Monthly Archives: February 2013

Canadian Cheese Grand Prix -Behind the Scenes as a Judge


The Jury for the 2013 Cheese Grand Prix. Photo courtesy of Dairy Farmers of Canada.

There we are, all eight soft-lit happy cheese eaters.  I thought I would introduce you to my co-jury members from our Grand Prix judging last weekend and mention how proud I was to be a part of this team!

Left to right:  Moi, Chef Michael Howell, Allison Spurrell (owner Les Amies du Fromage in BC), Gurth Pretty (Cheese Buyer for Loblaw), Chef Danny St. Pierre, Reg Hendrickson(with Dairy Farmers of Canada), Ian Picard (VP of Fromagerie Hamel in Montreal) and Jury Chairman Phil Belanger who has been with the competition since its beginning in 1998.

Cheese Grand Prix 3

Can you guess what cheese I am about to taste? Your guess is as good as mine!

For a behind the scenes report on tasting 225 cheeses in 48 hours check out today’s Spread column.  And here are some more photos of the event.


Photo Courtesy of Dairy Farmers of Canada.

Here we are evaluating the soft bloomy rinds and Allison is trying to convince me it is normal protocol to pick up the wheel and take a bite from the edge (hazing for the newbie).  No, not really, but it it was tempting.

Judging the firm washed-rinds.  Photos courtesy of Dairy Farmers of Canada.

Judging the firm washed-rinds. Photos courtesy of Dairy Farmers of Canada.

All of the Nominees have been announced and you can find the list here 2013 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix Finalists.


Filed under Cheese/Cheese Related, Travel and Food, Uncategorized

Curds and Eh: Crannog Ale-organic, farmstead and from BC


A “Growler” of Crannog Ale

Another post by Kelsie Parsons from his amazing cross-country pilgrimage.  Read more here or just look for “Cheese and Eh” in the Categories drop-down menu to your right.  SR

Crannog Ales

While traveling across Canada last summer I was chatting with a cheesemaker in Alberta about my love of farmstead cheese and I mentioned that I wished there were farmstead breweries in Canada. It turns out I was talking to the right person because she replied, “Oh, well you should check out Crannog Ale!”

Crannog Brewery

On the Crannog Ales website, brewer Brian MacIsaac states, “The grudlann (brewery) is old world (no push button computer driven factory)…”

Two days later I was in Salmon Arm, British Columbia visiting Gort’s Gouda and took a brief detour to Crannog Ale, located in Sorrento, BC. When pulling into the driveway of the Crannog Ale and Left Fields Farm, I was struck by the beautiful landscape.

Crannog Hops

Crannog Hops

The farm is surrounded by green hills and consists of fields full of produce, towering hop vines that seem to grow into the clouds and Shuswap Lake is just a stones throw away. The farm is also home to pigs, sheep and a hive of bees. What a perfect place to live and work!


The second thing I noticed was the striking hand painted Celtic artwork on the walls of the brewery and surrounding buildings (which the owners built themselves).

Crannog Mural

Crannog Mural

The interlaced celtic knots and symbols reflect brewer Brian’s Irish background and suggest a connection to the land and animals.

Crannog's Wheat and Barley

Crannog’s Wheat and Barley

At Crannog Ales, Rebecca, Brian and Greg produce unfiltered, unpasteurized Irish ales that are sold in growlers, party pigs (8.5L) and kegs. Some of the ingredients such as hops, herbs, fruit, berries and honey come from their own Left Fields Farm, which is pretty awesome if you ask me. Even the water for their beer comes from a well on their property. I get really excited when producers  have control of their ingredients all the way down to the soil in which they’re grown. That level of commitment requires true passion and dedication.

To top it off, Crannog Ale is also certified organic. That means no GMOs, pesticides or degradation of the environment is necessary in the making of this beer! They also use grain waste from the beer production as compost and feed for pigs and they treat and reuse wastewater to run a zero emissions facility. Most breweries have a lot to learn from Crannog Ale.

