Tag Archives: Kelsie Parsons

Curds and Eh: Kelsie Parsons Reports on The Canadian Cheese Awards

Le Baluchon displayed at the Canadian Cheese Awards

Very happy to be able to get the scoop (below) on the new Canadian Cheese Awards from cheese monger and cheese writer Kelsie Parsons–  he is in the last legs of finishing his Canadian Cheese Book and I look forward to having more on that down the road.

There’s a new champion in the Canadian cheese world – Le Baluchon, an organic washed rind cheese made in Quebec by Marie-Claude Harvey and her team at Fromagerie F.X. Pichet. It was named cheese of the year at the first-ever Canadian Cheese Awards held April 7 at St. Lawrence Market in Toronto.

Three awards in total were handed out for Le Baluchon – best semi-soft cheese, best organic cheese, and cheese of the year. Each award is well deserved.

Cheese of the Year - Le Baluchon

Le Baluchon was first made in 2004 in a partnership between Fromagerie F.X. Pichet and Fromagerie Jonathan. At the time, Fromagerie F.X. Pichet produced cheese milk from their own herd of cows and then sold their young cheeses to Fromagerie Jonathan, which ripened, promoted, and sold local farmstead cheeses. This arrangement is much more common in Europe and allows farmstead producers to focus on farming and cheesemaking. Unfortunately, Fromagerie Jonathan went bankrupt. By that time, Le Baluchon had made a name for itself in Quebec so Marie-Claude Harvey and her husband Michel Pichet purchased Fromagerie Jonathan’s building and the rights to the name Le Baluchon and continued its production.

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Fromagerie F.X. Pichet’s ripening room with bowls of brine and brushes in the foreground.

Washed rind cheeses, such as Le Baluchon, are frequently rubbed with a brush that is dipped in brine. This technique adds salt to the cheese, keeps its exterior moist, and creates the proper environment for the growth of Brevibacterium linens (or B. linens for short) which creates the pinkish orange rind typical of this style.

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The name Le Baluchon refers a hobo’s bundle of possessions tied to a stick.

What I love about Le Baluchon is its complexity and depth of flavour. There’s so much happening in every bite – flavours of nuts, butter, a slight bitterness to the rind, and a subtle pungency. Although the judging was blind (they could see the cheeses but weren’t told the names), the judges picked a cheese that is consistent in quality from batch to batch. I have never had a wedge of this cheese that was less than excellent.

Marie-Claude Harvey and Art Hill

Marie-Claude Harvey displays her award for Cheese of the Year with Professor Art Hill

Marie-Claude was instrumental in changing regulations in Quebec to allow for certain fromageries to legally produce unpasteurized cheese aged less than 60 days. She has been inducted into the prestigious Guilde de Fromagers for her contributions to the cheese industry.

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Marie-Claude Harvey and Michel Pichet pose with dry grass grown on their farm.

Michel Pichet restarted his family farm in 1989 with a focus on producing high quality organic milk and keeping his cows healthy and happy. He now has a mixed herd of 90 Brown Swiss, Holstein, and Ayershire cows of which he milks 50 twice a day.

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A curious Brown Swiss cow on the Pichet family farm.

The cows have access to the outdoors all year round and their feed is free of genetically modified organisms and pesticides. Michel is proud that his cows live much longer than the average dairy cow and they have more offspring. He explains that most cows have 2 or 3 calves in their lifetime but on his farm they give upwards of 12 calves which are never killed for veal. Producing certified organic cheese costs Fromagerie F.X. Pichet an extra $75,000 per year but as Marie-Claude says, it’s “the price of respecting the environment.”

An amazing amount of cheese was entered into the competition; 291 cheeses from 76 cheese companies were entered.  They competed in 30 categories. There were 16 categories based on cheese style, 5 regional awards, and 9 special categories including milk type, farmstead, organic, and new cheese.

Raclette de Compton au Poivre

Raclette de Compton au Poivre produced by Fromagerie La Station – winner of the Best Flavoured Cheese award

 

Farm House Clothbound Cheddar

Farm House Traditional Clothbound Cheddar produced by Farm House Natural Cheese – winner of Best Aged Cheddar (1 to 3 years) and Best British Columbia Cheese.

Le Porto Bleu

Porto Bleu, a new blue cheese mixed with Port made by Fromagerie du Charme.

An all-star lineup of cheese experts gathered at the University of Guelph at the end of February to judge the cheeses. Professor Art Hill, a respected expert on dairy and cheese science, led the judging. The group did a terrific job narrowing down the entrants and every finalist is worth seeking out.

Georgs and Anita

Georgs Kolesnikovs and Anita Stewart speak at the 2014 Canadian Cheese Awards

Georgs Kolesnikovs is the creator of the Canadian Cheese Awards and the Great Canadian Cheese Festival (the third annual festival will be held June 7-8 in Picton, ON). Kudos to Georgs for his hard work creating these two terrific events. After the Ontario Cheese Society crumbled a few years ago, Georgs stepped up and sought to unite Canadian cheesemakers and promote their products in new ways. I’m excited to see what he has planned next though I’m sure we’ll continue to see greater unity within the Canadian cheese industry especially with the looming increase in the specialty cheese import quota proposed in the CETA agreement.

