Tag Archives: food

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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Filed under Cheese/Cheese Related, Curds and Eh, Travel and Food, Uncategorized

Homemade Ricotta, Easier than Pie (guest post by Ally Chang)

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How did I get so lucky to have two of my talented friends blog recipes on Cheese and Toast this spring?  First Johanne Durocher made Saag Paneer and now my friend Ally Chang (another cheese obsessed cohort) will show you how to make homemade ricotta–it is SO GOOD–especially warm, and Ally  also added her ricotta pancake recipe.  How good is it to live at her house?  Enjoy,  SR.

How to make Ricotta Cheese      by Ally Chang

Making ricotta cheese is so incredibly easy and it tastes so much better than store-bought too.  I have modified a couple of recipes to make it even easier – I like recipes that call for things I have on hand, not specialty items that I have to buy.  So if you have milk, cream, salt and lemons you are in cheese making business.  We eat some of this warm, fresh ricotta in the morning for breakfast with fresh fruit.  I then use the rest to make Lemon Ricotta Pancakes the next day.  The pancake actually freeze well so the left-overs go into a Ziplock and into the freezer and I have a quick and easy breakfast option for my kids during the busy weekday mornings.

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If you do not have cheese cloth is available at most grocery stores or the bulk store.

Ricotta

Bring the following ingredients to a gentle simmer:

1 litre (4 cups) of 3.25% milk (I use organic but you can use non-organic)

1 1/2 cups whole (35%) cream

1 tsp salt

Then add:

2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 tbsp white vinegar

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Draining the ricotta through cheese cloth.

Let this cook for 1 minute and you will see the curds separate from the whey.

After 1 minute, drain the cheese through a cheese cloth (doubled) that has been placed in a colander.  Let it sit in the colander to further drain for a few minutes.

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Enjoy warm with fruit or let cool then store in a container in the fridge.  The next day you can make Lemon Ricotta Pancakes.

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Lemon Ricotta Pancakes 

Whisk the following ingredients together:

3/4 cups all purpose flour

3/4 cups Red Fife flour (which will add a lovely nuttiness or use all purpose)

2 tsp baking powder

Zest of 1 lemon

1 tsp sea salt

1 1/4 cups milk

1 egg

2-3 tsp lemon juice

Then fold in 1 cup of homemade ricotta.  Cook pancakes on a medium low heat (you can keep them warm in the oven set at 200).  Serve with blueberries and warm maple syrup.

**Ally has also told me that these freeze really well for make-ahead, instant breakfasts.

RICOTTA

Originating in Italy, the name “ricotta” comes from the Latin recocta or “recooked,” reflecting the fact that the whey is reheated after being “cooked” once already when separating the curds and whey.Ricotta can be made from sheep’s, cow’s, goat’s or water buffalo’s milk and is a fresh, loose cheese with a mild flavour that can sometimes have a slightly granular texture (ripened and smoked varieties also exist). Some ricottas are made with skim or whole milk, which increases fat content and makes them more moist and creamy.  (Like Ally’s recipe)

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Making Saag Paneer with guest hostess Johanne Durocher

Saag Paneer for dinner-YUM!

I am absolutely thrilled to have my friend Johanne do a guest blog for me!  She has so much going on and yet made time for Cheese and Toast.  Her bio and pic (including a pic of donuts) is here and her blog Fashion in Motion is a fave–not only because of the fabulous content but I love Johanne’s witty and fun writing style.  You shall see as you read from this point on…..  ENJOY, SR.

As a gal who likes to improvise in the dressing room and in the kitchen, following a recipe to the letter is an exercise in restraint. I can’t resist substitutions, additions, modifications. I’ll use a silicone spatula instead of a wooden spoon. I’m such a rebel. Cue the music: I did it my way.

Perhaps that’s why I’ve always enjoyed cooking Indian food: it’s so flexible to adding more of this, less of that, turn up the heat or throw in an extra veg. But every now and again and I take on a new recipe and force-feed myself a little discipline. I do my best to follow it to the letter and not dispute salting the water or measuring only one teaspoon of vanilla.

And so it was with this in mind that I rolled up my sleeves and made Saag Paneer. Most people look shocked and a little scared when I tell them I made Saag Paneer. It is fitting that we reveal the mystery of the saag right here right now.

I followed the recipe here at Active For Life and it boasts a healthy take on the Indian classic. Having made Indian dishes before, I thought, piece of cake. It is very easy- but not necessarily a project I recommend undertaking on a weeknight unless you’re up to eating at 9pm. It will be an event: so pour yourself a drink and start washing your spinach.

