Category Archives: Travel and Food

Edibles on the Road

Curds and Eh: TGIF at Fromagerie du Presbytère (get the scoop in Kelsie’s video)

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Kelsie is back with an amazing video about the festivities at Fromagerie Presbytere and some cool viz of cheesemaking taking place.  If you want to read more search “Curds and Eh” in the sidebar.  Or focus on Kelsie’s favourite new Canadian cheesemakers from 2012.  -SR

People often ask me what my favourite cheese is and I find that it’s such a hard question to answer. I usually change the question and respond, “Oh there are so many, but right now I’m enjoying ___________” or “well, if you were to limit my choices to goat milk blue cheeses from the Gulf Islands in British Columbia then I’d have to choose_______.”

But I wouldn’t hesitate if someone restricted all my future cheese consumption to only one fromagerie (ie. cheese factory). Before the challenge left their mouth, I’d blurt out “Fromagerie du Presbytère!”

Making cheese at Fromagerie-du-presbytere

Making cheese at Fromagerie-du-Presbytere

The aptly named Fromagerie du Presbytère is based out of a renovated Presbyterian rectory in Ste-Élizabeth-de-Warwick in the Centre-du-Québec region. It is home to two cheese companies, Fromagerie du Presbytère, maker of the multi award-winning Louis d’Or (among others); and Fromagerie Nouvelle France, producer of the multi award-winning Zacharie Cloutier.

There are three main reasons why I’d choose this fromagerie: the passion of the cheesemakers, their extraordinary cheeses and the community that comes together to support them.

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Jean Morin serves samples of Louis d’Or at the party

The Cheesemakers

Jean Morin (Fromagerie du Presbytère) and Marie-Chantal Houde (Fromagerie Nouvelle France) are always smiling. They are welcoming and playful and their passion and love of cheese is obvious. Together, they are on a mission to make the best cheese in the world and seem to be having a great time doing it.

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Laliberte cheese  triple cream cheese

The Cheeses

Between the two cheese companies, they make every style of cheese that I need. There are fresh cheddar curds, a rich triple cream, a sweet and creamy blue, a raw alpine style cheese, and a raw sheep cheese similar to Manchego. Both companies make extraordinary cheeses, the names of which often evoke the rich local heritage and culture.

Laliberté is named after Alfred Laliberté, a sculptor from Ste-Elizabeth-de Warwick who became a founding member of the Sculptors Society of Canada. Unlike his sculptures which were typically made from marble or bronze, the cheese is soft and melts in the mouth like butter. Laliberté is a triple cream with a bloomy rind and boasts flavours of vegetables, fresh mushrooms and cream. It’s a truly indulgent cheese.

Louis d’Or is named after a French gold coin and shares its name with the Morin family farm. This cheese is made in 40kg wheels, has a nutty flavour similar to a Swiss Gruyere and seems to win every competition in which it’s entered. It was crowned the Grand Champion of the 2011 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix, earned a 3rd Place (Best of Show) spot at the 2011 American Cheese Society competition, and won five awards at the 2012 Selection Caseus in Quebec.

Zacharie Cloutier

Zacharie Cloutier

Zacharie Cloutier has the same braided reed patterned rind as Manchego but lacks the wax coating of its Spanish ancestor. This washed rind cheese has flavours of nuts and hay and is one of my favourites (I have many favourites but sheep cheeses have a special place in my heart). Zacharie Cloutier shares its name with an early settler of New France who happens to be a distant relative of Marie-Chantal Houde (and other Canadian celebrities such as Alanis Morisette, Louis St Laurent, Avril Lavigne, Celine Dion and Shania Twain, seriously).

Marie-Chantal separates the curds and whey

Marie-Chantal separates the curds and whey

Recently, Jean and Marie-Chantal collaborated and released a cheese made from a combination of their milks, raw Holstein and Jersey milk from Presbytere and raw sheep milk from Nouvelle France. The resulting cheese is named Le Pioneer, weighs in at 40kg and has been aged for a year. I haven’t tried it yet but I’m anxious too. It promises to be another outstanding product from two of the very best cheesemakers in Canada.

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The Community

The population of Ste-Élizabeth-de-Warwick literally doubles on Friday evenings during the warmer months of the year. Hundreds of visitors set up tables and chairs on the yard of the rectory where they enjoy fresh cheese with wine and beer. A retired baker bakes breads and sweets on site, musicians play from the balcony of the rectory, and people make new friends and catch up with old ones.

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The Friday gatherings are, in a way, a celebration of fresh cheese. While visitors to the fromagerie eat, drink and are merry on the grounds of the rectory, Jean, Marie-Chantal and their team are busy making cheese inside. The fresh cheese is available at three stages during the production process:

4pm – Fromage de petit lait – curds in whey. To be eaten from a bowl with a spoon.

5pm – Slab cheese – unsalted, unmilled, slabs of cheese (this isn’t cheddar yet!). Customers can sprinkle salt to add extra flavour.

6pm – Fromage en grain – AKA cheddar curds. Straight from the vat to the customers! Warm curds are a real treat.

Louis D'Or at the American Cheese Society Competition

Louis D’Or at the American Cheese Society Competition

This past summer I spent a Friday evening at Fromagerie du Presbytère. Their Friday parties are, perhaps the most honest celebration of cheese I’ve witnessed. There’s no corporate sponsorship, no advertising, no pretension, and no need to buy tickets. It’s simply a bunch of cheese lovers coming together to celebrate the work of two talented cheesemakers.

