Posts Tagged ‘Ontario artisan cheese’

Top 5 reasons to go the Cheese Festival

Posted by Debbie

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014
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The Great Canadian Cheese Festival is a fun-filled weekend of nibbling delicious artisan cheese from coast to coast.  No where in Canada are there more chunks of cheese than here – and it all happens in the quaint town of Picton in the heart of Prince Edward County. We have been proud to sponsor this festival every year.  With so much to see, eat & do, here are our top 5 reasons why you should join us.  Pack up the car & head down for the weekend, or join us on the Savvy Bus – only a few seats left!

Makers & Mongers dinner logo#1 – Have dinner under the stars at the NEW Makers+Mongers event

Mix and mingle with the neat people who make and sell great cheese and tasty artisan foods while eating, drinking and making merry at Makers+Mongers on Saturday evening.

What’s for dinner?

Artisan appetizers
Cheese-themed dishes
Unbelievably tasty chicken on the barbie by Seed to Sausage
Ontario’s finest wines and newest craft beers featured at the cash bar
Cheese-themed dishes prepared by local chefs using winners in the Canadian Cheese Awards.

The Guest of Honour: Marie-Claude Harvey of Fromagerie FX Pichet, makers of Le Baluchon, the Canadian Cheese of the Year.

Here are all the details of the evening:

Date: Saturday June 7, doors open at 6 p.m.
Setting: Casual and informal – with music
Location: Cheese Festival’s new Celebrate Ontario Pavilion on Picton Fairgrounds in Picton, Ontario.
Admission:  $26.55+HST
Click here to purchase advance tickets  or purchase at the door. Hurry as only 300 tickets to this exclusive event will be sold.

 

#2 – You be the Judge – tutored tasting hosted by Vanessa Simmons & Janice Beaton

Saturday at 10:00 am to 1:00 pm
The tables are turned…this time you will be the judge as you taste & score Canadian Cheese Awards winners to select People’s Choice for Canadian Cheese of the Year.

cheese-of-the-year-1000-mar-19-copyHere is your chance to sample the 16 best artisan cheeses made in Canada in a three-hour marathon tasting. Yes…3 hours of nothing but cheese! Evaluate and score them just like a judge would in a competition.  You’ll be guided by two experts who served as judges at the Canadian Cheese Awards earlier this year, Vanessa Simmons cheese sommelier at Savvy Company and Janice Beaton, owner of Janice Beaton Fine Cheese and FARM Restaurant, Calgary. Your scores will be tabulated on the spot to then determine the People’s Choice Canadian Cheese of the Year. It will be interesting to compare your choice against the cheese the professional judges named at the REAL Canadian Cheese Awards on April 7 2014 in Toronto.Vanessa Simmons - Savvy Company Cheese Sommelier

Janice and Vanessa were amongst those judges.  During this tasting, they will explain how to look for technical excellence and why different cheese show different aesthetic qualities. In the end, it comes down to flavour, aroma and texture. The 16 cheeses you will sample and judge will be the category winners in the Awards, such as Washed Rind Cheese, Flavoured Cheese and Fresh Cheese. Click here to view the entire list of categories.

You’ll leave the tasting with a much deeper understanding of cheese. Don’t quit your day job just yet! As a new ‘judge’, you’ll be given a red Canadian Cheese Awards apron as well as VIP pass to the 2016 Canadian Cheese Awards in Montréal.

Tickets: still a few spots left – ORDER NOW

 

#3 – Wine or Beer, Which Pairs Better with Cheese? – tutored tasting hosted by Debbie Trenholm

Debbie Trenholm - Savvy CompanySaturday at 2 p.m.
We’ve all been to a Wine & Cheese . . . but might Beer & Cheese be a better taste match?

Join Debbie Trenholm, Sommelier at Savvy Company and founder of Savvy Hip Hops Ontario craft-beer-of-the-month-club as she puts fine wines and craft beers to the taste test.  The winning verdict of this Battle of the Taste Buds will be determined after enjoying many chunks of award-winning Canadian cheese paired with outstanding Ontario wines and craft beers. It’s not easy being cheesy, yet one thing is for sure, this tasting will be delicious!

Bonus: All participants will take home complimentary wine and beer tasting glasses.

Tickets: still a few spots left – ORDER NOW

 

#4 – More than 200 amazing Canadian artisan cheeses

Vanessa cheese board for CBC Radio Canada Fr transmissionArtisan cheeses from coast to coast – hardly any available in grocery stores!

