens of their father, chef Jamie Kennedy, Canada’s first celebrity chef and a pioneer of the local food movement. But being the chef’s sons earned them no special treatment, as they worked their way through various positions within Kennedy’s restaurants.

“We’ve been working with my dad for a really long time now,” said Nile, 22. “We started by going to events and doing small jobs to just get a sense of what he did.”

Nile got his start in the family business at age 17, working in coat check during private events at the Gardiner Museum, where Jamie Kennedy then ran the venue’s fine dining restaurant and catered on-site weddings and other special events.

From there, Nile worked his way up to become an event server at the Gardiner and then an a la carte server at Kennedy’s Gilead Café, the chef’s last Toronto restaurant, which closed its doors in 2015.

Nile and Jackson Kennedy will serve J.K. Fries in addition to braised-beef poutine at #TGCCF.

Working in his father’s restaurants taught Nile a great deal about the industry and allowed him to spend plenty of quality time with his dad outside the house.

“Working with my Dad has always been great,” said Nile, “It wasn’t really like a typical working relationship. We would be cracking jokes with each other, and it was really positive. I’ve learned a lot working with him.”

For the past two summers, Nile and his brother Jackson, 26, have operated J.K. Fries, a mobile French fry kitchen they run at events and farmers’ markets around Toronto. J.K. Fries offers Chef Kennedy’s signature double-fried French fries, made with local Yukon Gold potatoes, fresh thyme and sea salt. The fries are always made entirely on site, for the freshest, crispiest snack possible.

This summer, J.K. Fries is setting up shop in Prince Edward County, offering its famous fries at events in the region all season long. For Nile and Jackson, this means a break from city life, and a chance to slow down and take a well-deserved break at the Kennedy farm in the County.

“This summer will still be about work, but we also wanted to take a step back, get out of the city and go to our farm,” Nile explained of the move. “We’ll work up there, and also take up any projects and hobbies we’ve really wanted to do. It’s an exploratory summer in that sense and we’ve both been excited about it for a long time.”

Chef Jamie Kennedy works his magic in the converted barn on his farm in Prince Edward County.

The brothers are looking to discover new interests outside the restaurant business, including learning to craft handmade utility knives using wood and metal found around the family farm. With the help of YouTube, they plan to teach themselves to build a forge and try their hands at knife making during their down time.

The Kennedy brothers will bring a special version of the J.K. Fries stand to The Great Canadian Cheese Festival on June 3-4, with a braised-beef poutine, an artful take on the iconic, indulgent dish that his father made famous when he became the first Canadian chef to introduce poutine on a fine-dining menu.

“It’s an elevated version of the classic Quebecois poutine,” Nile explains. “We use braised, tender beef in a thick, salty, flavourful gravy and in place of cheese curds we’re using an aged cheddar from Monforte Dairy, who make a really nice cow’s milk cheddar.”

The Kennedy boys will be serving up the braised-beef poutine and the fries at the Festival’s Artisan Food Court on both Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 4pm.

Meanwhile, Jamie Kennedy is hosting a fabulous feast at his Prince Edward County Farm on Saturday evening as part of his popular Summer Dinner Series. Award-winning cheesemakers Jean Morin and Marie-Chantal Houde will be among the lucky 55 guests—with their fromage featured on the cheese plate.

Jackson Kennedy tosses double-fried French fries, made with local Yukon Gold potatoes, fresh thyme and sea salt.

When he’s not slinging their much-loved poutine dishes to hungry festival-goers, Nile is eager to explore what’s new at this year’s Festival. He’s attended the past few years both to work and to observe.

“What’s great about the Cheese Festival, especially with all these local producers coming, people can taste all these amazing cheeses and it gives them ideas about what’s possible,” Nile said.

“More and more these days, people are interested in sourcing locally, but they might not realize how much is available and how many varieties are available so close to home. The Festival is great for that.”

—Phoebe Powell, senior roving reporter at CheeseLover.ca, is a freelance writer based in Toronto. Her last blog post was on La Moutonnière: Happy sheep make award-winning cheese.

 

 

 

For cheese lovers, all roads lead to Picton on June 3-4

Informative Cheese Seminars are included in the price of admission at #TGCCF.

Top 10 reasons why you won’t want to miss the seventh annual Great Canadian Cheese Festival in Picton, Ontario, on June 3-4, 2017.

