Monthly Archives: July 2012

Tawse Winery: Offering Delicious Wine… and speedy automotive repair (thank you!)

One fine day my pal Linda and I set out to for the Shaw Festival to see a play, taste some wine in Niagara-on-the-Lake and visit Upper Canada Cheese Company.  I had never been to the Tawse Winery though I am a  big fan of their chardonnay.  We made that our first stop.  Tawse is beautiful as you can see in the picture above.   To the left of this driveway were some of the vineyards (below).

We arrived right at 11am sharp when the tastings begin and were taken down into the cellar/lower tasting area.  We started with a flight of the Tawse Chardonnays:

• 2010 Quarry Road Chardonnay  • 2010 Robyn’s Block Chardonnay  • 2010 Tawse Estate Chardonnay

2010 Tawse Estate Chardonnay

Already a fan of the Quarry Road (which is only being sold in half-bottles, a perfect not-for-sharing, weeknight size) I had never had the Robyn’s Block and had not yet tried the 2010 Estate Chardonnay.  These wines all have different taste profiles by virtue of the fact that the Tawse vineyards are several kilometres apart.  The terroir helps impart their distinct character.

Quarry Road is lemon, green apple, mineral, refreshing, just hinted with oak and I find as it opens and warms slightly you get rounder peachy notes.

Estate Chardonnay is a combination of  fruit from a few of the vineyards.  It is a medium body white which spends a year in French Oak and is a little more toasty and creamy than the quarry road– just thinking of it makes me eager to pack it for the cottage this second.

Robyn’s Block is what Tawse calls their “flagship chardonnay” and comes from 28-year-old vines.  Spends a year in French Oak barriques and then 6 months in stainless steel.  The 2010 vintage was a warm year so it rounded and softer with stone fruit notes.

Tawse Cherry Avenue Vineyard 2010

I also walked away with a bottle of the Cherry Avenue Pinot for my “cellar”  (basement wine rack).   Nice long finish but the tannins were still a little unintegrated (is that a word?), the wine seemed a bit young yet for drinking. I was told that the Cherry Aveue could age still a good 5-7 years and will continue to get more complex.

And while we were chatting and sipping and generally sinking into the ease of a relaxed summer day in wine country….

Keeping it classy in the Tawse parking lot.

My car battery died.

CAA did arrive in quick time.  Less than 30 minutes but meanwhile we had been offered a glass of wine by the people at Tawse and while we stood in the beautiful, air conditioned store area, one of the Tawse gentleman (why did I not ask his name?  Sorry)  went out to see if he could get the car running.

When the battery was finally charged, we left not only with a good story (all’s well that end’s well) but a complimentary bottle of the Tawse sparkling wine, and a bottle of wine was given to the CAA driver (all’s better that ends in free wine).

The wine was an unexpected gesture on top of already amazing customer service– and just a kind bunch of people.

Linda and I are saving the bubbly for when we re-watch His Girl Friday (the movie) as we cannot recommend the play (sadly).  We couldn’t really connect with it 100%,   the script was a bit uneven in tone and the humour fell flat a few times.  (The cast was excellent, we will give it that.)

Linda happily sipping while our car drifted into a deep summer slumber.

But looking back I think we’d have rather spent that two hours  stranded at the Tawse Winery.

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Curds and Eh, Episode 4: the growing food scene in St.John’s Newfoundland

  Jellybean Row of colourful homes, St. John’s

This post is part of a guest blog series by Kelsie Parsons.   

The purpose of this trip was to learn the ways of the locals and to visit Newfoundland’s two cheese factories. Both Central Dairies and Five Brothers began production within the past 2 years and from talking with residents, no one can remember any commercial cheese factories ever existing in Newfoundland before.

Brad Quaile from Central Dairies shows off young Friulano.

Central Dairies mainly produces fluid milk but they recently decided to create value added products by making cheese. Their cheesemaker, Brad Quaile has an impressive resume with 21 years of experience split between St. Albert, Skotidakis, and Pine River cheese companies. Brad has developed their Edam, Gouda, and Swiss, which is Central’s specialty. The recipe calls for the Swiss to be aged for 50-80 days at 20˚C and flipped often. This creates an even eye (hole) formation and develops the nutty flavour typical of this style. To me, the Central Dairies Swiss is a decent cheese because it’s firmer and more flavourful than other commercial Swiss style cheeses, which too often seem to be flavourless and full of water.

