Category Archives: Toast Posts

Toast Post: Cravings for the Fourth of July-California’s San Joaquin Gold

San Joaquin Gold shaved onto toast

As the Beach Boys sang on a forgotten B-Side, “Wish they all could be California Cheese”.  And you will hum along too after a taste of the Fiscalini San Joaquin Gold from Modesto, CA.

It’s the salty buttery combo that is so seductive when balanced perfectly in a cheese and this one had me at first bite of this firm, aged wedge.  It will keep you captive well into a long, smooth finish.

In fact, I had to laugh at myself because I took a piece and held it up to my nose to get a sense of the aroma when suddenly it was gone! I ate it on impulse.  It was like holding a piece of ham up to my cat.

I’d better lay my cards on the table-you can’t get the San Joaquin Gold in Canada right now, but as many of us travel to the US I figured it might be a good one to enter into you TO DO list on the iPhone or Blackberry (or jot on a piece of paper that you will find 2 years from now in your denim capris).

Above is the label for your shopping reference.  You can see the cheese is farmstead, made from the milk of the Fiscalini’s own cows.  They are very proud that their milk standards exceed even the California State Standards and “cleaner” than organic.  The farm is animal welfare certified, environmentally certified and powered by renewable energy produced on-site.  This cheese is made from raw milk in 32 pound wheels and typically aged about 16 months.  The one I had was a bit older–from March 30, 2010.

The slightly “blueing” on the far edge of the cheese is simply a small crack where oxygen and natural bacteria snuck in. Nothing to worry about.

The cheese has a similarity to Parmigiano Reggiano and was originally created to be a Fontina-style product which ended up evolving into something rather unique.  The Fiscalini’s refer to the Joaquin Gold as their “Gold Medal Mistake” (winning Gold at the World Cheese Awards in London 2004/2005).  As it ages the cheese develops the tasty and crunchy tyrosine crystals and develops some toasted nutty notes.

Snack on it, grate it, melt it, travel with it.  This cheese is extremely versatile.

Fiscalini Clothbound Cheddar, 18 month–Fred Lum, The Globe and Mail

And while your mouth is watering you CAN get the amazing Fiscalini Clothbound Cheddar here in Canada (Sobey’s carries it).  For more details you can read my ravings in this Spread piece (because it really deserves to be raved about.).  Cheesemaker Mariano Gonzales, who honed his skills at Shelburne Farms in Vermont (where he created one of the first American clothbound cheddars) is responsible for the Fiscalini clothbound but credit for the San Joaquin’s creation goes to Tom Putler.

The San Joaquin gold is vegetarian friendly as it is made with a microbial rennet (and has a natural rind).  (The clothbound is also made with microbial rennet but rubbed with lard before being bandaged).

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Ticket Giveaway for The Artisan Cheese and Fine Food Fair June 2/3

I’m very excited to be have two passes (courtesy of the The Great Canadian Cheese Festival) to give away for their Artisan Cheese and Fine Food Fair which takes place in Prince Edward County on June 2 and 3.   This is the second annual event and numbers for the Food Fair will be capped each day so these are hot little tamales.

Monforte Dairy’s triple-cream Bliss and hand-churned butter will be available at the event.

If like me, the above cheese board is your perfect meal, you won’t want to miss the Food Fair where you will find over thirty artisanal and farmstead cheese makers from across Canada plus a dairy farm for the kids (I  plan to leave my son in the care of a responsible–but fun-loving–goat), a food court and 80 exhibitors in total showcasing their wares.

These two tickets are worth $80 and with admission you get:

-10 tasting tickets

-a souvenir Festival cooler bag for cheese purchases  (this is much better than a leather purse, trust me)

-free parking at the Crystal Palace where the event is being held

-and you can sit in on the All You Need is Cheese seminars being put on by Dairy Farmer’s of Canada  (and taught by Deborah Levy who is fantastic and very knowledgeable)

Here is a link to FEATURED WINERIES, CRAFT BREWERS and ARTISAN FOODS.

Sandbanks Winery, PEC image from About.Com

And if you’ve never been to Prince Edward County, you really must try to see it.  It is a perfect weekend away.