  1. More than 500 foods and beverages for sampling and purchase, including 200 artisan and farmstead cheeses.
  2. Chance to meet Canada’s outstanding cheesemakers face-to-face, including many from Québec.
  3. Informative Cheese Seminars on a variety of topics.
  4. Express access to more than 100 exhibitors and vendors, including specialty foods, small-batch wine, craft beer, craft cider and—NEW!—spirits.
  5. SWAG! An insulated Festival tote bag for your purchases and a souvenir Festival glass for sampling wine, beer and cider (19+).
  6. Local VQA wines and cider available for purchase by bottle or case (19+).
  7. Dairy Farm, with animals and displays, including the sweetest water buffalo you’ll ever meet.
  8. Food Court, featuring—NEW!— J.K. Fries and Braised-Beef Poutine from Jamie Kennedy Kitchens.
  9. Live music by Starpainters trio in the Prince Edward County Pavilion.
  10. Ample FREE parking.

More than 5,000 cheese lovers are expected to attend, sampling and purchasing close to 200 different cheeses made by artisan producers from the Atlantic to the Pacific. It’s the biggest artisan cheese show in Canada, indeed, in North America, with an estimated 500 foods and beverages in total on offer.

Meet Canada’s best cheesemakers, including Armand Bernard of Cows Creamery in P.E.I., at Canada’s biggest cheese show.

Cheesemakers, specialty food producers, small-batch wineries, craft breweries and cideries, and other exhibitors and vendors have reserved 100+ booths making the event at the Picton Fairgrounds one of the biggest artisan food markets in Ontario.

TICKET OPTIONS:

  • Super Saturday (June 3) or Super Sunday (June 4): All attractions listed above PLUS EXTRAS such as informative Cheese Seminars, an insulated Festival tote bag for your purchases, a souvenir Festival glass for sampling wine, beer and cider (19+), live music and more. Super Ticket $50 plus tax per day.
  • BEST BUY: Weekend VIP Pass (June 3 and 4): Admission Saturday and Sunday with VIP access at 10 a.m., one hour before show opens to public. PLUS reserved seating at informative Cheese Seminars. Includes all attractions listed above PLUS EXTRAS such as Cheese Seminars, an insulated Festival tote bag for your purchases, a souvenir Festival glass for sampling wine, beer and cider (19+), live music and more. Weekend VIP Pass $75 plus tax.

Tickets can be ordered online in advance at http://cheesefestival.ca/tickets/ or purchased at the door.

The Great Canadian Cheese Festival is the only place where you can taste and buy 200 different Canadian artisan and farmstead cheeses—plus specialty foods galore.

The Festival’s main attraction, the Artisan Cheese & Fine Food Fair, is open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, June 3 and 4. Families are welcome. Children 15 and younger FREE when accompanied by an adult. Special pricing for groups of 10+.

There is so much to do at the Cheese Festival—and in must-visit Prince Edward County—that you’ll want to make a weekend of it. Check out featured accommodations in Prince Edward County, Belleville and Kingston at http://cheesefestival.ca/where-to-stay/

The Festival also offers special events like Gastronomy on the Farm with Jamie Kennedy, Cooking with Cheese Class with Cynthia Peters and a Quinte Cheese Tour. For additional information, visit CheeseFestival.ca. For assistance, email info@cheesefestival.ca or telephone 1.866.865.2628.

The Great Canadian Cheese Festival is produced by Cheese Lover Productions with the generous support of Celebrate Ontario. Prince Edward County is Gold Sponsor, Bay of Quinte Region is Principal Partner and Stonemill Bakehouse is Official Bread Supplier.

Picton Fairgrounds is located in the heart of Prince Edward County, south of Belleville in Bay of Quinte Region. One hour from Kingston, two hours from Toronto, three hours from Ottawa and New York State, and less than four hours from Montreal.

THE GREAT CANADIAN CHEESE FESTIVAL
June 3-4, 2017, Picton, Ontario
1.866.865.2628
http://cheesefestival.ca


 

For the cheese lover in your life at Christmas

15181409_1334820033237228_9209551556281257544_nCheese lovers in your life will appreciate a holiday gift of tickets to the 2017 Great Canadian Cheese Festival, the biggest artisan cheese show in North America.

We will send you a personalized gift certificate (upon receipt of your ticket order) for the ticket recipient. The certificate will be a PDF that you can forward by e-mail or print for giving in person.

The seventh annual Festival takes place June 3-4, 2017, at Picton Fairgrounds, in must-visit Prince Edward County, Bay of Quinte Region, near Belleville, Ontario.

Holiday tickets are available for the Saturday portion of the festival at $50 plus HST each.

Admission includes access to more than 130 exhibitors and vendors offering more than 500 foods and beverages, an insulated Festival tote bag for your purchases, a Festival souvenir glass for sampling wine, beer and cider (19+), Cheese Seminars (rush seating), Dairy Farm, Food Court, and live music. Ample FREE parking.

Click here to place your order. Please allow five days for the arrival of gift certificates.

For more information, email info@cheesefestival.ca or telephone 1-866-865-2628 toll-free.

The website CheeseFestival.ca will be updated in January when regular tickets go on sale.