Tag Archives: Sobeys

Curds and Eh: Exploring the scary depths of blue cheese and Frankenstein

Blue Frankenteins only get better-and stronger–with age.

Welcome to Curds and Eh, where cheese brain Kelsie Parsons shares his scarily cheesy thoughts for Halloween….SR

If I had to pick a cheese to hand out for Halloween it would be a blue. Imagine the look on the kids’ faces! I think it would qualify both as a trick and a treat. Blue cheese has the unique ability to scare and totally gross people out while tantalizing others with its distinct aroma and look. Despite my hypothetical Halloween prank I’d never force blue cheese on anyone.

“C’mon, how was I supposed to know the  Roquefort was for the guests?”

As a cheesemonger I often get asked, “why do you eat it?” and “do they actually let the mold grow in the cheese on purpose?” followed up by, “when the cheese in my fridge turns that colour I just toss it out!” I totally understand where they’re coming from and I know blue cheese isn’t for everyone. The blue cheese family is very much like the misunderstood Frankenstein‘s monster. They both posses a depth of character beyond what meets the eye and a desire to be loved though they are often rejected. Personally I love blue cheese. It’s powerful and delicious.

Tame a blue cheese’s roar with honey

For people that are just getting acquainted with blue cheese or want to try something new, here are a few tips:

  • Try something different. You’re probably thinking, “sure but it’s still a blue cheese!” Some of the most common blues such as Danish blue or Roquefort are common at dinner parties however they’re both incredibly strong. These two cheeses have their qualities but I don’t recommend them for someone trying blue cheese for the first time.
  • Ask your cheesemonger to guide you to a mild blue. Quite often the milder blue cheeses are creamy and lack the intensity of their more potent relatives.
  • Pair blue cheese with something sweet. A sweet accompaniment takes the edge off and balances the saltiness typical in blues. Drizzle a bit of honey on blue crumbled on toast, serve with pears, or enjoy with a sweet beverage such as port, late harvest riesling or ice wine.

Cabrales–for the less faint of heart

Now let’s get to know Frankenstein’s monster A.K.A. blue cheese a bit better. Blue cheeses actually aren’t always blue. Depending on the strain of Peniciullium roqueforti added to the milk the cheese could have blue, yellow, grey or even green spots on it. With the various colours come different levels of intensity and flavours ranging from sweet to savoury to spicy. In fact, after a wheel of blue is cut into the colours intensify over the next 15 minutes because blue cheese needs oxygen to thrive. If you examine a wedge of blue you’ll often see blue lines. This is where the cheese has been pierced to allow oxygen to enter the cheese so the blue can flourish.

Blue Haze-see the line where the needle pierced the cheese?

One of my favourite Canadian blues is called Blue Haze. It begins its life as a Ermite, a mild blue cheese made at the monastery of l’Abbaye St.-Benoit-du-Lac in Quebec, the same place where Bleu Benedictin is made. Once it has matured and developed its blue veining it’s brought to Cayuga in Southern Ontario and smoked over a harvest blend of wood. A smoked blue cheese! This is one memorable cheese! The smoke gives the cheese a brown rind and meaty flavours reminiscent of bacon and bbqs. Blue Haze is awesome crumbled on burgers or steak, or simply served with a cold dark beer. This is one cheese I just can’t get enough of.

Kelsie sailing this summer

If you come visit me on Oct. 31st at Sobeys Ira Needles (Kitchener) we can share a wedge of Blue Haze. I’ll be the one standing at the cheese counter with a green painted face and bolts in my neck.

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Curds and Eh: A Cross Country Cheese Tour, episode 1

Kelsie Parson: Canadian Cheese Tourist

Hi everyone, here is the first blog in the Curds and Eh series. Welcome Kelsie!

Hello fellow cheese lovers!

By day I’m the Cheese Manager at Sobeys Ira Needles in Kitchener and by night I’m a curd nerd who can’t stop reading about cheese (and eating it too!). I started working at Sobeys nearly 2 years ago and I’m responsible for a 36′ long cheese wall, which is home to 350 varieties of cheese.

Sobeys Ira Needles

Several months ago I told Russ, my store manager, that I was planning on taking the summer off to travel across Canada and write a book about Canadian cheese.  He was incredibly supportive but wanted to make sure I’d return to Sobeys when I’m done. Of course I promised I’d be back. When I began my travels Russ wanted part of me to stay with the cheese wall so he hired one of my staff to carve my head out of St. Albert Mild Cheddar!

From here…

To here….It’s quite the honour having my head in cheese! I’m still amazed! It’s like looking in a cheese mirror!