The crowd of cheese industry professionals watches as category champions are announced

The crowd of cheese industry professionals watches as category champions are announced

At the end of the award ceremony, Georgs challenged cheesemakers to submit better quality cheeses for the next competition. Apparently, some entrants were inferior in quality to what they are known for. It was a rather solemn end to the awards ceremony but I’m confident it’s not a sign that the quality of Canadian cheese as a whole is slipping. Regardless, the bar has been raised and I know cheesemaker are already planning which cheeses they’ll send to the next Canadian Cheese Awards which will be hosted in Montreal in 2016 followed by Vancouver in 2018.

Once again, congratulations to all the finalists and category champions. There are many world class cheeses made in Canada and Georgs’ events are wonderful opportunities to recognize and celebrate the work of our talented cheese producers.

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

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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!

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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.

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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…

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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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Curds and Eh: Best New Cheesemakers 2012 by Kelsie Parsons

The Cheesiry's Washed-Rind Pecorinos

Alberta’s The Cheesiry produces washed-rind Pecorinos

(Another amazing post–maybe one of the best so far– from Kelsie Parsons to look back over 2012 in cheesemaking.  For more of Kelsie’s blogs just type “Curds and Eh” into the search window on the home page or select Curds and Eh under CATEGORIES.  And for intro to his adventure click here.   Now I can’t wait to read his book!! SR)

This is the time of year when many people reflect on the past year. What’s new? What happened? What are the highlights?

2012 was a pretty awesome year for me. After years of dreaming, I finally took time off work and travelled across Canada to write a book about Canadian cheese. But this post isn’t about me, it’s about the wonderful people I met along the way.

Five Brothers, Nfld: Mozzarella, Goat Cheddar and Queso Fresco

Five Brothers, Nfld: Mozzarella, Goat Cheddar and Queso Fresco

It seems like every couple of weeks there’s a new cheese factory popping up somewhere across Canada. What an exciting time to be involved in cheese! Through this post I’d like to call attention to some of the best new cheesemakers out there.

In no particular order, here is my list of the top cheesemakers that began making cheese within the past couple of years. Some are new to the cheese industry, others have been working in it for years but only recently started their own cheese companies. Keep an eye out for their cheeses and if you get the chance take a wedge home to enjoy.

Jeff Fenwick-Back Forty

Jeff Fenwick-Back Forty

Back Forty (Lanark Highlands, Ontario) – Jeff Fenwick

Back Forty Cheese has been around for many years but this past year Jim Keith sold his company to Jeff and Jenna Fenwick. They’re a young couple who decided to move from Hamilton, ON to a beautiful property in the Lanark Highlands in Eastern Ontario. Jeff is the cheesemaker and Jenna is a talented textile artist who transformed Jim’s old sheep barn into her studio.

Bonnechere

Bonnechere

Bonnechere is one of my favourite cheeses ever. Jim Keith styled it after a rare French cheese and it’s actually scorched over an open flame, which gives it a unique toasted appearance. When Jim put his home and business up for sale I was terrified that we’d lose this awesome cheese. Fortunately, Jeff spent several months working with Jim to learn his techniques and Bonnechere continues to be as nutty and delicious as ever. Jeff is also producing Back Forty’s three other raw sheep milk cheeses – Madawaska, Flower Station Feta, and Highland Blue. Rumour has it that he has plans to create a new cheese as well. I can’t wait to try it.

Gunns Hill Cheese board

Gunns Hill Cheese board

Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese (Woodstock, Ontario) – Shep Ysselstein

Based just outside of Woodstock, ON, Shep Ysselstein is the owner and cheesemaker at Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese. Shep was raised on a dairy farm and became interested in making cheese after a trip to Thunder Oak Cheese Farm. He spent some time working at a farmstead cheese factory in the Finger Lakes region of New York and then apprenticed at Natural Pastures Cheese Company in Courtenay, BC. A highlight of his career was working in the Swiss Alps producing a cheese known as Berner Alpkäse. There, Shep and another cheesemaker milked 30 cows morning and night and spent their days making cheese.

Shep sniffs a core sample of Handegg

Shep sniffs a core sample of Handegg

Shep’s experience in Switzerland had a huge influence on him. He now creates 3 varieties of washed rind cheeses influenced by the ones he made and ate in Switzerland. His 20-25kg Handegg, is styled after Berner Alpkäse and named after the Swiss town where he made it.

Shep shows of a wheel of Five Brothers

Shep shows off a wheel of Five Brothers

One of Shep’s other cheeses is known as Five Brothers because he in fact has 4 brothers (two of which work on the family farm tending to their large herd of dairy cows and crops). On the outside, Five Brothers looks like a Gouda but cut it open and large eyes (holes) are revealed giving it the appearance of Emmenthal. The flavour is subtly sweet, with a nuttiness that increases towards the rind and the floral aromas of this cheese are wonderful. I highly recommend Gunn’s Hill cheeses.

