Cheese Talks at McEwan Fine Foods–join us for fine cheese, fine wine and other fineries, like chocolate.

Cheese and Wine table  landscape

I’m very excited to announce a new-ish venture for which I have teamed up with fellow cheese lover and friend Ally Chang.  We kept sitting around and eating cheese and drinking wine, and talking about the cheese and wine when we had the epiphany we should do something constructive and fun with this hobby.  So we have created The Cheese Table (the link takes you to our Facebook page) and we’ll be offering a series of cheese and wine talks at the super-luxe McEwan fine foods store this fall.

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We have three sessions scheduled and they are listed below. Our goal is to have fun, drink really good wine and eat really good cheese.  And get you thinking  (we’re going to crack the whip a little– a very little–and we do have a chart.  But it’s a fun chart, we promise.)

Tasting at Cheese Talks

Just to reiterate–see above photo–looks like fun, right?

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I am also adding this picture of wine being poured into the glass at one of our Spring events because it makes ME want to sign up for my own class.  (or maybe just crack open wine even though it is midnight).

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The above is the more formal pic of how we’ll be presenting our case……and below, well, a few more cheeses to tempt you further.

The Cheese Table set up

Our June event at McEwans featuring the award winning cheese of the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix.

So without further ado–here is the Fall Line-Up  (and if you have not yet been to McEwan  it is a bit of a food lovers dream–and anyone in our session gets 10% off that night. Whoot!).  You can REGISTER here and see all the information on our website The Cheese Table.

THE FRENCH CONNECTION
What could be more exciting then tasting two of France’s best fromage next to two of Quebec’s wonderful cheese?  Heavily influenced by French cheese making, Quebec is the leader in Canada for artisanal cheese.  To refresh our palates we will pair two classic wines from France with two New World selections.
THURSDAY OCTOBER 3rd , 2013  ( 7pm – 9pm)
$65 per person

AUTHENTIC ITALY
We will take you from the foggy valleys of Piedmont to the hill and plains of Tuscany with a detour into Emilia-Romagna to hear Ally’s first hand accounts of watching Parmigiano-Reggiano being made.  We will be bringing along some of our favourite classic Italian wines.
THURSDAY OCTOBER 24th, 2013 ( 7pm – 9pm)
$65 per person

SUMPTUOUS HOLIDAY CHEESE
Think luxurious, elegant, and mouth-watering.  From silky and creamy to stinky and blue our Holiday Cheese Talks is the perfect opportunity to find new cheeses and new ways to serve them when entertaining.  After visiting some of Ontario’s best wine makers we are excited  to share their wines with you.
THURSDAY NOVEMBER 14th, 2013  ( 7pm – 9pm)
$65 per person

Please note that Cheese Talks will be held at McEwan Fine Foodsat the Shoppes at Don Mills  (38 Karl Fraser Road).  There is good TTC access and we recommend trying to leave the car at home as there is a fair amount of wine to enjoy.

Side Table Products

So, to tempt away from cheese briefly, one last pic.  Last session we served our “amuse” of fresh Ontario ricotta with white balsamic and olive oil.  And we also finished with some beautiful dark chocolate..and did I mention the appetizers generously provided from the McEwan kitchen?

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I will surrender counter space for a Panini Press

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The Hamilton Beach Panini Press

It just hit me–I really would use a panini press!  I mean I would right?  I love grilled panini, when I’m out and about and hungry, what is a better crisp, oozy and portable meal that a panini?  You can easily sneak them into movies–or keep them in your purse in a pinch (just while you text or create genius Instagram photos).  Even Tim Horton’s can do a half-decent job (I discovered this after finding only chip and burger stands to eat from when driving around PEI).

So I’m wondering-anyone have one and use it?? Or perhaps you can tell me I’m disillusioned, it will have the same fate as my George Forman grill…which wait a second–couldn’t that press panini?   Excuse while I go dig around in my basement.

Meanwhile check out these “18 Surprising Things You Can Make in a Panini Press” from BuzzFeed.

