Tag Archives: Montreal

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.”)

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July 7–better than the Canada Day Long weekend (Farm, music, chefs) GROW FOR THE STOP FUNDRAISER

Better than the long weekend? Uh-huh.  In case you hadn’t heard, The New Farm’s 5th Annual Fundraiser for Grow For The Stop is happening this Saturday July 7.  Montreal band Stars will be performing amongst delicious, organic local food prepared by some of Ontario’s top chefs.  Here are the deets:
Saturday July 7th, 2012
Gates Open and Dinner: 5:30
Opening Band: 7:30
Stars Perform: 8:30
Admission: $45, plus eventbrite ticketing fees – http://www.eventbrite.ca/event/3540334235
Food and drink sold separately – cash sales

  • Rodney Bowers of Hey Meatball, Organic French Fries with Ketchup and Mayo
  • Chris Brown of The Stop Community Food Centre – Twin Creeks Grilled Pork Sausages with New Farm Cucumber Slaw
  • Kristin and Dan Donovan of Hooked – Fish Tacos served with Luis Valenzuela of Torito Tapas Bar’s Fresh K2 Milling Corn Tortillas
  • Matt Flett of Georgian College - New Farm Pulled Pork on Brick Street Bakery’s Artisanal Buns
  • Brad Long of Cafe Belong, New Farm Salad Greens and Spring Vegetables with Brown Butter Dressing
  • Giacomo Pasquini of Vertical Restaurant – Fenwood Grilled Chicken with Panzanella Salad
  • Aaron Bear Robe of Keriwa Cafe – New Farm Fried Green Tomatoes with Snap Pea Guacamole
  • John Sinopoli of Table 17 and Escari –  Spring Vegetable Frittata
  • Caesar Guinto of the soon to open, Creemore Kitchen – Heritage Grain Donuts with Sweet Beet Filling
  • Mapleton’s Organic Ice Cream
  • Ingredients distributed by 100km Foods Inc.
Bar Selections Generously Provided by:
  • Creemore Springs Brewery
  • Martini Bar by Tag Vodka with Local Flavours
  • Wine by Innisikillin
  • Organic, Fair Trade Coffee by Merchants of Green Coffee 
  • Cider by Avalon Orchards
  • Dairy by Organic Meadow 

  • The New Farm is a small diversified organic farm, near the Village of Creemore. Three years ago, The New Farm formed a partnership with The Stop Community Food Centre in Toronto, a wonderfully innovative and inspirational organization that works to increase access to healthy food in a manner that maintains dignity, builds community and challenges inequality. The New Farm does many things to support their work, including holding events on their farm that feature great music, dram and delicious food. They built a stage in their 100 year old bank barn and have had bands like Fred Eaglesmith, The Sunparlour Players and Elliott Brood perform. To date, The New Farm has raised over $50,000 for Grow for The Stop’s Food Program, where 100% of the money raised goes towards buying the best organic food grown in Southern Ontario for use in the Stop’s many programs and Foodbanks in Stayner and Collingwood.This year, The New Farm hopes to raise $25,000 on July 7th, with an event that will draw 500 people. The renowned Montreal Band, Stars will perform and this year, the event will showcase a variety of different food stations featuring a number of Ontario’s top chefs and restaurants.



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Curds and Eh eps 2: Quebec (get ready to change your summer vacation plans)

To read and introduction about this guest blog series by Kelsie Parsons click here.  For Eps 1, click here.

Hi Everyone,

I feel bad for telling you about my project and then disappearing for two weeks. Hopefully you can forgive me once you see how busy life on the road actually is.

Here’s a quick review of last week:

Sunday June 17th – I attended the Fine Cheese Festival in Victoriaville, Quebec, which was a great opportunity to meet cheese makers before I hit the road. I enjoyed meeting Michèle Foreman, author of the just released Fromages: Artisans du Quebec. La crème de la crème. It’s a beautifully photographed book with information on all the artisan cheese makers in Quebec. I’ve found the book to be incredibly helpful so far on my journey even though it is en français (and admittedly my French is limited).

Caseus Award for Le Baluchon

A real highlight of the day was seeing Le Baluchon win the people’s choice Caseus award. Le Baluchon is an organic, unpasteurized cheese with a washed rind and is so deserving of the award.