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Cheese maker Adam Blanchard

Five Brothers Artisan Cheese (St. John’s, Newfoundland) – Adam Blanchard

Speaking of Five Brothers… another one of my favourite new cheesemakers is Adam Blanchard. He owns Newfoundland’s only artisanal cheese company – Five Brothers Artisan Cheese. Despite the name, the company consists only of Adam (though, like Shep, Adam does have 4 brothers). Five Brothers produces perhaps the smallest volume of cheese of all Canadian cheese makers. Adam doesn’t have an expensive pasteurizer, a huge vat or other impressive equipment.

The stov top and fridges where the Magic happens

The stov top and fridges where the Magic happens

His production facility consists of a commercial kitchen where he makes cheese in stock pots on the stove top and he cuts the curds with a fillet knife. He ages his cheeses in reworked refrigerators. Five Brothers produces mozzarella, queso fresco, cheddar, brie and the occasional blue. Restaurants in St. John’s feature Adam’s cheeses on their menus and he also sells his cheese at the farmers market where it regularly sells out.

Fice Brothers Aged, Cheddar-style cheese

Five Brothers Aged, Cheddar-style cheese

Adam is a chef by trade and is seriously into cheese and food culture. He has only been making cheese for a short while but I know he’s taking every opportunity to learn as much knowledge as possible about his trade (he recently completed a cheesemaking course in Texas).

From my brief stay in Newfoundland, I could tell that Adam is starting something really special. I seriously wish I could be in St. John’s so I can see his line-up of cheeses grow and evolve.

Ron Muise of Wandering Sheperd holding Lauchies Tomme

Ron Muise of Wandering Shepherd holding Lauchie’s Tomme

Wandering Shepherd (Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia) – Ron Muise

Ron Muise worked as a chef for years near Bath, England. He returned to Cape Breton Island, where his ancestors have lived since 1620 and he now has two young children, raises and milks sheep, and makes cheese. He says he left the restaurant business because he grew tired of working 18 hour days but I think Ron likes keeping busy.

Wandering Shepherd--Check out that Rind!

Wandering Shepherd–Check out that Rind!

Ron’s creativity in the kitchen translates well into his small cheese business Wandering Shepherd. When I visited, Ron was ripening 8 varieties of blue cheeses. He says, “As a cheesemaker you should follow your heart. You’re going to do what you love and I love blue cheese.”

Like most chefs, Ron enjoys experimenting and tweaking his recipes. He recalled a recent batch of blue that turned out particularly well but the recipe was written on scraps of paper that went through the wash. No worries, Ron laughed it off explaining that he remembers how he created that batch.

Besides blue cheeses, Wandering Shepherd also produces a bloomy rind cheese, clothbound cheddar and natural rinded cheeses such as Lauchie’s Tomme named after his son, Lauchland.  (More on East Coast cheesemakers)

Simon Hamel stacks trays of cheese in a misty ripening room

Simon Hamel stacks trays of cheese in a misty ripening room

L’Atelier (Sainte-Helene-de-Chester, Quebec) – Simon Hamel

Simon Hamel used to work at Fromagerie Tournevent (makers of Chevre Noir) and Fromagerie Eco-Delices (producers of some wonderful raclette) but he’s now working at La Moutonniere and making his own cheeses there under the name L’Atelier.

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Le Chevre a Ma Maniere

In a previous Curds & Eh! post I predicted that Simon’s ripened goat cheese, Le Chevre a Ma Maniere, would be winning top awards. Since then it won best artisanal goat cheese at the 2012 Caseus awards and it also placed third overall. Congratulations Simon!

While Simon showed me around La Moutonniere’s ripening rooms, he picked up a wheel of aged cheese, pointed to a reddish spot on it and said, “this is my favourite kind of mold, it tastes just like mushrooms!” He scraped it off and we savoured the flavour. No cheese, just mold. It’s that kind of passion and attention to detail that is needed to create an exquisite cheese such as Ma Maniere.

Marie Chantal Houde of Fromagerie Nouvelle France makes cheddar

Marie-Chantal Houde of Fromagerie Nouvelle France makes cheddar

Fromagerie Nouvelle France (Sainte-Elizabeth-de-Warwick, Quebec) – Marie-Chantal Houde

At Fromagerie Nouvelle France, Marie-Chantal Houde creates Zacharie Cloutier, a washed rind sheep cheese aged for 6 months. The rind of Zacharie Cloutier resembles an unwaxed Manchego or Petit Basque and the flavour is reminiscent of nuts and hay. It’s one of my favourite cheeses. Many others have picked it as their favourite cheese as well; in its first year of production, Zacharie Cloutier won as the grand champion of the 2011 Caseus awards and then placed first in its category in 2012!   (very worth seeking out but sadly it is very hard to find outside of Quebec last I checked with the distributor, merde SR)

Marie-Chantal didn’t win these awards by accident. She studied cheesemaking in Poligny, France; has worked as a consultant helping artisan producers develop recipes and she teaches classes at the Vermont Institute of Artisan Cheese. I would love to sit down with her and soak up some of her cheese knowledge.