Adam Blanchard of Five Brothers Artisan Cheese

Despite the name, Five Brothers Artisan Cheese, the company consists of only one guy making cheese (cheesemaker Adam Blanchard does have four brothers though). After my visit to Central Dairies, Adam and I met up at Yellowbelly brew pub to enjoy some of the best brews produced in Newfoundland. That was followed by dinner at Duke of Duckworth (as seen on Republic of Doyle), Adam’s pick for the best fish and chips.

Fish and chips and…dressing.

The fish was served with fries covered in dressing (stuffing) and gravy; a classic Newfie dish.

There are many things that are awesome about Five Brothers Artisan Cheese. Adam is a trained chef but when it comes to cheesemaking he’s totally self-taught. Not only is Five Brothers the only artisanal cheesemaker in Newfoundland but it’s also North America’s Easternmost cheese factory and perhaps the smallest. Adam actually buys up to 150L of milk per week in 2L cartons from Sobeys grocery store and makes cheeses on a stove top. Wait, what? Is that even possible? It sure is but due to the small batch size it requires a lot of work. Adam began making cheese at home it was a huge hit with his family and friends. With their support, Adam built a commercial kitchen in a rented space where he hand crafts the cheeses and ages them in a series of fridges.

Five Brother’s Mozza, goat cheddar, queso fresco, rhubarb

Adam Blanchard and I finally sat down to try his cheese a mere two hours before my flight off the island. On Adam’s desk sat a jar of bottled moose given to him by his Grandma, which he explained was a Newfoundlander specialty. I was eager to try it but due to the time constraint we skipped it and headed right for the cheese.

Handstretched mozzarella is one of Five Brothers’ most popular products. It’s firmer than Italian mozzarella but has a lovely layered texture and a flavour of cream. This is a cheese that I could just keep eating. Up next we tried the Latin-American style Queso Fresco, which has a taste of cream with a citrus tang and can be crumbled in salads or fried in oil. Five Brothers also produces goat and cow milk cheddars aged in yellow wax. I tried the goat cheddar and was amazed at the intensity of the flavour that developed after only 2 months. You sure can’t compare this cheese to your typical mild cheddar! The flavour lingers on your palate and would be perfect in pesto or grated in savoury dishes.

St. John’s, Newfoundland

Adam has a loyal following and sells out of all his cheese every week at the farmers market. His cheeses can also be found on the plates of the finest restaurants in St. John’s such as Aqua Kitchen|Bar and Chiched Bistro. I think it’s awesome that Brad and Adam are producing cheese for the Newfoundland market but the real thanks go to the people of Newfoundland for supporting these ventures.

Rocket Food cookies on display (from the Rocket Food Facebook page)

I fell in love with St. John’s. It is at the top of my list of cities to return to. With new restaurants popping up, a relatively new farmers market (this is its 5th summer) and 2 cheese companies the food scene seems to be blooming. One of my favourite foodie spots is Rocket Food, a café and bakery with delicious food and friendly staff (though I really didn’t meet anyone in St. John’s that I’d consider unfriendly). Downtown St. John’s is full of young people, hip shops, hangouts and of course the legendary George St. which boasts the most bars per square foot on any street in North America. I spent a couple of nights out on George St. but details are still a little hazy and best not recorded.

Yellow Belly Brewery and Public House

The cheese movement in St. John’s is very much still in its infancy. The local cheeses aren’t perfect and the producers are continuing to learn and experiment with new products. Customers are vital to the development of a food community and local products so please give your cheesemaker feedback and ask for local cheese where you shop and eat. There’s something special happening in St. John’s right now and I can’t wait to return. To all those supporting local cheese I raise a pint of Yellowbelly Pale Ale in your honour!

For Curds and Eh 1, click hereCurds and Eh 2, Click Here, and Curds and Eh 3 , click here.

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Fruli Strawberry Wheat Beer chills out with Italian Cheese

Do you feel like you could take a sip?  Tempting, isn’t it.

When it gets as hot as it has been, I don’t like to turn on the oven.  Removing things from the fridge on the other hand, that I can do.    I had some Fruli Strawberry Wheat beer chilling  and had been planning on doing a cheese pairing.  No time like the hottest day ever.  Fruli is a Belgian fruit beer that is fermented with 30% real strawberries. It’s also scented with coriander and orange peel.  If you find beer too bitter but cocktails too cloying, this might just hit the sweet spot. It’s refreshing and easy to drink (and only 125 calories per bottle–ideal during bathing suit season, unless you have a wrap, in which case go for it with the iced Frappucinos).