The Festival showcases producers who turn the pure milk of Canadian cows, goats, sheep and water buffalo into cheese, using no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives, and no modified milk ingredients.

At this year’s Cheese Festival there will be more than 125 cheeses from Canadian producers that you can buy. Bring cash as Crystal Palace, our historic venue, isn’t wired for credit cards. There is an ATM on the premises. An insulated Festival cooler bag for hauling fromage home can be purchased for $10 to benefit a cheese scholarship for a deserving young Canadian.

Click here for a complete list of cheese makers from Ontario, Quebec, BC, Nova Scotia & PEI.

 

#5 – Buy your favorite Ontario Wines

The fine wines of Prince Edward County, the newest VQA wine region in Canada, are naturally front and centre at The Great Canadian Cheese Festival, but this year, for the first time, you’ll also be able to taste wine from Niagara.

Click here for the list of wineries from Ontario which will be at the Cheese Festival.

 

Cheeseheads at The Great Canadian Cheese Festival by Vanessa Simmons…and there are even more reasons go to the Cheese Festival!

A variety of specialty exhibitors and vendors can be found in the Artisan Cheese & Fine Food Fair showcasing artisanal foods, wine, beer and cider. Click here for the list of other exhibitors & vendors to make this a great day out.

So whether you drive or hop on the Savvy Bus from Ottawa & Kingston, we want you to make the most of your cheese laden weekend.

 

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Talking about Canadian artisan cheese on CBC!

Posted by Vanessa

Thursday, October 17th, 2013
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Savvy Company‘s ‘BIG Cheese’ – Vanessa Simmons – (aka our Cheese Sommelier) hit the airwaves!  She was recently called in to be interviewed (in French no less!) on CBC Radio Canada.  Even over the radio & en francais, you can detect that her passion for cheese oozes over. I wanted to share the highlights from her conversation with CBC’s host Anne Michaud – another Canadian cheese enthusiast. Listen to the CBC Radio Canada interview 

They chatted endlessly about all kinds of artisan cheeses.  Anyone listening would quickly learn that Canada makes more than just cheddar.

Vanessa certainly knows her cheese! She trained with the Cheese Education Guild in Toronto – Canada’s only comprehensive cheese appreciation program –  and spends countless hours with local cheesemongers & cheesemakers. And she shares her discoveries in her blog: Curd on the Street and hosts special artisan cheese tasting events.  Tip: next one is on Tuesday October 22 featuring award winning cheeses from across Canada.  More info & to buy tickets >>

“Cheese is my passion”, states Vanessa as she gets warmed up on-air to show Anne & the others in the studio the ‘whey’ around the cheese board overflowing her handpicked selection.

Vanessa tells us about the enormous energy & passion in the people she has got to know who produce artisan cheeses, just the way the Savvy Sommeliers pick up on the enthusiasm of winemakers. Same keeners – different biz.  Vanessa successfully conveys their enthusiasm when talking about cheese & cheesemakers from all over Canada. “We have so many cheeses to be proud of ” exclaims Vanessa “that of course I want to tell the world about them!”

It is tough to talk about cheese over the airwaves and not make listeners hungry! Everyone in the CBC Radio studio tasted, ooohed & aaahed as Vanessa passed around the cheese board & described each cheese.  This is indeed majestic with the full gammet of cheeses  – white, yellow, blue, creamy, hard, even smelly – each made with either goat, buffalo, cow & sheep milk.

At the beginning of her interview, Anne Michaud introduces the concept of Savvy Company describing how we specialize in the world of wine, craft beer & artisan cheese by creating social events.  Then Anne dives into the cheese chat with Vanessa (I translated the interview into English for you)…

Listen to the CBC Radio Canada interview >>

 

Anne Michaud – What is your role as Savvy Company’s Cheese sommelier?

Vanessa Simmons – I complement our Team of Savvy Sommeliers who focus primarily on wine. Just as every wine has a story, so does every cheese. I take great joy in sharing the stories behind the cheeses—where they come from, how they’re made and who made them. There’s a little bit of science and a lot of love that goes into artisan cheeses. Their makers are nurturing by nature: they create these delights for others to enjoy. It’s my job to help spread the enjoyment of wine and cheese.

AM – Are there any good cheeses made in Ontario?

VS – There are soooo many wonderful cheeses made here in our own back yard and yet many people don’t know about them.  I love going out to the country and meeting with the cheese makers and sampling their tasty produce.  Hopefully with time consumers will realize all the time & effort that goes into making a great cheese and that you don’t have to buy cheese at the supermarket, in fact it tastes better if you don’t!