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Curds and Eh: Is it cheating to make cheese with pre-pasteurized milk?

Harvest Moon, Tiger Blue, Naramata Bench Blue and Okanagan Double Cream

Harvest Moon, Tiger Blue, Naramata Bench Blue and Okanagan Double Cream

CHEESE FOR THOUGHT–ANOTHER POST FROM KELSIE.  PLEASE LEAVE YOUR THOUGHTS AND COMMENTS!

One of my favourite blogs that I follow is Much To Do About Cheese. It’s written by Ian Treuer a home-cheesemaker from Edmonton, Alberta who maintains an honest and uncommon look into the world of a DIY cheesemaker. Recently he posed a question on his Facebook  page.  He asked, “Can a Cheese Maker be considered an Artisan Cheese Maker if they use pre-pasteurised milk? Why or Why Not?”

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Purchasing pre-pasteurized milk is a cost saving option for many small producers as High-Temperature Short-Time (HTST) pasteurizers cost a ton of money and even vat pasteurizers can be time consuming. Heating milk to 162F and holding it there for 16 seconds (or 145F for 30min) isn’t where the art of cheesemaking comes into play.

There are three small-scale professional cheesemakers that I know of in Canada that use pre-pasteurized milk. The cheesemaker at each factory produces every cheese by hand, adjusts the recipe according to the weather, the feel of the curds, and the taste and smell of the milk. Their cheeses are all unique. Not only do I consider them all to be artisans but they are also some of this country’s best.

The Stove-top where magic happens at Five Brothers

The Stove-top where magic happens at Five Brothers

Surrounded by vineyards in Penticton’s wine region are two cheese companies – Poplar Grove Cheese and Upper Bench Creamery. Both purchase jugs of pre-pasteurized milk and also cream from D Dutchmen Dairy, which is located 190km north in Sicamous on Shuswap Lake.  This isn’t a secret – Upper Bench proudly states the source of their milk on their website. D Dutchmen Dairy is known for their high-quality milk, flavoured cheeses, and their ice cream, which causes lineups that extend to the parking lot on a hot day. Their milk comes from their own herd of cows.

Adam Blanchard of Five Brothers

Adam Blanchard of Five Brothers

Five Brothers Artisan Cheese is the only artisan cheese company in Newfoundland. Cheesemaker Adam Blanchard actually purchases cartons of milk from his local Sobeys grocery store and then transforms it into cheese in stock pots on the stove-top. He started by making cheese in a friend’s kitchen but then decided to make a living doing it. He rented a commercial kitchen and the rest is history. There’s no way he could have afforded a pasteurizer when he started. Why give up on a dream if you can’t afford a $12,000 piece of equipment?

Perhaps several decades ago we could have asked whether cheese makers that use commercially available cultures instead of a mother culture could be artisanal. The industry has changed so much and now using mass produced culture is the norm. The basic ingredients have changed over the years too but as long as the figurative ‘hand of the cheesemaker’ is present in the cheese then I believe they deserve the title of artisan.

I’m not fond of debating the semantics of a term but I feel that labelling a producer as an artisan or not also suggests level of respect for producing a handmade product. Cheesemakers that use pre-pasteurized milk work incredibly hard, just like those that pasteurize on-site. I believe both deserve respect for labouring for long hours and transforming milk into my favourite food.

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For some reason I feel many people also associate a certain level of quality with the term artisan. That’s one aspect that is usually not debated when it comes to defining the term but it is just as possible for ‘artisan’ cheese makers to produce poor quality products as much as it’s possible for them to create extraordinary ones. What really matters, is not the label ‘artisan’ but the story of the cheese company (is it something that excites the customer and the owner is proud of?) and the quality of the products.

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Abandoned House or Trendy New Toronto Resto?

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The Edison bulb….

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Aaah yes, our menu–it’s hand scrawled on our blackboard far, far across the room.

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No, we don’t take reservations, but we can seat 2-6 people.

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Minimalist pine tree to remind our guests we’re green…. (you can eat it for dessert)

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Everything is local.