There is also a COOKS AND CURDS gala on the evening of June 2 which features Canadian chefs cooking with Canadian cheese, paired with local brews and wine.  The first sitting is sold out but the second sitting is still open.

Information about getting tickets to everything (but obviously you’re going to win these) is available on the festival site as is accommodation information.  See you there!

HOW TO WIN:

If you think you’d like to attend simply email me at thespread@globeandmail.com with the subject heading CHEESE FESTIVAL GIVEAWAY and I will do a draw next Tuesday, May 22 and mail you the tickets if you win.

Good luck and please spread the word, forward this, tell your friends to pass on information about this amazing event.   Much appreciated.

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Toast Post: Alberta’s Farmstead Buffalo Mozzarella

I had the pleasure of not only feasting on the above delicacy from Old West Ranch in Alberta, but I also had an amazing conversation with farmer and cheesemaker James Meservy.  At the end of it I was convinced he should host his own radio show, the man is a natural story teller.   But part of it is that he has an amazing story to tell.

You can read the piece in my article  in today’s Globe and Mail, but I never have the space I wish I had to full tell a cheesemaker’s story…….so here’s a little bit about James, his wife Debbie and their journey to cheesemakerdom (they started off as beef farmers) which didn’t make it into the piece.

Patch the Water Buffalo, in the rain. Photo by James Meservy.

In 2003 “mad cow disease” had killed the beef industry and by 2007 the Meservy’s were selling off cattle to make bank payments (therefore cutting revenue at the same time).  They had to do something drastic, “So naturally I thought, we’ll get water buffalo, isn’t that what everyone does?”  says Mr. Meservy.  He’d been fascinated with the animals since he discovered mozzarella was made from their milk during a childhood game of Trivial Pursuit and had already been researching the idea for a number of years. The couple encountered many stumbling blocks—from difficulty sourcing the water buffalos and once acquired, losing precious animals to illness.  When he finally saw his big, spunky beasts for the first time, Mr. Meservy only half-jokes that his stomach sank “ I thought, I’m going to get killed, I can’t survive that.”

With no formal training other than a home cheese book and a half-day spent at a Vermont mozzarella plant he made his first batch of cheese in March 2010.  Popping 10 balls of mozzarella into a jar he started canvassing Calgary restaurants.  The response was overwhelmingly positive, his mozzarella is now on the menu at the renowned River Café (among others) and sold at Janice Beaton Fine Cheese

James’ (and his family’s) perseverence seems like it could move mountains.  Perhaps typical of many agricultural families.   His cheese is pretty amazing.  James says he’s not trying to replicate the Italian version, he’s doing his own thing.  His goal was to create a more robust expression of the flavours normally found in buffalo mozarella and I think he really succeeded.

Take the lid off one of the containers of his cheese and just the wonderful, fresh, milky aroma will convert you.

Contact James Meservy at farm@oldwestranch.ca

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Toast Post: Merlot Bella Vitano for your weekend munching

I only had enough change for a skinny piece!

Wine and cheese in the same package.  Perfectly portable and legal for the underage too.  I didn’t know that the award-winning Merlot Bella Vitano ( from Sartori cheese in Wisconsin) was gettable up in these parts.

But I went to the new Leslieville Cheese on Donlands and there it was.  It’s referred to as a cheddar-parm hybrid in some reviews and does have the creamy quality and acidity of cheddar mixed with the savoury, sweet crunch of the Reggiano.  In this one you also get a bit of that fermented grape tang.

I asked the cheese monger to write the other flavours on my cheese package/notepad–it also comes washed in raspberry ale, balsamic vinegar and rubbed with espresso.  If you like the coffee-cheese idea you can also get the delicious lavender/espresso rubbed Barely Buzzed from Sobeys.  Or you can read about my coffee and cheese pairing experience here.

Have a fantastic weekend!

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Toast Post: Tomme de Savoie (can keep you skinny)

Sometimes we fall in love with a food, eat it endlessly and then forget about it for months (or years like my Supernatural Brownie recipe).  That is what I felt like when I bought a wedge of Tomme de Savoie recently.  In fact I thought, really, I forgot about this?  I mean look at this guy–he couldn’t be more photogenic.  And more pokeable than the Pillsbury Dough Boy. The paste is so rich and unctuous that it holds promise of creamy fullness making it impossible not to touch.