 AM – What is the evolution of Ontario cheese?

VS – It’s amazing how in last few years so much cheese production has become artisanal and there is a love of cheese that goes into the making of it, rather than mass-produced factory cheese.  These days,  cheesemakers are so much younger than you’d think – they are in their 20s & 30s. This business has a community ot young people starting out as farmers then beginning to manufacture cheese – it’s great to watch.

AM – Are these artisan cheeses the same price as manufactured cheeses?

VS – Really there isn’t that much difference between them – but you sure can taste the difference in the quality. A piece of artisan cheese (150g-200g) will be in the neighborhood of $7-$10.  Once you start buying – and eating – artisan cheese, you really won’t be able to go back to “regular” cheese.


AM – What’s on your cheeseboard today?

VS – I chose these 5 cheeses to show you the broad spectrum of Ontario’s artisan cheese production, from fresh to hard to blue cheeses. You should always start with the softest and most light-weight cheese so as not to overwhelm your palate. And then slowly work your way towards stronger cheeses.

Cheese #1 – Bella Casara

Quality Cheese of Vaughan, Ontario, won the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix with its cow’s milk Ricotta, won the category of fresh unripened cheese made from sheep or mixed milk with its Bella Casara Buffalo Ricotta. I call it ‘pure happiness’, creamy & delicious!

Cheese #2 – Bliss

“Bliss from Monteforte Dairy is a soft, bloomy rind cheese made of sheep milk and enriched with cow’s cream…and though you wouldn’t walk around with a bottle of cream tucked in your lunch bag, you can get the same pleasure from a wedge of Bliss – just packaged more practically.

Ruth Klahsen is a pioneer in Ontario cheese-making; she has created this soft & creamy cow’s milk cheese like a Brie which  smells of wild mushrooms with a  buttery & salty flavor to it…as we all say:  “it’s pure happiness.”

Cheese #3 – Bonnechere

Back Forty Artisan Cheese also has new & very young cheesemakers, they’ve been in the cheeze biz for just over a year. Bonnechere is a semi-firm, pale yellow cheese. Pay special attention to the  ‘special’ crust this cheese has with striking textured mahogany brown rind & some quite pungent aroma of smouldering wood, caramel odors. It’s a a gentle but expressive cheese.

Cheese #4 – Gunn’s Hill 

Gunns Hill Artisan Cheese by Five Brothers – cheddar style, see the fancy skin yellow; another cheese winner Grand Prize Winner Farm Cheese, done with brothers. “This is a hand crafted washed rind cow’s milk cheese that combines traits from Gouda and another Swiss variety called Appenzeller. It is available at 8 months old and in the future we will offer an 18 month old version. It is delicately aged on cedar wood planks adding robust flavors to the cheese. It has creamy and rich flavors with sweeter overtones and distinctive eyes throughout the body of the cheese

Cheese #5 – Celtic Blue 

The interview was about to wrap when they got around to the blue cheese, so suffice it to say this one is delicious cheese and even the photo makes you want to try Celtic blue from Glengarry Fine Cheese – the typical blue taste is mild and not aggressive and is softened by a nice buttery aroma, really creamy!

 

Here are some of Vanessa’s Cheese Tips:

Yes, you can eat the rind! Cheese rind is meant to be enjoyed – unless it’s red and made of wax.

When it comes to cheese, don’t be shy – taste before you buy.

There’s a world of cheese beyond the grocery store – explore!

Store cheese cold but serve at room temperature.

Cheese and wine pair beautifully. Explore, experiment and find the right balance….

Cheese is a magical thing.

 

Calling all Cheese Lovers!

Join Vanessa on Tuesday October 22 when she hosts ‘Canada’s Greatest Chunks of Cheese’ event.  This is the first-of-its-kind artisan cheese tasting featuring 2013 award winning cheeses that she has discovered from coast to coast.

Special price $55 until the end of the weekend.   Attention cheese lovers – you don’t want to miss out!

Ottawa – Tuesday October 22 7pm
There are only 6 seats left
Buy your tickets > >

 

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Fabulous Farm Fresh Feta Most Versatile of Cheeses

Posted by Vanessa

Saturday, March 23rd, 2013
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My longing for spring to hurry up and arrive inspires this week’s cheese pick.  I dream of radiant sunshine, colorful tulips & daffodils, picnics, fresh local produce, farmers’ markets, and FETA.  One of the most versatile of cheeses, it gives an added zing to spring & summer dishes; think salads, pizzas, burgers, wraps.