This summer I had the pleasure of spending an afternoon watching Marie-Chantal work. She whistles and sings as she makes cheese and constantly has a huge smile. It’s obvious that Marie-Chantal absolutely loves what she does.

The Cheesiry (Kitscoty, Alberta) – Rhonda Zuk Headon

Rhonda...photo courtesy of www.osolmeatos.com

Rhonda…photo courtesy of http://www.osolmeatos.com

When I arrived at The Cheesiry, Rhonda made a couple of baa-lattes, lattes made with sheep milk, and we immediately bonded over our shared love of sheep milk and all things Italian. To celebrate her 30th birthday, Rhonda spent 3 months travelling Italy by herself. She fell in love with Italy and before she returned to Canada she began planning her next trip. Four months later she was back in Tuscany working in a restaurant in Montalcino and then on a farm near Pienza where she learned how to make pecorino (pecorino is the generic Italian term for sheep cheese). The farmer eventually let Rhonda make the cheese by herself, which must have been quite daunting but also a huge confidence booster.

The Cheeseirys Pecorino

The Cheeseirys Pecorino

Rhonda took her new skill with her back to Alberta where she now milks 88 ewes. Through the aptly named Cheesiry, Rhonda produces a variety of pecorino cheeses, including the one that she made in Italy. Her pecorinos have rustic, textured rinds and big bold flavours. Quello deliziosso formaggio!

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Shana Miller and Kelsie pose in front of an Upper Bench mural

Upper Bench (Penticton, British Columbia) – Shana Miller

Like most of the other cheese makers on this list Shana Miller isn’t new to the cheese world, she worked as the cheesemaker at Poplar Grove for years. This year she launched Upper Bench Winery and Creamery with her husband Gavin, a well-respected and very skilled winemaker.

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Both wine and cheese are made under the same roof at their facility in Penticton, BC. Shana displays a creativity and ingenuity in creating her rich and complex pasteurized cow milk cheeses. My personal favourites are King Cole, a Stilton-sized creamy blue; Okanagan Sun2, a square washed rind cheese; and Grey Baby, a surface ripened blue. They’re all perfect for indulging in with a (couple) bottle(s) of wine. Upper Bench is a must-visit spot for any foodie visiting the Okanagan Valley.

Upper Bench cheeses

Upper Bench cheeses on a campground cheese board

There are many other cheesemakers that have started producing cheese within the past couple years but these are my top picks for best new cheese makers. I’m sure this won’t be the last time you hear about them.

To all the above cheesemakers, thank you for your hard work, for taking a risk, following your passion and working everyday to make some of the best cheeses out there. I admire all of you and I can’t wait until we meet over cheese again.

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Curds and Eh: Cheese for the (possible) End of the World

Chateau de Bourgogne..

Chateau de Bourgogne..

The latest from Kelsie Parsons. Thanks Kelsie!  SR

With the potential end of the world quickly approaching in four days I’ve been considering my last meal. More specifically the last cheese I would eat. It’s really not a hard decision for me. I immediately knew what it would be.

Chateau de Bourgogne.

Chateau de Bourgogne 2

This cheese is my heroin. One bite and I sink into a state of buttery bliss. The bloomy rind is like freshly fallen snow and the body of the cheese melts if you even glance at it. I’ve always referred to it as ‘cloud cheese.’ Not that this triple cream is ‘light’ but I think the term accurately describes the texture. The fat content doesn’t matter anyway; if it’s the last cheese I’ll enjoy, I’ll eat it like cake.

Brillat-Savarin triple cream

Brillat-Savarin triple cream

Despite my total adoration of this lovely fromage, you wouldn’t hear me complaining if it wasn’t available (the end of the world is no time to complain!). In a pinch, Délice de Bourgogne or Brillat Savarin would also do.   (What about Pierre Robert?  says Sue)

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I think I’ll request December 21st off work so I can spend it with the cheese I love. Whether the apocalypse is caused by a meteorite, the Second Coming, nuclear war or the official cancellation of this year’s NHL season, I’ll go out with a smile as long as I’m indulging in some Chateau de Bourgogne.

Chose ONE cheese?  WHAT?

Chose ONE cheese? WHAT?

What cheese would you choose?

Mayan calendar and its bitter predictions..

The Mayan calendar with its bitter predictions..

Here’s to hoping the end of the Mayan calendar doesn’t lead to the end of the world so we can all enjoy many more wedges of curdaceous glory.

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Curds and Eh 9: On Writing (a Book about Cheese)

Kelsie’s notebooks of cheese facts….(CLICK TO ENLARGE)

To see video from Kelsie’s travels check his Pied de Vent post and to follow his other adventures just search “Curds and Eh” on the Cheese and Toast home page.