I set a very large pot of salted water to boil and while that was heating up, I washed and dried just over two pounds of fresh spinach. That in itself took a long time and when I make this recipe again, I may just buy it pre-washed.

Fresh Spinach

I prepared just over two pounds of fresh spinach that I chopped into 3-inch long segments

Before blanching the spinach, I coarsely chopped it in half or thirds depending on the length of the leaves. I figured that this way when I would blend them there wouldn’t be a chance of having long strings of spinach filaments- imagined or real, the anticipation caused a coarse chop (see- I just can’t help myself throw in extra steps.)

Okay, when the water is at a full boil you drop your spinach in it, stir to get it all wet and then you wait and watch with the lid off (helps tremendously).

Spinach in Water

Blanching spinach is easy- just let the water come back to a boil and you’re done

When the water begins to boil again, strain the spinach and discard the water. In my case, I was hesitating about blanching it all at once because I had so much spinach and perhaps had not chosen a large enough pot, so I blanched in batches. To do this, just delicately scoop out the blanched spinach from the water and let the water come back to a roaring boil before throwing in the next batch. Worked really well for me.

Blanched spinach

The goal of blanching is to soften the spinach, not kill it to mush

After that bring in the high-powered machine: blend the spinach in a food processor at high speed. It won’t be super smooth so you’ll want to add water at the rate of one tablespoon at a time, then blend again, then add water until it’s looking smooth to you. It won’t be like a creamy-smooth, but it should be well-blended and the spinach particles quite small. No chunks, no filaments.

Food Processor

I was using my mini-food processor and had to blend my spinach in batches. See? Anything is possible

After that comes the fun stuff: on medium heat, melt 2 tbsp of butter in a large pan with high sides. Add ¾ tsp of cumin seeds and cook until slightly browned and fragrant, stirring occasionally. Careful not to let these babies burn. Add 1 diced cooking onion and sauté until golden, roughly 10 minutes. Stir in 3 cloves of grated garlic and 2 tea spoons of grated ginger root. Cook for one minute.

Onion and Cumin

By this time it will smell so good in your house you’ll be thinking you can do this

When the onions are nice and golden, stir in ¼ cup of cilantro finely chopped, ½ tsp each of salt, ground coriander and turmeric. Stir in ¼ tsp of cinnamon and cook 30 seconds until fragrant. Add ½ cup of fresh chopped tomatoes and cook until they reduce and break down, roughly 5 minutes.

Paneer in Pan

I made the execute chef decision to pan-fry the paneer cubes at this step in the game

Set aside the tomato mixture in a bowl and return the frying pan to the stove, adding one teaspoon of oil and set that to medium heat. Dice 1 package of paneer into bite-sized cubes and add that to your hot pan. I added two cloves of grated garlic to them and flipped the cubes until golden crispy on two or more sides and then pulled those aside. This paneer-frying is a deviation that is perfectly acceptable (weeks later I discussed this with chef Vikram Vij who said it’s okay, but you can also just add your paneer later as the recipe instructs and that way it will be more melt-y, less-cube-y in texture. Your choice.).

Golden Paneer

Mmm paneer- a pressed cheese much like cottage cheese brick and commonly used in Indian cooking. I didn’t make the paneer and you don’t have to, either; it’s found at most large supermarkets.

I returned my pan to the heat and picked up where I left off: in it went the tomato mixture which I brought back to medium heat while stirring, and then added the reserved spinach. Cook for 3 minutes.

Spinach and Tomato

See me using a wooden spoon! I’m not breaking all the recipe rules

After that you should be looking at it and asking yourself if the mixture is saucy. If too thick, add water a few tablespoons at a time and stir. Stir in 1/3 cup of plain yogurt (I used fat-free Greek yogurt and threw in a little extra), the paneer cubes, and 2 tsp of lemon juice.

Yogurt Paneer

Watching this coming together is like waiting for the finale to a figure skating routine and you will get a quad

Bring to a simmer, then cover and cook for 5 minutes. Uncover, cut the heat, stir and admire your work.

FInal Saag Paneer

Ta-da! It will be magic and even the international judges will give you full points

Serve with rice or naan bread, or in my case, eat it straight up with a side of Panch Churan chutney (see top photo).

Thoughts on leftovers….

For me it was the best on the night-of, the leftovers were delicious but the creaminess never matched the same bliss as when the sauce came out of the pan. Chef Vikram Vij told me that flavours will intensify over time, too.