Sticking to tried and true traditional cheesemaking, Jeff & Jenna Fenwick, the new owners of Back Forty Artisan Cheese are carrying on the spirit of old world methods using 100% raw ewe’s milk in the production of their hand-lovingly crafted, small batch artisan cheeses.

Flower Station, one of the little known Back Forty Artisan Cheeses is a fresh, un-ripened, semi-firm, Mediterranean-style raw sheep’s milk feta.  Stored in it’s own whey, you’ll find slightly crumbly texture with mild citrus flavor combined with a good balance of salt and fresh milk flavors from these little ivory wedges.

Spring is in the air & as the weather warms up you’ll see them soon at the Carp Farmer’s Market. Find their other popular cheeses Madawaska, Highland Blue & Bonnechere on the board at local restaurants, Foodsmith’s in Perth, The Piggy Market and Serious Cheese, while available.

Factbox:

Cheese:  Flower Station
Producer: Back Forty Artisan Cheese, Lanark County, Ontario
Interesting Fact: Feta falls into the fresh, un-ripened cheese category, which are cheeses that receive minimal or no aging.  It has a longer shelf life when persevered in it’s own brine.

 

 

 

PHOTO CREDIT: Flower Station by Vanessa Simmons

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Five Brothers by Gunn’s Hill

Posted by Vanessa

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012
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This week I’m thrilled to introduce Ontario’s new “cheese on the block”, debuting in Ottawa at Jacobson’s Gourmet ConceptsFive Brothers from Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese in Woodstock, Ontario. Passion is a common theme among cheesemakers and Shep Ysselstein, who I first met at The Great Canadian Cheese Festival, is no exception. He just named their three Swiss style cheeses, a process that took a year that I equate to picking names for children. I love his philosophy that the names “need to feel right”. You know it’s going to be good cheese when so much patience, thought and effort goes into choosing the name!

Five Brothers, named for Shep’s siblings, is a pressed, cooked, washed-rind, farmstead cow’s milk cheese.  An amber-colored, weathered-looking exterior covers these robust wheels featuring a pale straw open interior paste with unique subtle texture and smooth richness. Flavours hint of Gouda (buttery) & Appenzeller (fruity) sweetness ending up almost Cheddar-like (lactic) without the sharpness or characteristic tang.  A very tasty addition to round out your end- of- summer entertaining cheese board.

 

FACTBOX:
Cheese: Five Brothers (Gunn’s Hill Semi-Hard)
Producer: Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese
Interesting Fact: Oxford County boasts some of the most abundant and fertile soils in Canada earning it the title “Dairy Capital of Canada”.

Enjoy! – Vanessa

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Smokin’ Hot Bonnechere cheese

Posted by Vanessa

Thursday, April 5th, 2012
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One of my earliest & fondest cheese tasting memories is my cheese pick this week, Bonnechere, from local Back Forty Artisan Cheese, hailing from Ottawa Valley’s own Lanark Highlands.  I was a young, unripened cheese enthusiast when I discovered Back Forty cheeses years ago, made from raw sheep’s milk & hand-crafted in the kitchen of owner Jim Keith.  This special find is named after the rugged Bonnechere River & mysterious cave landmarks of our region.

Bonnechere is one-of- a-kind artisan cheese.  It’s a semi-firm, double pressed and unique both inside and out.  A beautiful, chestnut patterned toasted rind covers the interior smooth ivory paste.  Hand torching gives Bonnechere smoky aromas and a very distinct caramel flavor.  As it ages, these characteristics amplify the tangy, sweet, and fruity body of the cheese.  Sour milk lingers with a slight amount of acidity. Produced in very small quantities with seasonal milk, it’s a hot commodity.  If you see this cheese, don’t blink, don’t hesitate, snap it up immediately.  I suggest The Piggy Market or Serious Cheese as a starting point.  Make these cheesemongers your best friend and you’ll never miss out.

 

 

FACTBOX:
Cheese:  Bonnechere
Producer:  Back Forty Artisan Cheese
Interesting Fact:  Pressing a cheese expels more whey and gives the paste a firm, dense texture.

 

Enjoy! – Vanessa

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Rose Haus

Posted by Vanessa

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012
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My cheese pick this week is less than two years old debuting as the first cow’s milk cheese from leading “green” Prince Edward County cheesemaker, Fifth Town Artisan Cheese Co.  Fashioned after stinky German Limburger cheese, award-winning Rose Haus – is named for Rose House (see the label) – one of Ontario’s oldest museums, mere minutes away.  Like your favorite uncle, you can take it anywhere and be guaranteed a good time.