The raclette grill of my dreams (Sue)

On Monday I spent several hours at Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser near Noyan. Fritz Kaiser grew up in Switzerland and moved to Quebec at a young age where he began making cheese in 1981. He’s known for creating the first Canadian raclette cheese. What is raclette you ask? It’s the name of a cheese, the accompanying grill and the process of melting cheese and serving it on potatoes, meats and veggies. (ex. “Come on over to my raclette party and we’ll melt some Fritz raclette on my new raclette grill”)

l’Abbaye-Saint-Benoit-du-Lac

A highlight of my adventures so far occurred last Tuesday when I finally took the pilgrimage to l’Abbaye-Saint-Benoit-du-Lac. In 1912 French monks settled on the banks of Lake Memphremagog and began a Trappist monastery. In the early 1940s a cheesemaker from Denmark visited the monastery and taught the monks how to make a blue cheese similar to the French Bleu d’Auvergne. Their unique blue is appropriately called Ermite (Hermit in English) and was the first cheese created at their factory in 1943. Now their most popular cheese is Bleu Bénédictin, an earthy flavoured blue that previously won as a Grand Champion of the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix (basically the Oscars of Canadian cheese).

Unpasteurized (less than 60 days) Le Pont Blanc, Fromagerie au Gré des Champs

Wednesday was a day full of new cheeses for me. Ruban Bleu, is a farmstead fromagerie located just outside of Montreal and it produces many sizes, shapes and varieties of goat cheese. There’s something for everyone here but my personal favourite was a fresh chevre mixed with caramelized onions. That day I also visited Fromagerie au Gré des Champs who produce unpasteurized, organic cheese made from the milk of their herd of Brown Swiss cows. Fromagerie au Gré des Champs is one of a handful of fromageries in Quebec that legally produce unpasteurized cheese aged for less than 60 days*. One of these cheeses is called Le Pont Blanc. It’s a small lactic cheese with a very thin rind, a yeasty aroma and a mild milky flavour.

Sheep at La Moutonniere

There’s never time to rest when you’re on a cheese adventure so on Thursday I headed to St.-Hélène-de-Chester to visit La Moutonnière and l’Atelier. Lucille Giroux, the cheesemaker behind La Moutonnière, initially raised sheep for meat but realized that she needed to get another product out of them to make a decent living. At the time there was no sheep being milked in Quebec so she imported dairy sheep from Sweden. I love her Fleur de Monts, an aged sheep cheese with fragrant floral aromas.

Ma Maniere (My Way)

Simon Hamel has 10 years of experience making cheese in Quebec and France and recently began creating his own cheeses under the name l’Atelier out of La Moutonnière. My new favourite cheese is one he creates called Ma Manière (the name roughly translates to ‘I’m doing it my way’). It’s a lactic goat cheese with a wrinkly rind and a flavour that will transport you to France. I’m willing to put money on Simon winning top awards with this cheese. Ma Manière has very limited production so it may be hard to get. (try Fromagerie Atwater in Montreal–Sue).

Working hard to make fresh cheese at Fromagerie Presbytere

Nothing makes me happier than seeing communities come together over food. Every Friday in Sainte-Élizabeth-de-Warwick people gather in the front yard of Fromagerie du Presbytère for a picnic dinner and to enjoy fresh cheese served at three stages of the cheesemaking process. Around 4pm bowls of a cottage cheese like product are sold. Cheesemakers Jean Morin and Marie-Chantal let the fresh curds (no, not cheddar curds) knit together into a single mass, which is then cut, stacked, flipped and restacked. Slabs of this fresh cheese are then sold at the shop and customers sprinkle salt on top. Next, blocks of fresh cheese are milled and salted and turned into squeaky cheddar curds. This is what everyone waits for! Throughout the afternoon and evening, hundreds of people attend the picnic and enjoy wine as they listen to live music.

Zacharie Cloutier, sheep’s milk

If you ever have the chance to try Zacharie Cloutier (produced by Fromagerie Nouvelle France at this facility), Louis d’Or, Laliberte, or Bleu d’Elizabeth, I highly recommend doing so. They are some of the finest cheeses in all of Canada.

(Kelsie is continuing on Quebec and will be posting again soon-Sue)

* The federal standard is all raw milk cheeses must be aged for 60 days before being sold. About 4 years ago, Quebec changed their regulations allowing for fresh unpasteurized cheeses to be sold but only if cheese makers met strict regulations

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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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Musings on Toronto’s Chef legacy


Not to flog a well-ridden horse (ok, I will)  but I’ve been meaning to get back to posting about the Terroir 2012 conference  and while looking through my notes got to thinking about the dialogue surrounding the 50 Best Restaurants List.   There was outrage, insult and a lot of defensiveness felt at Canada’s chefs being excluding from the rankings.