The Fruli is fruity, sweet, with a soft carbonation and a little bit of tang.  A classic pairing would be to serve chevre, with it’s creamy texture and smooth acidity.  But I wanted to indulge myself. (Hey, if the beer’s only 125 calories…)

Piedmonte’s La Tur is made with a perfect balance of cow, sheep and goat milk

I treated myself to a wheel of La Tur which is also a bright, tangy cheese (aged about 10-15 days before hitting the market) with a buttery mouthfeel.  Made in Piedmont, Italy, it has a wrinkled bloomy rind and ripens from outside in, usually firm in the centre. There is an earthyness to the cheese and mushroom notes at the rind which worked nicely with the natural fruit flavour of the beer.

La Tur, wedge

The Fruli’s bubbles cleansed the palate between bites–allowing me to enjoy what is a fairly rich cheese for a humid, hot day.  The sweetness of the strawberry beer contrasted nicely with the tang of the wedge.  This combination would make a great finish to a special meal. (Or just at any time of day–like Tuesday at 4:17 pm).

Ricotta Salata, Italy

Ricotta Salata (salata means salty) was my second pairing.  This is a sheep’s milk ricotta which is pressed and aged about 3 months giving it a firm, slightly spongy texture.  The salt-factor was a perfect counterpoint to the sweet flavours of the beer but the cheese itself was mellow and milky so didn’t overpower the Fruli.  This cheese goes well with grilled veggies and I think the strawberry wheat beer, this ricotta, fresh bread and some grilled zucchini would make a fine, fine meal.

Also a very portable and picnic friendly match–cheese in one hand, Fruli in the other.  Someone rubbing sunblock on your shoulders.  That’s the life.

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Local Brew, Local Cheese: Canuck Pairings that are Beauty

Cheese and Charcuterie Plates at Obladee Wine Bar, Halifax

After I tweeted a story on general beer and cheese pairings,  Heather Rankin, owner of Obladee Wine Bar in Halifax  suggested we do this thing right–and list great CANADIAN beer and cheese pairings.  Heather (cheese lover, sommelier and mum) chose the cheeses and Craig Pinhey (Beer Judge, Sommelier and writer) did the beer honours.  Heather wrote the blog. 

So Happy Together

Canada makes fantastic beer and phenomenal cheese. But often we forget to pair them together. “What grows together goes together” is a fundamental food pairing principle: by combining food and drink from the same region there are automatic similarities in aroma and flavour which set the foundation for a harmonious pairing.

Here we pick six of our favourite Canadian beers and pair them with an outstanding cheese from the same province. Try them yourself. You may never reach for potato chips and pizza with your brewski again.

1. Creemore Springs Premium Lager & Comfort Cream – Ontario


The combination of vibrant carbonation and sweet biscuit-like malt in Creemore Lager make it an ideal partner for a rich, bloomy-rind, Camembert-style cheese.

Comfort Cream (canadacheeseman.wordpress.com))

Comfort Cream from Upper Canada Cheese Co. is an oozy, velvety, buttery cheese that loves the mouth-cleansing action of sudsy bubbles with just enough tartness to cut through the fat. Enter Creemore Springs Premium Lager. Because it’s not overly bitter, the beer doesn’t trump the cheese and accentuate unwanted undertones. True to Camembert form, the cheese offers classic mushroomy, earthy flavours which are right in step with the marked floral notes in this beer.

2. Blanche de Chambly & Grey Owl – Quebec

Grey Owl  (Rob Wilkes for chasingthecheese.com)

Wheat beer often goes well with goat cheese, but the pairing gets more interesting when good character is present in both. Grey Owl, from Fromagerie Le Détour, has a mild, chalky, paste that is complex enough to hold its own, but doesn’t try to compete with the delicate spice of this white ale.

Blanche de Chambly

The pairing really comes together on tangy, citrus notes with Blanche de Chambly‘s orange and lemon tartness echoing the citrus acidity of the cheese. Grey Owl’s ash-rind might be a tad too vegetal/green for this match if it weren’t for a prevailing coriander note in the ale that pulls it all together.  Not your typical Wheat Beer/Goat cheeses pairing, to be sure!

3. Propeller Pale Ale & Ran-Cher Acres Chèvre – Nova Scotia

Propeller Pale Ale

The mellow, balanced Propeller pale ale requires a younger, tamer cheese – but not so tame that the cheese disappears. Moderate hoppy flavours are a good mate for tartness in a cheese – which this fresh goat’s milk cheese has plenty of.

Chèvre ( JilGL)

The chèvre is also fruity, picking up on similar elements in the beer (pear), and is delectably creamy, not sour. Ultra creamy cheeses like the Ran-Cher Acres Chèvre cry out for a crisp, cleansing, companion like the Propeller Pale Ale. A match made in Maritime heaven.