On Writing

I find that the hardest part of writing a book is… writing. This summer I spent 3.5 months traveling across Canada. I visited 120 cheese makers to research content for my upcoming book about Canadian cheese. Planning the trip was easy. Getting time off work was no problem and the actual research and traveling was a blast (and delicious!). But one thing that I find difficult is writing. At times it’s even painful and depressing. It’s frustrating because I know what I want to say but how do I express my thoughts in a way that others would find interesting? I’d love to sit down with every potential reader of my book and have a conversation about Canadian cheese. I’d explain the intricacies that excite me and the stories that fascinate me but alas that approach isn’t very realistic.

Don’t get me wrong though, I’m enjoying writing. I’ve never written a book before and I love stepping out of my comfort zone to do something new and learn. As a bonus, I get to relive my summer adventure all over again.

On the road….

After 3.5 months on the road I returned home and sat down at my computer with notebooks full of facts. Unfortunately most readers probably don’t want to read a book consisting of bullet-point cheese facts. If that were the case I would have finished writing long ago!

About a month ago I returned to my job as a cheesemonger at Sobeys. I claimed that I’d write the book in the evenings and on my lunch breaks. Easier said than done! Weeks went by and I barely lifted my pen. It turns out when working full time I need a bit of down-time to relax and not write a book.

When writing at home my day tends to stick to the following pattern: Check Facebook, do household chores, check Facebook, have a snack, exercise, check Facebook, play the guitar, and then check to see if words magically appeared on the page I was working on. I get distracted easily.

Revel Caffe

To write I need a day free of commitments and I need to be out of the house. I’ve taken this week off work just to focus on writing. Lately I’ve been spending lots of time at Revel Caffe drinking coffee and writing away. I bring along a pen and paper and set up my computer on the wooden bar that used to be a bowling lane. I face an old brick wall and zone out in the buzz of conversations. It’s one space where I can free myself of distractions and just write. The library is my second favourite place to work but I find the quietness turns every sound into a distraction.

Humming Under Pressure yet? Just a shout-out to Queen and Bowie.

I love working under pressure. No pressure means no work gets done. Tight deadlines mean I’ll focus, stay up late writing and get it done.

Recently I hired on a graphic designer, David Kopulos. Perhaps the best thing (so far) that has come out of hiring David is that I now have deadlines. I need to have the final edited text to him by the end of April. That sounds like a long way away but I’m looking at it as 3.5 months to finish writing and 2 months to complete the editing. I’m sure I’ll be writing and editing my Canadian cheese book up until the minute that it’s due.

Another obstacle is that I keep revisiting the same chapter over and over again. I’ll rearrange it, change a few words and spend hours tweaking it. When is it ok to accept the writing the way it is and move on?

George Orwell

Sue sent me this quote by George Orwell:

“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”

Does that mean cheese is my demon? I’m ok with that. ;)

I never claimed to be a writer. I’m just a guy that loves cheese.

My question to you bloggers, students and writers of all forms is what helps you write? How do you transform your ideas and thoughts into a form that others hopefully would want to read? Any tips or thoughts would be much appreciated!

(Sue says she thinks Kelsie is a great writer.  And sounds like he’s got the procrastination skill down pat…..)

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Curds and Eh: Kelsie Parsons video blogs from Fromagerie Pied de Vent

Hello everyone–both Kelsie and I are excited to post the first video from his cheese adventures this summer.   I am sure you’ll love (and learn) from it as much as I did.  I’ll let Kelsie take it from here.

Fromagerie du Pied-de-Vent recently switched from making their cheese from raw milk to thermized milk. Thermization, also known as heat treating, is the process that inactivates psychrotrophic bacteria by heating milk to about 65°C for 15 seconds and then cooling it off. This is below the temperature used for pasteurization so the cheese is still technically considered a unpasteurized cheese. The change in milk processing has altered the flavour of Pied-de-Vent. It’s not quite as strong as it was previously but still has a wonderful depth of flavour.

I should mention that the video was recorded and arranged by Ian Langohr, my co-pilot for this crazy cross-Canada adventure. I’m super happy with how our first video turned out. We’re currently working on putting together more videos and will release them here. I think the Pied-de-Vent video does a good job showing how cheese is made but here are a few highlights of our visit to Îles-de-la-Madeleine that I didn’t get to show in it.

Red Sand Beaches of Îles-de-la-Madeleine

Ian and I arrived in Souris, PEI at the ferry terminal at 10pm to buy our tickets for the 8am departure. I must’ve been confused because there was no ferry scheduled for that time but they decided to do a 2am crossing. We left the car in Souris and I spent the 5 hour trip to Îles-de-la-Madeleine sleeping on a seat in the dining room. We arrived at 7am and started our hike to Fromagerie du Pied-de-Vent. Along the way we passed a student protest (Charest was in town), a carnival and many colourful homes.