Here’s a little video my buddy Ian Langohr and I put together about our experience.

Weather permitting, Fromagerie du Presbytère will host the first Friday fête of 2013 on April 19th and they will continue EVERY Friday afternoon until the autumn.

I seriously hope no one will actually restrict all my future cheese consumption to just one fromagerie but if they did I think Fromagerie du Presbytère would be a great pick.

Now, if you were challenged to only eat cheese from a single fromagerie (it doesn’t have to be French), who would you choose and why? (You can be sneaky like me and choose two if you want)

And seriously, how can you actually choose one cheese to be your favourite!?

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Zuni Cafe, Hope and Anchor and boy is it hard to park in San Francisco

The beginning of San Francisco

The beginning of San Francisco

We drove to the Zuni Cafe straight from the airport with loads of time to get there.  Or so we thought since we allowed not too much thought for finding parking (you’d think coming from Toronto…) but I suppose we were in vacation mode.

Anyway, 40 minutes later, many one way streets and devastating parking spot “sightings” that were not parking spots because the street cleaner has priority wed between 12-2pm we found a place.  And headed down to the Zuni Cafe

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The famous made-to-order Caesar salad and house cured anchovies.

Here’s a little excerpt of history from the website–read the whole thing it’s quite a great story….

“Billy West opened Zuni Café in 1979, with a huge heart and exactly ten thousand dollars. In the early years, the restaurant consisted of a narrow storefront with a creaky mezzanine, roughly one quarter of its current size. To capitalize on the neighboring and highly visible corner cactus shop, (where Billy had been a partner, until it became clear cactus sales wouldn’t support three partners), he hand-plastered the walls and banquettes of his new space to give it a southwestern adobe-look. He chose the name Zuni, after the native American tribe, and decided to offer mostly simple and authentic Mexican food, drawing inspiration from Diana Kennedy’s cookbooks. A Weber grill was an important early investment, and was rolled on to the back sidewalk for each day’s service. Next came an espresso machine, which doubled as a stove since you could scramble eggs with the milk steamer.”

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Tad’s lunch: roasted quail…

I started with a glass of white wine (my actual request was local and not excessively oaky) and ended up with a lovely glass of minerally Zuni Chardonnay which hails from a vinyard in Santa Cruz.  Felix has the best apple juice he’s ever sipped-organic, fresh pressed.  Tad had an Anchor Steam beer.  His main was the Wolfe Ranch quail with quail egg, pan-fried sweet potatoes, kale salad and harissa.

It looked a lot less phallic when it was on the table in front of me I promise you.

I really was torn about posting my lunch photo which was described as house-made  Llano Seco Ranch fennel sausage (so juicy and delicately flavoured it was heavenly) with escarole, roasted Yellow Finn potatoes, cracklings, watermelon radish and caper-shallot vinaigrette— but somehow my photo has turned it into something phallic.  Avert your eyes if you have to.

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So while Felix used the best manners at his disposal to finish his pasta and tomato sauce (with a side of fennel sausage) Tad and I decided we made the wrong decision by skipping the fresh oysters and remedied the situation.

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We shared a pair of Pacific Hog Island Oysters (bottom, from Tomales Bay just north of San Fran) and Marin Miyagi’s (top, also from Tomales Bay).  Here is a great blog piece about the Tomales Bay oysters and area.  We liked the Hog Island the best, lighter and a little sweeter but both were lovely–the ocean in your hand.

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And then dessert.  Meringue crisps, coffee and chocolate whipped cream with chocolate sauce and toasted almonds.  With a coffee.  And Felix only ate a bit–too full.  Spoils for me.

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Moe proof we were in San Francisco–Felix watching the cable car being turned.

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Anchor and Hope on Minna Street

Our second day we went for lunch at the Anchor and Hope (thanks Janice!)  Here is their lunch menu-there was definitely a business lunch scene happening but the overall atmosphere is casual, open and funky space with huge nautical ropes strung around the ceiling beams.

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Kettle Chips and garlicky aioli arrive when seated.

And would have been nice had we all been there at the same time–again not knowing the parking secrets, it took Tad about 35 minutes to park and finally Felix and I had to order without him.  I had the Cubano, roasted pork, jamon de paris, swiss cheese, pickles, Dijon, taro chips and Tad had their extremely juicy burger.  Felix had their fries, aioli and ketchup. (yes, I just gave in to maintaining calm child while people negotiated business around us.)

The beer menu was impressive and long and a satisfying read in itself if you like beer.

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S’long San Francisco…..may we only ever take the amazing vintage style trolley next time we visit.

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I am flying 6 hours to get to lunch on Wednesday.

Zuni Cafe Lunch Menu

CLICK ON THE MENU TO SEE FULL SIZE AND BE JEALOUS

HMM, I guess the above menu could have used an outline or something.  Well, let’s just call it free form blogging.

So I am off to San Francisco tomorrow and still have to pack, wash hair, pay some bills, charge iPad, iPhone and laptop, remember to pack passports, panic that I forgot to pack passports, panic that my name does not match my passport on my ticket and figure out how to wake at 4-year-old gently at 4am knowing we have 15 minutes to be out of the house.

And snacks.  Must pack snacks.

But otherwise–check out the deliciousness that will greet me at 1pm California Time.  Will report back from the ZUNI Cafe.

And did I mention my reservation at Chez Panisse?    Oh boy oh boy.

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Canadian Cheese Grand Prix -Behind the Scenes as a Judge

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo Courtesy of Dairy Farmers of Canada.

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

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

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

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

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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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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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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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