The word “Tomme” refers to small to medium-sized alpine-style cheeses from France and usually the region’s name is attached (Savoie in this case).  The word Tomme is used also used a bit more freely to describe a smaller style of cheese which is good for ageing, has a rustic rind and a semi-soft interior.  These “other” Tommes can be found in Canada (such as Tomme de Grosse Île and Tomme Haut Richelieu).  Originally a Tomme would be made from the milk of several different herds, not just from one farm, but always from animals that grazed in the same region.  (Thank you Steven Jenkins and Max McCalman for this last bit of information.)   I also have read that these smaller “Tommes” originated to use the the skim-milk left over from bigger, richer cheeses like Beaufort.

In case you wanted to get closer. And kiss it.

Tomme de Savoie is a raw, cow’s milk cheese (bask in its beautiful colour) and it has a thick, rustic inedible rind.  I can just picture this cheese in my pocket when cross-country skiing or in my hand at the kitchen counter while I procrastinate from cross-country skiing.  You’ll get flavours from the pastures the cows’ grazed in, a slight herbaceous, grassy quality with nutty milky notes and a beefy mouth feel to match its earthy, pungency.

AND, because you will want to eat a tonne of it (or a tomme of it! drum roll pls) , since it is still traditionally made with skim-milk it actually a lower-fat cheese (with high-fat flavour).

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Toast Post: Fromage Fort

Today I wrote a piece in the Globe about a spread called Fromage Fort.  Without repeating myself (as you can simply read the actual piece), I thought I would expand a little on the recipe that is in the Globe and tell you the specific cheeses that I blended to make two versions of the spread as I was testing it.

This makes such a fabulous grilled cheese or quick meal just broiled on baguette that I almost had to stop myself from eating it twice a day (I didn’t stop myself though, that would be wrong).

And my cheese drawer is suddenly SO spacious.  I feel some cheese shopping coming on….

Yep, 5 or 6 of these and contentment is yours.

TRIAL 1:

The first trial was made of actual leftover cheese in my fridge.  I used:

2 oz Stilton (blue)

3 oz Pierre Robert (soft, triple creme)

2 oz Garottxa (hard)

2 oz asiago (firm)

handful parsley

1 clove garlic

1/4 cup white wine

lots of fresh ground pepper

So, just about an even ratio of everything though I threw is some extra Pierre Robert that was leftover on the cutting board.  (Why  did I not just eat it?  Oh the willpower I possess.)

Then I just buzzed it for 30-60 seconds in the food processor til completely combined and it was done.

TRIAL 2

Same wine, pepper, herbs and garlic, I went out and bought specific bits of cheese for this one:

2 oz Abondance (firm)

2 oz old cheddar (firm)

2 oz Munster (soft, washed rind)

3 oz Brie (soft)

This version was quite strong (though the blue in the first batch really spoke out) but it was a little more pungent due to the Munster.

But again–I find when melted the flavours mellow out a bit (not if you ask my husband about the Munster version though!)

TA-DAAAAA!!!!!!

I know I am going on about this, but it is truly some of the easiest and most rewarding “cooking” I have done.   And it all has to do with cleaning out the fridge.  Two birds…lots of cheese bits.

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Toast Post: Cheese Wedges to Fill Your Stocking Toe


There’s always too much good cheese and not enough space in my Globe column to include it all so I’ve listed a few other cheesy ideas below (with advice from our local cheese mongers in Toronto, Edmonton and Vancouver).

SOBEYS (Ontario)

Fiscalini Ageing Rooms (photo from Fiscalinicheese.com)

Fiscalini, Clothbound Cheddar:

Andy Shay, the cheese buyer at Sobeys has just brought this California cheese into stores within the last week.  Made in traditional English style, this cheddar is a world-class award winner (including “outstanding Cheese of the Year”).  I’ve been looking forward to this one like, well, like a kid at Christmas.  (Also ask for it at Les Amis du Fromage in Vancouver)

Juliet Harbutt’s Line of British Cheese:

(For a detailed list of the whole line see my post on British Cheese)

Specially picked for best quality (and also keeping in mind being stored at a larger retailer) all these cheeses are fairly hardy and can be left out for an afternoon of nibbling.  The Stilton is made by Cropwell Bishop who make some of the most outstanding examples of this product.