Dominique Arseneau and a vache Canadienne

After visiting Fromagerie du Pied-de-Vent to see how their cheese is made, we met up with Dominique Arseneau who is the son of the owners and the farmer who looks after the vache Canadienne.  The three of us got along well so he took the rest of the day off to show us around the islands. We spent the afternoon taking in the sights and enjoying the red sand beaches where I enjoyed a quick dip in the water (and avoided all the jellyfish). It felt as if we were in the tropics! I kept my eyes open for palm trees and margaritas but couldn’t find either.

Brews at À l’abri de la Tempête

We did however find some amazing brews at À l’abri de la Tempête, a microbrewery whose name means ‘shelter from the storm’. I find it fascinating how the names of both the fromagerie and the brewery refer to a sense of optimism despite invoking images of harsh weather. It really demonstrates the attitude of the locals towards the climate. Anyways, Ian and I stopped at a lot of breweries this summer and the beer at À l’abri de la Tempête is by far my favourite of everything we tried. I really enjoyed their ginger wheat beer.

The Sea Platter

To accompany our beer we ordered a ‘land platter’ and a ‘sea platter’. Both were delicious but I devoured the land platter before I could snap a photo. The sea platter featured a smoked oyster, jackknife clam jerkey, smoked mackerel and herring, a skewer of salmon and seal, and sweet pickled herring. After a few beers, Dominique asked us if we want sushi. Ian and I were actually roommates back in the day in Toronto’s chinatown so we’ve had some good sushi and I foolishly thought to myself: we’re on an island in the gulf of the St. Lawrence, there must be some good local food here besides sushi.

I should never have doubted our wonderful host. We walked into the fishmonger shop I immediately understood why Dominique was so excited about sushi! There were rows of beautiful rolls made with freshly caught fish, lobster, crab, shellfish and even smoked fish. The sushi was as delicious as it was unique.

At 7pm Ian and I caught the ferry to return to PEI. We were only on the island for 12 hours exactly but if you ask me what my favourite experience was this summer…this was it. I totally recommend a trip to Îles-de-la-Madeleine and if you’re not in a rush, stay for longer than I did. There’s so much good food and culture to take in.

This post is part of a guest blog series by Kelsie Parsons.   See the Globe and Mail piece about his travels.

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Curds and Eh: Episode 7 How to Roll Cheese and Kick Butt at Whistler

Check out lots of photos at canadiancheeserolling.ca

This post is part of a guest blog series by Kelsie Parsons.   See the recent Globe and Mail piece about his travels.

August 18th, 2012 was a super hot day on the slopes in Whistler, BC but that didn’t stop the 137 competitors and over 13,000 attendees of the Canadian Cheese Rolling Competition.

This photo of Kelsie has not been retouched or manipulated in any way.

This was the 5th annual competition and it coincided with Crankworx – a downhill mountain biking festival that attracts fearless athletes from around the world.

Crankworx 2012, photo by Blake Jorgenson (umm, where’s the cheese?)

The Canadian Cheese Rolling Competition is sponsored by Dairy Farmers of Canada and promotes cheese made from 100% Canadian milk.

You need a fast shutter speed not to blur the action in this photo.

What happens at a cheese rolling competition? Basically, cheese is rolled down a hill and the first person to the bottom wins. The winner qualifies for the finals and the grand champion heads home with an 11lb wheel of Cracked Pepper Verdelait cheese and a season’s ski pass to Whistler Blackcomb.

Staying strong through the pain.

After 7 qualifying rounds, 10 men lined up at the top of the hill. The horn blew and people flipped and tripped and stumbled down the hill but Tyler Belan stayed vertical and won the race with a time of 5.03s beating his competitors (including last year’s champ) by only a fraction of a second.

Tyler Belan celebrates.  CONGRATS TYLER!

I was excited to learn that Tyler is actually a cashier supervisor at the Highland Rd. Sobeys in Kitchener, Ontario which is only 5 minutes from the Sobeys where I’m a cheesemonger. If you’re in the Kitchener-Waterloo area stop in to say hi to Tyler, the cheese rolling champ, and maybe he’ll even have a bit of his 11lb cheese left to share. Tyler explained that his technique was to not focus on the cheese but to just run as fast as possible. He actually ran so fast that he beat the cheese to the bottom of the hill! Way to go Tyler for bringing home the gold (or cheese in this case)!

A bachelorette at Cheese Rolling!  I need to get remarried tout de suite. S.R.

And then there is this pic also from The Canadian Cheese Rolling site’s gallery…..

Am assuming this is the costume component and that that is Kelsie in the mask. S.R.

The woman’s finals saw Joslyn Kent of Australia take the prize with a time of 7.08s. For the costume contest, a team from Washington won a $500 gift certificate to local restaurants for their costumes of a cow, farmer, wheel of cheese and milk bucket featuring the 100% Canadian milk logo. One of the other attractions was a busy farmers market featuring cheesemakers from BC to PEI. Festival goers sampled cheese and brought home their favourites.