I read a few interesting opinions as to why we are being “overlooked”  and even why we may not yet deserve to be there.  Some writers seemed to feel that cuisine in Toronto (or across Canada) is very good, excellent even, but  plays it too safe– no real risks are being taken.  Or perhaps not enough.  Maybe this is partially due to clientele.  A restaurant has to survive in an incredibly tough business.  A kitchen must cater somewhat to the palates (and wallets) of the customers as much as the chef may be dying to expand his diners’ comfort zone.

On my initial visit to Chantecler in April I asked which dishes were the “hits”.  The answer was “depends who you ask”.  The regular customers had certain faves and the industry people who ate there had others.

All of this was running through my head as I thought back to the Terroir 2012  “Culinary and Drink Trends” session.  The first half seemed to focus more on food trends in general than just drinks, and a fascinating conversation evolved about where cuisine in Toronto was headed.  Grant Van Gameren, executive chef at Enoteca Sociale (formerly of Black Hoof fame) was very outspoken and raised some interesting questions about the legacy of Toronto’s chefs as leaders.

He said that as new interests develop and old trends fade (so long charcuterie) we need more chef-leaders in the city. A lot of  small restaurants are being opened by newer, younger chefs and a lot of the “grandfathers” are doing TV.  Which wasn’t a criticism, just a question about who is out there teaching these new up and comers?  In Van Gameren’s opinion, “we’re in a 5-year block of transition” to what our food scene is going to be.  And which of these younger guys/gals is going to still be around?

He went on to say that the need to break free, expand your creativity in your own kitchen is understandable but are 27 and 28-year-old chefs ready to set the pace for the next generation?  He suggested that many chefs in Toronto need to travel more, stage more around the world.  Get a more international perspective.  Right now no one in Toronto is doing much to stand out.

He even singled himself out saying sometimes that when he is mentoring his crew, he will find himself wondering what more he can learn–so he can better lead those under him.

Van Gameren also acknowledged that in order to sustain a groundbreaking restaurant like Chicago’s Alinea in Toronto you would need investors to take on the risk and also the local support of Toronto’s diners–people need to be willing to shell out cash for more than just comfort food.

He pointed out that a lot of the smaller places opening these days take on the same formula– reclaimed wood, edison bulbs and copper accents–and some chefs do serve  avant-garde cuisine in these cozy rooms–but often the stereo is blasting so loud you can barely hear your server describing, with great care, the dish you’re about to eat.

Which brings me back to the type of restaurants that are featured on the Top 50 list; true “fine-dining” venues with a less laid-back atmosphere.  Places where the chefs are moving cuisine forward, maybe even before the diner is ready to take the leap.  Though hopefully they have enough faith to jump.

Do we have these kind of leaders (and diners)  in Toronto? In Canada?  I guess we’ll have to wait and see what happens next year.  Or in the next five.

For some interesting perspectives on the Top 50 list (and how it’s is judged) you can check out these links:

Lesley Chesterman, The Montreal Gazette

Chris Nuttall-Smith, The Globe and Mail

Adrian Brijbassi, Vacay.ca

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American Cheese Society Conference: Cheese a Go-Go

Setting Up the Festival of Cheese

This is what 1676 cheeses look like set-up for nibbling.  The Festival of Cheese which is also open to the public concludes the events at the ACS conference.

I was lucky enough to get a peek while the room was being set-up.  This is only one side of a giant conference room.

It smelled pretty amazing in there.  Fresh, milky and rich.  Cheese land.  And the roller coaster was awesome.

Here are a few more images of the room to make you wish you were there.

This is the soft, bloomy-rind table underway.  Some of the really rich yellow ones were made with Jersey milk.  Comfort Cream from Upper Canada Cheese Company is in there–it won a ribbon.

Ontario also had winners from Glengarry Fine Cheese (Aged Lankaaster), Monforte (Abondance) and Best Baa Dairy for their yogurt (a no-brainer, especially if you’ve had the maple flavoured one!) and Mouton Rouge, a washed-rind wheel.

Here is the part of the blue table.  One of the Quebec winners was one of my absolute faves–the sheep’s milk Bleu Moutonnière .  YUM. YUM. YUM.

Finally-we had 44 Quebec ribbons over all and here are a few of the winning Fromageries:

La Moutonnière (5) Fritz Kaizer (3) Maison d’affinage Maurice Dufour (2) and of cour La Presbytere whose Louis D’Or took third prize for Best in show.

Cheesed out yet?   Someone get me a green salad.


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