4. Iron Horse Brown Ale & Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar – PEI

Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar (citylifemagazine.ca)

The dark chocolate and roasted nut notes in this brew fuse perfectly with the creamy, rich, toffee flavours of of this aged, linen-wrapped cheddar from Cow’s Creamery. The beer completely winds itself around this cheese and does not let go. (Think: Caramilk bar… but better!)

Iron Horse Brown Ale

There is also a rustic, bitter edge to the Iron Horse which mimics the earthiness of the Clothbound – especially toward the rind – and provides a savoury/sweet contrast that is pretty unbeatable. Never have a horse and a cow been so happy together.

5. Red Racer IPA & Alpindon – BC

At Kootenay Alpine Cheese (Kootenaybiz.com)

Fashioned after the Beaufort d’Alpage, Kootenay Alpine Cheese Co’s Alpindon is intense and complex – precisely what this racy IPA craves in a mate. The Red Racer is a bit of a hop monster and so requires a cheese that is just as shouty.

Red Racer IPA

Part of the cheese’s pungency comes from its dark textured rind that has a lovely burnt, woodsy taste which highlights the brawny bitterness of the IPA. Tiny crystals nestled in the Alpindon’s paste add an exciting crunch and their buttery, herbaceous flavour sings against the beer’s caramel maltiness and florality.

6. Pump House Blueberry Ale & Marti – New Brunswick


The dominant element in both the Blueberry Ale and this firm, unpasteurized sheep’s milk cheese is a mild sweetness. Marti, made by Bergerie aux Quatre Vents (in Dieppe, NB), is a delicate fruity cheese with vanilla notes that couple brilliantly with the berry and malt characteristics of this fruit beer

Pumphouse Blueberry Ale

The cheese’s rind is tender and without harsh flavours that might disrupt the softness of the Pump House. There is a subtle saltiness to the
cheese which is nicely contrasted by sweet fruit and peppery notes in the ale.

Both the beer and cheese are more or less equal in terms of flavour intensity – an important element to consider, even when similar flavours appear in both.

For more information on how to contact/follow/thank profusely either Heather or Craig you can follow Heather @curlyluddite  or @obladeewinebar.  Craig tweets from @frogspadca and writes at frogspad.ca.  I am grateful to both for their enthusiasm, making time to share their knowledge and especially for making me look good next time I put out a cheese board with beer.

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Curds and Eh: Episode 3- Our Home and Native Cow

Who says Canadians aren’t beautiful?

Nestled amongst large rocky mountains (hills to some) in Baie-Saint-Paul lies Laiterie Charlevoix, a cheese factory owned by the 7 Labbé brothers. One of their most popular cheeses is Le 1608, a washed rind cheese that was launched in 2008 to coincide with Quebec City’s 400th anniversary. This cheese is aged 4-6months, has a pleasant pungency and is one of only two cheeses that I know that is made solely from the milk of the Vache Canadienne, a rare breed of cow (Pied-de-Vent is the other).

1608 at rest.

The ancestors of this breed were introduced to Canada from Brittany and Normandy in the early 17th century by Samuel de Champlain. I met with Mario Duchesne, a biologist and leading expert on the Vache Canadienne, who explained that the cows originally weren’t a distinct breed but a population with a variety of genetic traits. At their peak there were 300,000 Vache Canadienne but now only around 1000 are left in the world. Mario, the farmers, and Laiterie Charlevoix are fighting to protect this rare breed and ensure they don’t disappear forever.

Inside the leading edge waste water treatment plant

Besides delicious cheese, and a rare breed of cow, one of the most interesting parts of Laiterie Charlevoix is their wastewater treatment system. I know that’s generally not something to get excited about but things are different here. The Labbé family actually created an environmentally friendly system for disposing of their whey and wash water. Basically, bacteria cultures are added to the wastewater to ferment it. Methane gas is produced then collected and burned to heat water for cleaning, heat-treating the milk and warming the cheese vats. The remaining grey water is then cycled through a series of ‘ponds’ with plants such as canna, papyrus and elephant ears which act as filters removing Nitrogen and Phosphorus. At the end of this system, the clean water flows into a pond with koi fish to demonstrate its cleanliness and then into the nearby river.

Cabins on the Laiterie Charlevoix campground–walking distance to fresh Pain au Chocolat. Now that’s roughing it.

The Labbé family also produces a line of ice cream and preserves, has a dairy museum and runs a campground near the dairy.

It’s easy for travelers and curd nerds alike to spend several hours at Laiterie Charlevoix. It’s definitely worth a visit!

This post is part of a guest blog series by Kelsie Parsons.    For Eps 1, click here and Eps 2, Click Here.