Come over here to see the full instructions to make this Saag Paneer and feel like an Indian figure-skating sensation.

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Cheese Appreciation 1 Starting April 29 at Culinarium Toronto

Food-slice off the wheel-Tad Seaborn

photo by Tad Seaborn

Cheese Education Guild is the first cheese school dedicated to cheese appreciation in Canada. It
is patterned after international wine education programs and is a registered Canadian
education institution.

Cheese Appreciation 1
Results: certificate of achievement
Prerequiste: none
This thorough introduction on the topic of cheese provides the base for future study, discussion
and tasting in Cheese Appreciation 2 & 3.

Through the study program you will learn to:
 Taste, compare, discover, and explore the world of cheese.
 Gain understanding and deepened appreciation for cheeses from every category,
country and type of milk.
 Obtain knowledge to speak confidently about cheese with customers, patrons, and
associates.
 Build a network with other experts in cheese.
 Achieve a certificate of achievement for each level you complete from your
participation, research, reading and final testing during the course.

Venue and time for Cheese Appreciation 1
Venue: Culinarium, 705 Mt. Pleasant Rd., Toronto, Ontario (east side of Mt. Pleasant Rd,
south of Eglinton Ave.)
Next class starts: Monday April 29, 2013 and runs every Monday to June 24, 2013. ( no class
on Monday May 20, 2013)
Time: 6-9pm.
Cost: $575 +HST (Includes: cheese, course material, testing & certificate.)
CA1 is a total of 24 hours, 3 hours per week for 8 weeks.
Visit us for more information and registration
www.artisancheesemarketing.com
www.cheeseeducationguild.com

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Finally I respond to my 11 Liebster Award questions

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Thank You WEDGE IN THE ROUND for nominating me for the Liebster Award.  What could be nicer than having a fellow writer with a great cheese blog think of you for something like this.  I don’t even know exactly what happens after this (I think the spirit of the award is to spread the Blog Love)  but I love random questions and random questions coming up below….  SO THANKS WITR.

By the terms of the award:

  • When you receive the award, you post 11 random facts about yourself and answer 11 questions from the person who nominated you.
  • Pass the award onto 11 other blogs (make sure you tell them you nominated them!) and ask them 11 questions.
  • You are not allowed to nominate the blog who nominated you!

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I have been slacking and just cruising California, but finally here are my answers.

11 RANDOM FACTS ABOUT SUE:

1. I used to work in Visual FX.

2. I really cannot stay up much past 11pm.  I do but I don’t like it.

3. I am a morning person (see above).

4. I love tap dancing.

5. I never really cooked anything til 2006.

6. I am watching Smash and Nashville.  How did this happen?

7. I am dying for Breaking Bad to return and I miss Eric from True Blood. (I say that as if we’re together)

8.  Can’t wait for the last Sookie Stackhouse novel in May though I feel it will suck.

9.  Just read The Sisters Brothers and hope that someone is making it into a film right now.  NOW.

10.  I have a weakness for Fleuvogs.

11. Chez Panisse was shut down by a major fire  a week before I was supposed to eat there.  I know it’s not all about me–but really?

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LA from the Palisades-time lapse by Tad

And now to answer the questions from Wedge in the Round:

  1. What is the number one reason you started your blog?  To write how and about what I felt like.
  2. And what is the number one reason you continue it?  FUN.  Except when it’s after 11pm.
  3. What have you learned from the blog? How to take decent food photos.  And less is more.
  4. How much time do you spend per week on your blog? Not enough.
  5. What has surprised you about the blog?  That I kept it up!
  6. If you could start over, what would you change?  The design.  Blah. Someone help me, pleeze.
  7. When not blogging, what do you do for fun?  Go to the movies.  Read.
  8. Your favorite place to eat out?  Chantecler.
  9. Favorite PRINT magazine? Saveur.
  10. Your next big thing?  Hopefully a burrito.
  11. Guilty pleasure?  Smash and Nashville.  I think Smash is better, but Nashville-I can’t quit you.  Though Scarlett’s hair is taking on a life of its own.  And I love Connie Britton.
Brain on vacation

Brain on vacation

BLOGS I NOMINATE:  (I am supposed to have 11 but my vacation brain has stunted and here are 3 from my witty friends)  Mostly because I want to see their answers to my questions!