Spectators keeping a safe distance from hurtling cheese (and people)

Although I didn’t compete (the above action photos of Kelsie were just promo shots and did not involve a stunt double whatsoever S.R.) , witnessing the Canadian Cheese Rolling Competition was one of my most memorable days this summer.

Salt Spring Island’s Romelia, Juliette and Blue Juliette.

What’s next for this cheesy adventurer? A trip to Vancouver Island and Salt Spring Island and then I’ll be ending my 3.5 month road trip and taking the long drive home. Not to worry, I’ve got enough cheese stories to keep me writing for a long time.

For Curds and Eh 1 (the itinerary), click hereCurds and Eh 2 (Quebec), Click Here, Curds and Eh 3 (Quebec) , click here, Curds and Eh 4 (St.John’s), Curds and Eh 5 (Thunder Oak Gouda)and Curds and Eh 6 (Upcoming Cheese Festivals).

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Curds and Eh, Episode 6: Cheese Rolling and 3000 tonnes of curd

These people are chasing wheels of cheese down the Whistler slopes

This post is part of a guest blog series by Kelsie Parsons.   See the recent Globe and Mail piece about his travels.

Summer is the time for festivals. I’m not talking Lollapalooza and Osheaga here. I’m talking cheese festivals such as The Great Canadian Cheese Festival, Victoriaville Fine Cheese Festival, Festival des Fromages Artisanaux Quebecois and American Cheese Society’s Cheese Rally in Raleigh.

Although we’re half-way through August the festival season isn’t over yet. Here are a few cheesy festivals to keep you busy.

St. Albert, Festival of Curd

Festival de la Curd – St. Albert

St. Albert Cheddar Co-op makes some of the best cheddar curds in Canada. Fortunately for us they created a festival to celebrate squeaky cheddar curds. The annual festival began in 1994 when St. Albert Cheddar celebrated its 100th anniversary. This year’s festivities include a giant corn maze, an antique tractor show, beach volleyball, a magician, plenty of live music, wine and surprise, surprise…CURDS!!! Over the course of the 5-day festival, St. Albert typically gives away 3 tons of cheddar curds for free. 3 TONS of curds!!! That could make a lot of poutine!

I have never been to the curd festival but I’d love to go sometime! If you’ve been (or are going) I’d love to hear all about it!

Festival de la Curd takes place August 15-19 in St. Albert, Ontario. For more info visit the Festival de la Curd website. .

More cheese rolling–view from the bottom of the hill!  Helmets! Knee pads! This is intense.

The Canadian Cheese Rolling Competition

Where will you be on Saturday August 18th from noon-4pm? I’m planning on attending the Canadian Cheese Rolling Competition in Whistler, BC and I’m super excited to see it! As you may know, I’m spending my summer visiting cheesemakers in every province and will be writing a book about Canadian cheese. I’ve actually planned my whole trip so that I end up in British Columbia for this competition!

This guy for Pope. Just a thought (by Sue).

The Canadian Cheese Rolling Competition is based on the legendary cheese rolling competition in Gloucestershire, England but with a Canuck twist. All the cheese at the festival (and there’ll be a lot) is made from 100% Canadian milk.

Cheese rolling is pretty straight forward. Basically, cheese is rolled down a hill and people attempt to catch it. The lucky winners get to keep an 11-pound wheel of cheese and they receive two ski season passes to Whistler Blackcomb. Last year’s festival saw over 165 participants and 12,000 spectators! There’s more than just cheese rolling and running though. The festival also includes a costume contest, cheese seminars and a market featuring cheesemakers from Courtenay, BC to Charlottetown, PEI.

This event is sponsored by the Dairy Farmers of Canada and aims to bring attention to great cheeses made from 100% Canadian milk. As someone who is eating different Canadian cheese every day I have to say there’s a lot of great cheese made here!

UPDATE FROM KELSIE:  The winner of the 2012 cheese rolling is Tyler Belan, front end manager at Highland Sobeys in Kichener, ON.  Congrats Tyler!

Cheese Rolling winner

For an up-to-date countdown until the festival  check out canadiancheeserolling.ca

Come out and taste the best grilled cheese of 2012.

The Grate Canadian Grilled Cheese Cook-Off

The start of the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) in Toronto is always a bittersweet time. Around this time you’ll hear people exclaim, “The CNE is opening! I can’t believe summer’s almost over!” But that sentiment doesn’t last long as they indulge in tasty treats and then attempt to hold them down while on dizzying rides.

One of the hot food events at the CNE will be The Grate Canadian Grilled Cheese Cook-Off held in the All You Need Is Cheese booth. At this event top chefs from around Canada compete to create the “gratest” grilled cheese sandwich.

In 2010, Michael Howell (chef and owner of The Tempest in Nova Scotia) won for his Panini Toscano which featured Canadian Havarti, prosciuto, baby arugula, fresh figs, lemon aioli, and balsamic vineagar. Whoa! I’ll be cooking this up when I return home in September.