(Kelsie will be blogging from the East Coast in the next installment, stay tuned!)

Sue’s Note:  I visited the Charlevoix region last year and other than beautiful scenery there is a whole Flavour Trail of delicious aritisanal foods to try; from the local cheese to traditionally made foie gras to the famous local lamb chops, sausages and smoked salmon.  Here is the Charlevoix travel piece I wrote about the adventure.

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Ribs as Fast Food–when it’s Tuesday night and you’re panicking

Quick ribs with baby new potatoes (dill and olive oil) and arugula salad.

I love ribs.  You love ribs.  We all love ribs.  Last time I made them (last summer) we ate at 10:30 at night.  I thanked the rib-Gods that the guests I had invited over for my homemade smoked ribs had cancelled last-minute.  Whatever they ended up doing was probably more fun than politely pretending, “oh no, this bag of chips with salsa is totally filling us up until the moon comes out, a wolf howls and your Weber grill spits out its slow-cooked creation.”

But–I will say the ribs kicked ass.

Still, I was curious (as a rib craver) to try a new product from Mastro.  They held a tasting at St. Lawrence market in June and I got to take home some of their prepackaged ribs.  Ready in just 15 minutes!

I finally pulled them out a few nights ago when I came home to a starving family and not a minute to spare before we settled on  a meal of Triscuits and some old mum-mums from Felix’s teething days.

My hesitance with the pre-cooked ribs is kind of a guilt/snobby/ foodie annoying thing.  Ribs should be made with a secret sauce, over a smoky charcoal grill, basted at regular intervals, internal temperature monitored, sweat wiped from the brow, anticipation building…..yada yada yada.

But–when it came down to a meal of ribs or a meal of stale carbs, I chose ribs.  I opened the package, popped them on a cookie sheet (on foil) and baked for 15-17 minutes, flipping them halfway.  You can also heat them on the grill (which is where you put them 5 minutes before guests arrive and then fake some perspiration on the brow I imagine).

The ribs were great.  I tried the balsamic and fig (my fave) and spicy fire-roasted tomato (had a good hit of spice) — there is also a roasted garlic and tomato flavour.

They are about $14.99 and I think could serve 4 people–or 2 super hungry people.

So, I’m passing on the info, you can decide for yourself if it’s possible to come terms with pre-packaged ribs. I think I would have to make my own on a weekend or if friends came over (dury calls and all that) but let me tell you, in a pinch?  Hit the spot and timeline.

Enjoyed with a little of this.  I must admit the bottle came in my gift bag from the tasting event, but I keep a couple of these bottles around for some weeknight sipping so I was pretty content with the match.

Ascheri BARBERA D’ALBA 2008

Here is a bit more info from the company about ingredients and make-process:

Mastro starts with lean, top-quality pork ribs, seasons them with Italian herbs and spices, individually oven-cooks them, and then smokes them over hardwood hickory.

The ribs are always shipped to your grocery store fresh, never frozen. You don’t have to thaw them – don’t have to pre-cook them – and don’t have to sauce them.  They are available at Sobeys, Metro, Royal Canadian Super Centres, and No Frills.

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Roll with the heat by embracing Cheese Boutique’s old school Gelato

The gelat-area.

In this heat you may want to climb into the little freezer area that stores Cheese Boutique’s scrumptious house-made gelato, but I am pretty sure that is a no-no in terms of health and safety standards.   But it would bring you cheek-to-frozen cheek with the authentic gelato that Cheese Boutique has started making this year.  They had an Italian gelato expert come in and train their gelato-maker (I forgot to ask his name-rude) but there he stands (saddened by my bad manners) behind the counter.

You can see the gelato process right in the gelateria.

They start by pasteurizing the cream themselves, which is how it is traditionally done.

Many flavours all made with natural ingredients (and using real Italian words).

Felix and I tried the hazelnut (nocciola), the fior di latte (fresh cream) and settled on splitting the lemon gelato.  It was all pretty frigging divine.

When I asked Afrim Pristine for his favourite’s at the family store he mentioned the above three and the Frutto di Bosco (wild berry).  He also suggested 25 year old balsamic on the Fior Di Latte (damn, that guy has good ideas).

Best of all– The Cheese Boutique gelataria will be open until 9pm all summer starting next week (July 9).  And you can buy tubs to go!

Address: 45 Ripley Avenue, Toronto

FYI Gelato is slow churned and has less air whipped into it than ice cream.  It is denser, very silky and smooth, intense in flavour and can be kept at a warmer temperature– so gelato is creamy and softer in texture.

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