Screen Shot 2013-02-22 at 10.52.11 PM

Ian Langohr (my travel buddy this summer) and I enjoyed a growler of their Insurrection Pale Ale as we camped beside Kalamalka Lake. We probably didn’t drink the beer under the proper conditions. It was admittedly quite warm (think back seat of a car in the August sun kind of warm). After an afternoon spent diving off a dock and swimming we enjoyed every last warm drop of our growler of Insurrection Pale Ale while we played dice games with neighbours at our campground.

Old Grizzly Gouda

Sylvan Star’s Old Grizzly Gouda

Of course we had cheese to snack on too! The hoppy bitterness paired exceptionally well with the caramel nutty flavours of Sylvan Star’s Old Grizzly Gouda and surprisingly with Gort’s Gouda tamer mild Gouda.

That day was the perfect mix of sun, swimming, beer, cheese and shooting stars. It turned out to be one of the most memorable days of the summer. With the short days and somewhat cold weather we’re experiencing now, I’ve begun longing for the summer.

Hand of God Stout

Hand of God Stout

Next time I’m in BC I’ll be sure to visit Crannog Ale again and refill my growler. I think I’ll try the Back Hand of God Stout next…


Crannog Ales and Left Fields Farm is both a home and a small business so it’s important to call ahead to book a tour. Workers here are usually quite busy brewing and working in the fields.

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Filed under Cheese/Cheese Related, Curds and Eh, Travel and Food, Uncategorized

Canadian Cheese Grand Prix Judging Weekend

My uniform for the weekend.

My uniform for the weekend.

Hello from Montreal.  If you have seen any of my tweets from the last day or so you will know that I have had the honour of being on the jury for the 2013 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix.  The event takes place every two years and is organized by The Dairy Farmers of Canada (so it is all cow’s milk cheese).  Cheesemakers across Canada can enter.

Sue poses with Washed Rinds

Here I am (kind of blurry) standing in front of two (of 4 total) tables which were being prepared for the Washed Rind category.  See how goofy happy I look!  You would not believe how many lovely cheeses we were surrounded by.  And smelled of by the end of the afternoon.

Washed Rinds set up

This is a bit of a better view.  Recognize anything?  We taste everything blind so have no idea which cheese has won until the results are tallied up.

Tasting Washed Rinds

Judges Allison Spurrell of Les Amies de Fromage in Vancouver, Chef Danny St Pierre (QC) and Chef Michael Howl (Nova Scotia).

Above are some of my co-jury members very seriously tasting cheese.  We all want to respect the work the cheese makers have put in so we do out best to be objective and analytical—as well as look for that “WOW” factor (amongst over 200 cheeses!).

Today we judged from 9 until about 4:30 and covered two cheddar categories (defined by age), washed rinds, fresh cheeses, semi-soft cheese and blue.

Blue Cheese

In a funny way though blue would seem the most challenging category (for palate fatigue) young cheddars are also tough–they are mild and subtle and you must really concentrate to not miss flavour and nuance when tasting many at a time.

I will write no more as we’ll all be going out to dinner soon (what? we had a 2 hour break after 7 hours of cheese eating, time to eat.)  Tomorrow we finish choosing the category champions and ultimately decide on the Grand Prix winner.

Will write more about the experience hopefully for Swallow and perhaps even for the Globe.

Meanwhile, I just sit here and think, “How cool is this!”   (But also, “no I don’t want yogurt for breakfast or no cream in my tea please.”)


Filed under Cheese/Cheese Related, Travel and Food, Uncategorized

Scrambling for Valentine’s gifts Toronto? Relax, have some chocolate…cheese..and a saucy cookbook or two.

XocoCava will have you swooning before you even take a bite.

Swoon before you even take a bite.  Xococava’s milk chocolate with espresso bean, candied lemon and fleur de sel.

Remember that old Blondie song “Rapture”?  Well, I think it was written about the above hand-made chocolates from Xoxocava.  (Also, my friend Rina and I won a lip-sync contest in high school singing that song–my hair was big and that was pre-perm.)

Usually when I buy some good chocolate to keep squirreled away in the cupboard I buy a bar of something delicious like the salted dark chocolate from Stubbe (when I can get a west-end friend to pick it up).  Somehow buying individual pieces like this for myself never occurred to me until I was knocking these back……like the lady I am.