With a Jean and a beautiful wheel of Louis D’Or at the Great Canadian Cheese Festival.

I’m currently on week 4 of my cross-Canada cheese adventure. Recently I’ve visited cheese makers around Ontario and attended the Great Canadian Cheese Festival and today I’m heading to Montreal.

I’ll be in Quebec for a full month but I’m afraid I’ll still only try a handful of all the cheeses produced there. After Quebec I’m headed to the Maritimes and Newfoundland(!) and then across Northern Quebec and Ontario. The longest   the road will be driving from Thornloe Cheese near Lake Timiskaming to   in Thunder Bay. Ontario is a massive province! I’ll then spend the month of August traveling the Prairies, Alberta and B.C. When I consider my journey as a whole, 3.5 months seems like a really long time to be on the road but breaking it down province by province it seems like a whirlwind adventure. Regardless, I’m really looking forward to sharing the journey with you.

Poutine from St. Albert Cheese on Ottawa. Can man live on poutine alone?

Why such an epic cheese adventure? I’ve always wanted to write a book about Canadian Cheese and I figure now is the right time. In many ways I’m modeling my book after Cheese Primer by Steven Jenkins. The book is organized by region opposed to style and as a reader I felt like I traveled around Europe with Mr. Jenkins. I’m aiming for my book to be about individual cheeses as much as it is about the people behind them and the regions they’re from. Of course there will be loads of photos in the book; I just wish I could make it scratch and sniff (what a stinky book!).

One thing I’m missing though is a title for the book. I considered simply Canadian Cheese. It’s too the point but not very catchy. I find cheese people usually have a cheesy sense of humour so I also considered titles such as The Whey Across Canada and Curds & Eh! I like them but I think there’s a better title out there. Now this is where I ask for your help. If you can help me come up with the perfect title you’ll be recognized in the acknowledgements and you’ll get a free book (when it’s printed).

See you again in two weeks,  Kelsie

My favourite pic (says Sue) Kelsie in storage!

BIO

Kelsie Parsons worked as a cheesemonger for Cheese of Canada and Provincial Fine Foods in Toronto and his photos of Canadian Cheese are featured in Juliet Harbutt’s World Cheese Book (2009). He earned his Cheesemaking Certificate from the Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese and has since apprenticed at Monforte Dairy. In 2010, Kelsie was selected as a delegate to represent the Toronto Slow Food convivium at Terra Madere in Turin, Italy. Kelsie is the Cheese Manager at Sobeys Ira Needles in Kitchener and is currently writing a book about Canadian cheese. He also blogs at Sobeys.com/foodiefeature

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Introducing “Curds and Eh” A new Cheese and Toast Blog series by Kelsie Parsons

This is Kelsie Parsons.  Well, it’s Kelsie if he were to be made of cheese (St. Albert Mild Cheddar in fact). Kelsie is the cheese manager at Sobeys Ira Needles in Kitchener.

As you can see from his cheese doppelgänger, Kelsie is not only compact and shelf-stable but he’s amazingly passionate about cheese and knows a lot about it.

Kelsie speaks to his cheese peeps at Sobeys.

I bumped into him at the Great Canadian Cheese Festival at the beginning of June and told me he’s taking the summer off  to  write a book about Canadian cheese.   He’ll be touring Canada over three months and researching his book along the way.

If any of you cheese lovers own a copy of the great cheese reference book by Steve Jenkins “Cheese Primer” this is Kelsie’s blueprint for his own writing.

I was instantly smitten with his cause and also dying to hear about his adventures.  I figured the people reading Cheese and Toast would probably love reading about this too.

So Kelsie has agreed to write a series over the summer for my blog that we’re calling, “Curds and Eh”.  It will be published every two weeks on Wednesdays–starting tomorrow.

I’m proud to be a part of chronicling this massive effort,  and impressed with the personal time Kelsie is putting into this book. I hope all the cheese makers, cheese mongers and us cheese eaters across the country can support him along the way.

Supportive cheese mongers.

If you have some insider “cheese info” Kelsie should know about in your province leave a comment on this–or his future other posts–he in currently in Quebec and then heading to Newfoundland and the Maritimes.

Enjoy this series, I know I will.