Food Anthology

paulatiberius.com

strollingthecityinheels

My questions:

1. What is a food you hate but secretly pretend to like to be cool?

2. What vegetable do you like raw but never cooked?

3. What is a name you hate based on a bad grade school experience with someone?

4. Where do you think you slack on your blog?  (if at all)

5. What advice would you give new bloggers about sticking it out?

6.  Do you upsize your popcorn and drink at the movies?

7.  What is your favourite romantic comedy?

8.  What is your favourite commercial about food?

9. Are you punctual or tardy?  Be honest.

10.  What is your idea of heaven?

11.  What meal or dish do you make that kicks ass?

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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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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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Filed under Cheese/Cheese Related, Curds and Eh, Travel and Food, Uncategorized

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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Scrambling for Valentine’s gifts Toronto? Relax, have some chocolate…cheese..and a saucy cookbook or two.

XocoCava will have you swooning before you even take a bite.

Swoon before you even take a bite.  Xococava’s milk chocolate with espresso bean, candied lemon and fleur de sel.

Remember that old Blondie song “Rapture”?  Well, I think it was written about the above hand-made chocolates from Xoxocava.  (Also, my friend Rina and I won a lip-sync contest in high school singing that song–my hair was big and that was pre-perm.)

Usually when I buy some good chocolate to keep squirreled away in the cupboard I buy a bar of something delicious like the salted dark chocolate from Stubbe (when I can get a west-end friend to pick it up).  Somehow buying individual pieces like this for myself never occurred to me until I was knocking these back……like the lady I am.

And if that wasn't enough to make you drool...

Drool! Dark chocolate with sour cherries, pistachio and candied rose petal. (xococava)

Beautiful, individual chocolates have been fortuitously dropping into my lap lately.  A friend of mine gave us a box of nine caramel-themed chocolates from Soma (Distillery District) which contained morsels such as Fleur de Sel, Caramel Kiss and Pecan Butter Crunch.

Honestly, you cannot ever eat a Smartie again after that kind of delicious.  Now that Xococava and Soma have spoiled me and made me a xoco-snob  I may head to the Belgian Chocolate Shop on Queen East to check out chocolate making in my hood.  (anyone been there?)

chocolate xoxocava bag

The above gorgeous chocolates come delivered in this cute, witty package ($14.75/bag and there are over a dozen pieces)

I think an easy but spectacular finale to a romantic dinner (for those non-bakers) would be a plate of the above chocolates served with a beautiful, creamy cheese.

Neufchatel with red pepper jelly

Neufchatel with red pepper jelly

And if you want to be thematic with your Valentine cheeseboard you’ll grab this heart-shaped Neufchatel from France’s Normandy region.  It’s a Camembert style cheese that’s creamy, decadent and perfect for sharing.

La Sauvagine, QC

La Sauvagine, QC

And there’s the triple cream, La Sauvagine.  (If it rhymes it’s poetry right?)  I just wrote about this guy for The Wedge so here’s the cheat sheet.

Sauvagine and friends...

Sauvagine and friends…

Or you can get a few petit fours to accompany your cheese fetish.

cheese markers knives

If you would like to bring a gift to your cheese lover, I adore my stainless steel cheese markers (you stick them into your cheese to identify them–sometimes I just write “back off” on my favourites).   This set from Lee Valley comes with a set of 6 cheese knives and a cool case.

Cheese Tiles

Cheese Tiles-write on, wipe off

I was also sent an email about this cute little guys.  Same function as the stainless steel markers but they’re called cheese tiles.

Cheese tiles

Cheese tiles

They come in a variety of styles such as Fleur-di-Lis, Shell, Vine and more. Retails for $29.95 for a set of 4, they can be purchased online at www.placetile.com

And finally, what you’ve all been waiting for, give the ultimate in S&M themed foodie gifts….

Fifty Shades of Chicken

I mean, it’s pretty hilarious right?

I got in touch with Toronto’s Cookbook Store and asked what they would recommend and apparently this 50 Shades of Chicken was a hot stocking stuffer for 2012, but if you didn’t grab it then, now is your chance.  (I took this picture from amazon.ca where you can also order it).

Fork me, Spoon Me

And they also recommended these two options……(it’s going to be a long winter right?)

Intercourses

So, I think you’re set for gifts and food for this coming February 14th.  (FYI, the xoco cava chocolates are great bites while you wait for toast to brown in the morning, just sayin’)

 How is that lady pigging out at the fridge so skinny?

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Filed under Local and Community Toronto, Restaurants and Products, Uncategorized