Michael will be defending his title against three top chefs from across Canada: Jason Bangerter, executive chef at O&B Luma and Canteen restaurants in Toronto; Ned Bell, executive chef at the Yew Restaurant at The Four Seasons Hotel in Vancouver; and Liana Robberecht, executive chef at the Calgary Petroleum Club in Calgary. Each chef has created two recipes featuring cheeses made from 100% Canadian milk and the winning chef will walk away with the 2012 Grate Canadian Grilled Cheese trophy. Recipes from the event will be posted on the All You Need Is Cheese (www.allyouneedischeese.ca/grilledcheesecookoff) website after August 29th.

Chef Melissa Craig at the 2010 competition.

One the judges who will taste all these gooey creations will be Cheese and Toast’s very own Sue Riedl! I’m sure Sue makes a mean grilled cheese sandwich too! (Awwww, stop. SR) What’s your favourite grilled cheese sandwich? Personally, I like mine with horseradish cheddar (go on!  me too…SR)…or maybe a triple cream mixed with a Swiss style cheese. There are infinite possibilities!

The competition will be held on August 29th at 11am in the All You Need Is Cheese  booth at the CNE in Toronto, ON.

For Curds and Eh 1 (the itinerary), click hereCurds and Eh 2 (Quebec), Click Here, Curds and Eh 3 (Quebec) , click here and Curds and Eh 4 (St.John’s).

**Photo of the grilled cheese from http://theinterrobang.com

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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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Curds and Eh: A Cross Country Cheese Tour, episode 1

Kelsie Parson: Canadian Cheese Tourist

Hi everyone, here is the first blog in the Curds and Eh series. Welcome Kelsie!

Hello fellow cheese lovers!

By day I’m the Cheese Manager at Sobeys Ira Needles in Kitchener and by night I’m a curd nerd who can’t stop reading about cheese (and eating it too!). I started working at Sobeys nearly 2 years ago and I’m responsible for a 36′ long cheese wall, which is home to 350 varieties of cheese.

Sobeys Ira Needles

Several months ago I told Russ, my store manager, that I was planning on taking the summer off to travel across Canada and write a book about Canadian cheese.  He was incredibly supportive but wanted to make sure I’d return to Sobeys when I’m done. Of course I promised I’d be back. When I began my travels Russ wanted part of me to stay with the cheese wall so he hired one of my staff to carve my head out of St. Albert Mild Cheddar!

From here…

To here….It’s quite the honour having my head in cheese! I’m still amazed! It’s like looking in a cheese mirror!

With a Jean and a beautiful wheel of Louis D’Or at the Great Canadian Cheese Festival.

I’m currently on week 4 of my cross-Canada cheese adventure. Recently I’ve visited cheese makers around Ontario and attended the Great Canadian Cheese Festival and today I’m heading to Montreal.

I’ll be in Quebec for a full month but I’m afraid I’ll still only try a handful of all the cheeses produced there. After Quebec I’m headed to the Maritimes and Newfoundland(!) and then across Northern Quebec and Ontario. The longest   the road will be driving from Thornloe Cheese near Lake Timiskaming to   in Thunder Bay. Ontario is a massive province! I’ll then spend the month of August traveling the Prairies, Alberta and B.C. When I consider my journey as a whole, 3.5 months seems like a really long time to be on the road but breaking it down province by province it seems like a whirlwind adventure. Regardless, I’m really looking forward to sharing the journey with you.

Poutine from St. Albert Cheese on Ottawa. Can man live on poutine alone?

Why such an epic cheese adventure? I’ve always wanted to write a book about Canadian Cheese and I figure now is the right time. In many ways I’m modeling my book after Cheese Primer by Steven Jenkins. The book is organized by region opposed to style and as a reader I felt like I traveled around Europe with Mr. Jenkins. I’m aiming for my book to be about individual cheeses as much as it is about the people behind them and the regions they’re from. Of course there will be loads of photos in the book; I just wish I could make it scratch and sniff (what a stinky book!).

One thing I’m missing though is a title for the book. I considered simply Canadian Cheese. It’s too the point but not very catchy. I find cheese people usually have a cheesy sense of humour so I also considered titles such as The Whey Across Canada and Curds & Eh! I like them but I think there’s a better title out there. Now this is where I ask for your help. If you can help me come up with the perfect title you’ll be recognized in the acknowledgements and you’ll get a free book (when it’s printed).

See you again in two weeks,  Kelsie

My favourite pic (says Sue) Kelsie in storage!

BIO

Kelsie Parsons worked as a cheesemonger for Cheese of Canada and Provincial Fine Foods in Toronto and his photos of Canadian Cheese are featured in Juliet Harbutt’s World Cheese Book (2009). He earned his Cheesemaking Certificate from the Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese and has since apprenticed at Monforte Dairy. In 2010, Kelsie was selected as a delegate to represent the Toronto Slow Food convivium at Terra Madere in Turin, Italy. Kelsie is the Cheese Manager at Sobeys Ira Needles in Kitchener and is currently writing a book about Canadian cheese. He also blogs at Sobeys.com/foodiefeature

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