Sue

Kelsie Parsons Bio (not messed up by Sue’s opinions as above)

Kelsie Parsons worked as a cheesemonger for Cheese of Canada and Provincial Fine Foods in Toronto and his photos of Canadian Cheese are featured in Juliet Harbutt’sWorld Cheese Book (2009). He earned his Cheesemaking Certificate from the Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese and has since apprenticed at Monforte Dairy. In 2010,Kelsie was selected as a delegate to represent the Toronto Slow Food convivium at Terra Madere in Turin, Italy. Kelsie is the Cheese Manager at Sobeys Ira Needles in Kitchener and is currently writing a book about Canadian cheese. He blogs at Sobeys.com/foodiefeature

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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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Cheese Whiz: British Cheese Tasting with Juliet Harbutt

That’s a half-wheel of Stilton (producer is Cropwell-Bishop)  staring you straight in the face.  And holding it is Juliet Harbutt, British cheese guru and knower of all things cheese-related. (There, I think I’ve deftly summed up Juliet’s dense full page resume of achievements).  Juliet, among many other things, started the British Cheese Awards in 1994 to help recognise excellence in British cheese.  She was in town last week (at The Cookbook Store) promoting a selection of British cheeses in Canada.

The entire selection consists of sixteen traditional cheese that have been consistent medal award winners at the British Cheese Awards. Only about 30% of 900 entries each year garner a medal and 22 “rise to the top” says Juliet.   Sobey’s is carrying six of her sixteen choices exclusively at their stores. (There is a bonus 7th cheese on the plate below)

So shall we get on with our tasting?

Starting at NOON (with the vibrant orange Red Leicester and moving clockwise)

1. Red Leicester

This was interesting for me.  I love Red Leicester and usually only buy the farmhouse clothbound version.  Tasting it next to the larger scale industrial version, there is no comparison.  But Juliet introduced us to this younger non-clothbound version which is made at a big creamery, but using artisinal methods.  It is made by The Pembrokeshire Cheese Company, a farmer’s cooperative in West Wales.

This wedge was younger than what I was used to but still had the savory-sweetness that intensifies as it ages.  Beautiful on a cheeseboard and easier to slice for a snack (or sandwich) when it is softer and younger.

2. Creamy Lancashire

Have you ever had a cheese and thought it was so-so and thus never tried it again?  (bad–don’t ever do that. Give Cheese a Chance)  I did that with Lancashire.  I had a crumbly, drier wedge one time and gave up.  This has me converted.  It’s buttery, tangy and richly mouth-coating.  Made with a loose curd, you can see the delineations where they been pressed together to form the cheese.  I mention Lancashire in my Globeholiday cheese column ….(PLUG!)  Juliet described the Lancashire as having a “raw onion tang”

3. Double Gloucester

Hailing from Lancashire England, the producer of this Double Gloucester is Butler’s Farmhouse Cheese.  It is made using traditional methods in open vats, cloth bound and matured for up to 8 months.  There is a slight hint of orange-pink to the paste as it is coloured with annato (a natural colouring from a South American seed also used in orange cheddar and the Red Leiscester).  Dense, nutty and firm textured.

Pale Orange Double Gloucester

4. Oak Smoked Lyburn Farms

Loved this one.  The smoke is subtle and delicate.  It’s naturally flavoured over oak chips and the milk comes from the cheesemaker’s own farm.  The cheeses has a caramel coloured rind and will win you over if you’ve been turned off by over-smoked fellows that leave a campfire in your mouth.

5. Wyfe of Bath

This was the “bonus” cheese and is not available at Sobey’s.  Wyfe of Bath is a creamy, buttery cheese made from organic milk and molded in cloth-lined baskets..   Juliet’s  identified a “rubber boot aroma” (that sharp, pleasant new-ness).

6. Special Reserve Shropshire Blue

The bright orange blue cheese on the upper left of the plate is the Shropshire Blue.  Made at Cropwell Bishop (as is the Stilton) it’s based on the Stilton recipe but was actually created in Inverness, Scotland in 1970.  Annato gives it its colour.  Peaks  at 3 months.  Not as strong as Stilton you still get buttery, cocoa notes and a real punch of colour on the cheese board.

Half-Stilton

7. Special Reserve Stilton

Only five producers make Stilton. Cropwell Bishop is one of them and the family has been making Stilton for over three generations.  Milk suppliers are hand-picked to ensure the quality of this famous cheese.  Also peaking at 3 months, this 13 week old piece was buttery, spicy with a dark cocoa flavour on the finish. You can see the beautiful, and typical “shattered porcelain” veining in the piece Julia is holding at the top.  Stilton is a dense cheese so the blue veining spreads in a finer, spidery pattern than seen in a looser blue like Roquefort.

Finally, if you’re looking for a great reference book of the cheese sort, The World Cheese Book edited by Juliet is great.  You can just have it sit by the bedside and nightly flip through pictures and well-written, succinct information about the world’s major cheeses.

Then you will hop out of bed for a midnight snack.

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