A TASTE OF QUEBEC (Toronto)

Pied De Vent (photo from fromagesduquebec.qc.ca)

Located in the beautiful Distillery District the store carries only Quebec products.  Aside from amazing cheese you can get Quebec honey, charcuterie, preserves and lots of other easy to prepare nibbles.  Suzanne at the store recommended the following:

Pied de Vent

The name of this cheese refers to the sun’s rays peeking through the clouds. It has a copper-coloured rind and buttercup yellow paste. Until recently, Pied de Vent was only available in Quebec. This luscious cheese has a supple paste with a full, meaty aroma. The flavours are buttery, robust and nutty. A great after-dinner cheese all by itself.  (Also at Loblaws Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, and Les Amis de Fromage, Vancouver)

La Tomme des Demoiselles

A hard pressed  cheese aged more than 6 months with salty and fruity flavours.  Made by the producers of Pied-de-Vent and also raw milk.

EVERYTHING CHEESE (Edmonton)

Chaource (photo from aritisinalcheese.com)

The scoop from Tania and Lydia at this great new (just over a year old) cheese shop in Edmonton is the following:

Chaource

This decadent double-creme is made in France’s Champagne region and is the perfect pairing for your bubbly.

Gingha Fruit Cheese

This  “Scottish Pear” is made with a mix of Scottish cheddar, cream cheese and pear Schnapps. It is formed in the shape of a pear and covered in wax.  (See how easy it is to eat more fruit?)

They also carry Shropshire Blue and classics like Epoisses, Valencay (so gorgeous on a cheese board), and Robiola (Heaven is a gooey Robiola).

LES AMIS DU FROMAGE (Vancouver)

Cropwell-Bishop Stilton

Allison at Les Amis was kind enough to stop and email me some ideas in between the holiday rush.  I’m putting my money on the Ported Stilton– apparently it’s going very fast!

Ported Stilton

The right way to marry your port and Stilton–have a professional do it.  “We pierce the outside of the Stilton and pour Port into the wheel, we start at the beginning of November and give it at least 6 weeks,” says Allison.

Goat Cheeses

They have lots of fabulous little goat cheese with fresh ash, Espelette peppers, aged pyramids, logs buttons, leaf-wrapped and soaked in Marc.

(these types of goat cheese are so lovely they must be seen to be appreciated, go immediately)

Mountain Cheeses

My favourite  cheese category–they’ve got lots reports Allison,  including Abondance from Savoie and Le Marechal from Switzerland.

BLUE CHEESE

Blue Juliette (photo from Provincial Fine Foods)

Today’s column, The Spread was based around Stilton and Roquefort and blues in general.  It was quite a struggle to whittle down, and here are a few other blues that you might consider (amongst dozens!  I know!)

Blue Juliette, pasteurized goat, BC

This soft, creamy, shadow of a blue is made from goat milk and hails from Salt Spring Island, BC.  There ‘s no oxygen allowed into the interior of this soft-ripened cheese so the mold only develops in a lace-like blue/green pattern on the rind.  Beautiful on a cheese board and only mildly feisty.

Montbriac (also known as Roche Baron), pasteurized cow, France

If Cambozola’s been your blue cheese compromise, ditch it for a sexy French ally.  A brie-like bloomy rind cheese that gets silky and runny when ripe, its exterior is a striking charcoal colour due to the ash covered rind.  Blue mold is minimal but creates a rich, tangy flavour with a hint of spice.

Erborinato al Cacao e Rum, raw cow, Italy

Tis the season of pampering, and if you’re hoping to indulge your guests look no further than this Erborinato from Italy’s Piedmonte region.  This blue is Infused with 8-yr old rum and coated in cocoa powder.  A hard-to-get cheese with an appropriate price tag, it’s currently available at Toronto’s Cheese Boutique. 

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