Tag Archives: cheese

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: Breaking News-Fifth Town Cheese Back in Production

This scoop is by Kelsie Parsons.–SR
Screen Shot 2013-01-09 at 12.08.21 PM
Exciting news for all the curd nerds out there!
After closing their doors 8 months ago, Fifth Town Artisan Cheese has now been bought. Today is the first day back for a couple of the Fifth Town employees who are busy cleaning the plant and preparing for construction to start.
Fifth Town will start making cheese again in 8-12 months.
Cape Vessey (coutesy of the Great Canadian Cheese Festival)

Cape Vessey (courtesy of the Great Canadian Cheese Festival)

A year is a long time but it’s comforting to know that we’ll soon have access to they’re prized cheeses again. I’m crossing my fingers that they’ll continue to make Cape Vessey, Lemon Fetish, Isabella, Operetta…and many others.
Update Jan 9: Confirmed that Fifth Town was sold to Patricia Bertozzi (of Bertozzi Importing) in Nov 2012. Her daughter Patricia Bertozzi is the new owner.
Background on the situation can be found at this post for cheeselover.ca , and here for the official closing news. SR

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Fastest Lunch in the world for Christmas Eve Day: Vacherin Mont d’Or

The wonderful Vacherin Mont D'Or

The wonderful Vacherin Mont D’Or

Good Morning everyone!  Instead of running out to the closest mall–run to the closest cheese store and pick up a Vacherin Mont d’Or and a baguette.

Featured today for as my Monday “Lunch” piece in the Globe, you won’t find a faster or more satisfying meal.

Happy Holidays!

Sue

PS I know Whole Foods and Cheese Boutique has them, leave a comment if you’ve seen them anywhere else and we can get everyone hooked up!

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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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Toast Post: Vicky’s FlatBread and 14 Arpents Cheese

14 Arpents cheese from Fromagerie Médard in Quebec

***NOTE:  I am retweeting this as the 14 Arpent article was not yet out when first posted.  Enjoy.  La Fromagerie on College also now carries the cheese.

The creamy and luxurious 14 Arpents cheese from Fromagerie Médard  is the subject of The Wedge today (with recent changes to the Globe Arts and Life section, The Spread is now The Wedge). Other than promoting this lovely cheese all over the place the blog allows me to give a shout-out to a great new artisinal product I recently tried,Vicky’s Flatbreads.

Made in Toronto, the flat breads are named after the wife of creator Richard Bedford.  They come in two flavours: Original and Rosemary.

Quite addictive, you first experience the crisp CRUNCH followed by great flavour– I can taste the sesame seeds, poppy seeds and olive oil that go into them.

Yet, the flavour is not so pronounced that they wouldn’t make an excellent showcase for cheese, dips, or pates.

And considering they’re healthy (low in salt, no sugar, no preservatives or trans fats AND Kosher) you can eat as many as you want!  Or so I tell myself.

Look for them at small retailers in Toronto such as Alex Farm Products on Bayview Ave., Culinarium, Harvest Wagon, Summerhill Market and Pusateri’s, Olympic Cheese and Scheffler’s Delicatessen in St. Lawrence Market.  You’ll also find them at The Village Grocer in Markham and Vincenzo’s in Waterloo.

Here is a link to a short piece with a little more background on Richard and Vicky’s Flatbreads.

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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, Eps 8: Home Curdy Home, Kelsie Parsons reflects on his cheese tour

Say Hi to Kelsie if you see him around–he’s easy to spot.

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

As August came to an end so did my cheese travels. I now keep my food in a fridge, know exactly where I’ll sleep each night and I spend my days on my computer writing about cheese. There is a certain comfort to being home and having a work routine but I do miss being on the road driving every day, interviewing cheese makers and meeting their cows, goats and sheep.

Checking out Brendan’s beehives

The drive home went quicker than expected. I started in Naniamo, took a ferry to Vancouver, visited two cheesemakers then drove to Nelson, BC to visit my brother. We spent a day together checking out his beehive and watching Kokanee (fresh water salmon) spawn. The next day I hit the road again and visited Kootenay Alpine Cheese in Creston, BC then drove to Regina.