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And please don’t forget your foraged leg braces after you’ve had one too many of our hand crafted cocktails.

My husband photographs abandoned houses as a hobby and they are fascinating.  Things are just left as if people had walked out minutes before.  I became fascinated with the list of items in the kitchen cupboard in this house (Campbellford, Ontario) and it just got silly from there….click on any picture to enlarge.  Thanks to Tad Seaborn for sharing his photos.  

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Puff Pastry + Whipped Cream + Red Currants = you rock bringing dessert to the BBQ

Berry Tart Whipped Cream

So you buy the puff pastry, roll it and bake it.  Whip cream. Stir in icing sugar.  Spread. Top with summer bounty.   Kick dessert ass.

Really, that’s it.

(Loving Tad’s photo.)

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The Family Sweet Marie Bar recipe (you will love me so much)

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When I say “family” I don’t mean this is some sort of East European treat– this I claim as my own though it is truly a Seaborn classic.  I feel that I have eaten enough of them over 17 years to have some ownership.

We are going camping this weekend and I made a batch of these.  The step-by-step is posted her at the foodnetwork.ca blog but here’s the basic recipe.   Takes no time.  You must make it.  Trust me on this one.  (and also– just go with the corn syrup and margarine, don’t screw with perfection.)

SWEET MARIE BARS

makes about 20-25
Ingredients:
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
1 tbsp. butter or margarine
2 cups Rice Krispies
1 cup salted peanuts
1 package real chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Heat peanut butter, sugar, corn syrup and butter over low heat until mixture starts to boil.
  2. Remove from heat and add Rice Krispies and peanuts. Mix well.
  3. Press into a greased 8- or 9-inch square pan.
  4. Cover with chocolate chips while hot. As chips melt (give it a couple minutes) spread over the top.
  5. Let cool until chocolate solidifies and cut into squares.  If the chocolate is a little soft it’s ok, but if cut when still melted you will have quite a mess on your hands! (my mother-in law pops the pan into the freezer for 10-15 minutes to speed up the process)

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Fried Chicken for the Masses: It’s the Fried Chicken Battle Royale at the Drake

Fried Chicken Battle

Well, the above just about says it all.  But, Ivy Knight, organizer-Royale has more to say about this lip smacking event where I get to be a judge.  A judge of fried chicken… I picture myself with a drumstick gavel and greasy paperwork.  Can Monday night come fast enough?

Here is what Ivy has to say about how and why she pulled together this first (annual) fried fiasco.

I have been wanting to do a fried chicken battle ever since watching David Chang go head to head against Questlove on Jimmy Fallon. I just really wanted to fill a room with people eating lots and lots of free fried chicken. Unfortunately I don’t have a budget to buy a bunch of chickens so I got in touch with my old friend Peter Sanagan and asked if he’d be willing to donate the birds. I barely got my request out before he said of course. So then I talked to some of my chef friends, Matty at Parts & Labour, Fan at Happy Child, Teddy at the Drake, the girls who run SNACKS (famous for their food at the Junction Flea) and Brandon at Bar Isabel, we picked a date and I started thinking about judges.

I didn’t want to have  chefs come in to compete and be judged by their peers, I wanted the judges to come from outside of the peer group – so I often look to cookbook authors and media. The guys at Munchies were an obvious choice, they suggested Bad Day Magazine and since I know and love you I figured we’d bring you in to add a little class to the panel (Ivy knows how easily I fall for sweet talk–don’t worry, I’ll never bring a lot of class, perhaps just a cufflinks’ worth SR)And of course, Peter is a judge since he’s the reason we’re able to pull this off.

This is the first of what I hope will become a yearly tradition where I give away five hundred pieces of fried chicken to the masses.
So… friends, foes and people who accidentally got to this page and are thinking WHAT?  THANK GOD I FOUND IT, don’t wait til next year.  Come on down next week!
And no, I’m not sharing my chicken.  Get your own damn chicken.  8pm, Monday night.  It’s FREE y’all.

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