And if that wasn't enough to make you drool...

Drool! Dark chocolate with sour cherries, pistachio and candied rose petal. (xococava)

Beautiful, individual chocolates have been fortuitously dropping into my lap lately.  A friend of mine gave us a box of nine caramel-themed chocolates from Soma (Distillery District) which contained morsels such as Fleur de Sel, Caramel Kiss and Pecan Butter Crunch.

Honestly, you cannot ever eat a Smartie again after that kind of delicious.  Now that Xococava and Soma have spoiled me and made me a xoco-snob  I may head to the Belgian Chocolate Shop on Queen East to check out chocolate making in my hood.  (anyone been there?)

chocolate xoxocava bag

The above gorgeous chocolates come delivered in this cute, witty package ($14.75/bag and there are over a dozen pieces)

I think an easy but spectacular finale to a romantic dinner (for those non-bakers) would be a plate of the above chocolates served with a beautiful, creamy cheese.

Neufchatel with red pepper jelly

Neufchatel with red pepper jelly

And if you want to be thematic with your Valentine cheeseboard you’ll grab this heart-shaped Neufchatel from France’s Normandy region.  It’s a Camembert style cheese that’s creamy, decadent and perfect for sharing.

La Sauvagine, QC

La Sauvagine, QC

And there’s the triple cream, La Sauvagine.  (If it rhymes it’s poetry right?)  I just wrote about this guy for The Wedge so here’s the cheat sheet.

Sauvagine and friends...

Sauvagine and friends…

Or you can get a few petit fours to accompany your cheese fetish.

cheese markers knives

If you would like to bring a gift to your cheese lover, I adore my stainless steel cheese markers (you stick them into your cheese to identify them–sometimes I just write “back off” on my favourites).   This set from Lee Valley comes with a set of 6 cheese knives and a cool case.

Cheese Tiles

Cheese Tiles-write on, wipe off

I was also sent an email about this cute little guys.  Same function as the stainless steel markers but they’re called cheese tiles.

Cheese tiles

Cheese tiles

They come in a variety of styles such as Fleur-di-Lis, Shell, Vine and more. Retails for $29.95 for a set of 4, they can be purchased online at

And finally, what you’ve all been waiting for, give the ultimate in S&M themed foodie gifts….

Fifty Shades of Chicken

I mean, it’s pretty hilarious right?

I got in touch with Toronto’s Cookbook Store and asked what they would recommend and apparently this 50 Shades of Chicken was a hot stocking stuffer for 2012, but if you didn’t grab it then, now is your chance.  (I took this picture from where you can also order it).

Fork me, Spoon Me

And they also recommended these two options……(it’s going to be a long winter right?)


So, I think you’re set for gifts and food for this coming February 14th.  (FYI, the xoco cava chocolates are great bites while you wait for toast to brown in the morning, just sayin’)

 How is that lady pigging out at the fridge so skinny?


Filed under Local and Community Toronto, Restaurants and Products, Uncategorized

When’s the last time you made yourself a Muffuletta Sandwich?

I could worship at this altar.

I could worship at this altar.

Thinking about lunch?  Always–if you’re like me.  This week for the Globe’s weekly Lunch-wich I made a Muffuletta.  Hadn’t had one in ages, but I could barely stop myself from digging in pronto–only the knowledge  that my job was to photograph (not devour)  this guy kept me in check.

I’m not a big fan of the cold-cut loaded submarine, but somehow this combo of capicola, mortadella, ham and salami plus swiss and provolone cheese seems ingenious.  And then you add the savoury, finger-licking olive salad on top (and underneathof course).  I used foccacia but traditionally this New Orleans original is made from a Sicilian loaf, also called Muffuletta bread.  Check out the official Muffuletta website.  COOL.  (someone actually has a job called Muffoletta Research Specialist, really, go look.)  And yes, there are variations on the spelling.

So I’ll just stick with one simple word:  heaven.


Filed under All Recipes, Uncategorized