Calf at Kootenay Alpine Cheese

The next day I drove from Regina to Thunder Bay, slept in the Walmart parking lot and then did a long haul home to Stratford, ON. Three and a half months on the road sounds like a long time but it meant I only had a couple of days to spend in each city. To me the summer was a whirlwind tour of Canada but I discovered many cities that I’d love to return to.

Kokanee spawning in BC

While in a café in Winnipeg, I learned their wifi password is “every day I live my dream” (without the spaces). That phrase really stuck with me. I’m so fortunate to be studying something that I love and to work towards a book that up until now I’ve only dreamt about writing. It may sound strange (to some people) but I actually think about cheese all day and occasionally I dream about it at night. It’s kind of an obsession.

When I started in the cheese business I worked for Gurth Pretty, author of The Definitive Guide to Canadian Artisanal and Fine Cheese. In 2006, when Gurth’s book was published it was groundbreaking. No one had ever written such a comprehensive survey of Canadian cheesemakers. I was inspired by Gurth to follow my passion for cheese and to write a book of my own. By writing a book, my goal is to help others discover the world of cheese made in Canada. There are amazing cheeses, cheesemakers and mongers across the country and they deserve to be recognized!

Forms filled with Curds at Salt Spring Island Cheese

Over the past 3.5 months I visited cheesemakers in all 10 provinces and drove over 25,000km. I sampled cheese from 118 Canadian cheese producers and took thousands of photos. I flew to St. John’s, Newfoundland to visit 2 new cheesemakers and took a five hour ferry to Iles-de-la-Madeleine just to visit a cheesemaker. Every single day this summer was an adventure. Every day I learned something new and every day I lived my dream.

By nature of my adventure I ate a lot of cheese (it’s a perk of the job really). Many people have asked me what my favourite Canadian cheese is but it’s so hard to pick just one. Could you? I’ve narrowed down my list to about 30 favourites. What are they? Well, you’ll have to wait for the book! I can’t give it all away here.

A dark and Stormy cheese he means…..Illustration by Dave Donald.

Now it’s time to write a book.

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), Curds and Eh 6 (Cheese Festivals) and Curds and Eh 7 (Cheese Rolling ).

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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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Go to Cheese School this Fall! Classes start in September.

Cheddar making tools

Wondering why there’s a rake lying in a bathtub?  Time to go to cheese school.

The Cheese Education Guild (where I took my first cheese classes) is back up and running and offering an introductory Cheese Appreciation course starting September 11, 2012 and running 8 weeks until October 30, 2012. (hey, you can give out cheese for Halloween!  With a little note that says, “Eat the rind scaredy pants!”)

I went to cheese school and look–(messy) counters full of cheese greet me every day!

My colleagues and the new owners of the school, Lisa McAlpine and Marla Krisko are both graduates of the 3 level certificate program (originally run by Kathy Guidi who created it as the first certified cheese program in Canada) and will be teaching the course.  They are excellent and experienced instructors who are also a lot of fun.

Hmmm, bloomy rind, buttery paste, ripe interior and gorgeous manicure.

You may or may not do all three levels but this first course is eye-opening and inspiring for anyone who has a love or learning and a love of cheese.  It’s a lot of fun–but you also have to study a bit….which may mean putting out a cheese board.  (hmmm, my first degree was in film which involved studying by watching movies…am I lazy?  or genius? )

Here is more info:
Time and Location:  6:30 – 9:30 p.m. at University of Toronto Faculty Club

Cost:  $575 + HST = $649.75

Contact:  info@artisancheesemarketing.com

Cheese Appreciation 1 Classes include 8 weeks (Tuesdays) of training, 3 hours per evening, course curriculum materials, tasting of 8 – 10 cheeses per class, testing, and final certificate.

These classes allow the student to discover the vast knowledge surrounding the production of cheese, its history, cultural influences and the nuances of terroir.  In addition, the student is taught how to actually taste and categorize cheese and to appreciate its subtle qualities.

Cheese Appreciation classes are casual, but extremely informative, allowing the student to relax while learning about cheese and enjoying the company of other like minded caseophiles (cheese lovers!).  Students attending these classes range from pure enthusiasts to retail and culinary students wishing to specialize in the exciting World of Cheese.

Established in 2005, the Cheese Education Guild has trained hundreds of cheese lovers, ranging from enthusiasts to food and wine professionals, and has played a significant role in encouraging the production and distribution of artisan cheese across Canada and the U.S.

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