Hand crafted, this single note, semi-firm, washed-rind, cow’s milk cheese is made with the milk of a small herd of Holstein cows from local Quinte Crest Farm.  Rose Haus has a firm, creamy, buttery ivory yellow paste, apricot- to-gold colored rind, and rich mild milky, earthy and mushroomy flavors.  When ripe the paste softens, becoming oozy and aromas intensify.  On special occasions Rose Haus gets a washed with local beer, which adds an extra flavor profile, and amplifies the yeasty characteristics of this cheese.  I highly recommend waiting for an extra week or two before enjoying (or buy two wheels if you can’t wait) for the full flavors to develop.  You’ll thank me for it.

 

FACTBOX:
Cheese: Rose Haus
Producer: Fifth Town Artisan Cheese Co.
Interesting Fact: Rose Haus is rind washed in The Grange of Prince Edward County’s barrel fermented Chardonnay which adds a toasty layer to the cheese’s character.

 

 Enjoy! – Vanessa

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Try a different cheese – Premium Goat Milk Cheddar

Posted by Vanessa

Thursday, January 12th, 2012
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This week’s pick is a cheesy collaboration between two famed Ontario producers in Prince Edward County.  Premium Goat Milk Cheddar is the perfect marriage of fresh 100% pure County goat milk courtesy of Fifth Town Artisan Cheese Co., and the over 100 years of cheddar making know how contributed by Black River Cheese Company, the region’s longest surviving factory.  An interesting contrast to cow milk cheddar, it has won multiple awards since the first batch in early 2009, for the mild, one year, and flavored varieties at the American Cheese Society Competition and Royal Winter Fair, among others.

When young, enjoy fresh milk and a hint of fruit, characteristic of traditional cheddar.  The surprise comes with age—an unexpected burst of tangy zing, milky, sharp, complex, concentrated fruit sweetness, and a hint of caramel, coupled with the tiny crunch of tyrosine crystals (an indication of quality and age in cheese).  Consider yourself lucky to find the smoked variety (a breakfast cheese fave as I love the bacon-like flavor that occurs from the local applewood chips used in smoking).

 

FACTBOX:
Cheese: Premium Goat Milk Cheddar
Producer:
  Fifth Town Artisan Cheese Co., Black River Cheese Company
Interesting Fact:
 It takes approximately 10 pounds of milk to produce 1 pound of cheddar cheese.

 Enjoy! – Vanessa

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Wishing for Fifth Town Cheese

Posted by Vanessa

Thursday, October 6th, 2011
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Wishing Tree, made by Fifth Town Artisan Cheese, on the northeast shores of Lake Ontario in Prince Edward County, is my “favourite sweater” cheese pick this week. With every experience you’re up wrapped in cozy comfort and warmth. A multi-award winner, Wishing Tree has received accolades at The COCA British Empire Cheese Competition, and Royal Winter Fair.

As a 3-9 month old, naturally cave aged, hard sheep’s milk cheese Wishing Tree has a dense, golden straw-colored paste with a slight greenish hue to it. Covered by its earthy, rustic toasty-colored rind, aromas abound of grass, earth, and minerals. It’s rich, nutty, and slight salty flavor makes it a good match for a medium bodied red wine and garnish to French Onion Soup (possibly as a precursor to Thanksgiving dinner?). Like Wishing Tree? Try Fellowship (mixed milk version of same) and compare. Or simply close your eyes, make a wish and say cheese!

FACTBOX:
Cheese:
Wishing Tree
Producer:
Fifth Town Artisan Cheese
Interesting Fact:
You can often tell the milk type of a cheese by the color of the paste: sheep’s milk cheeses will range in ivory/bone tones with a green tinge, cow’s milk cheeses range in ivory/yellows/oranges, and goat’s milk cheeses snow to pearl white.

Enjoy! – Vanessa

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Calling all blue cheese lovers

Posted by Vanessa

Thursday, August 25th, 2011
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Blue cheese lovers take note!  This week’s cheese pick, Highland Blue, by Back Forty Artisan Cheese hails from Lanark County.  A true artisan farmstead blue cheese for the blue cheese lover, this regional favourite and award winner at the Royal Ontario Winter Fair is named after our local Lanark Highlands.  Highland Blue’s popularity puts it in high demand – get yours before it’s gone for the season.

This tall, regal, rustic, semi-soft unpasteurized sheep’s milk blue cheese has a dense, antique ivory to golden paste with prominent vertical teal-blue colored veining throughout, and a mottled natural rind.  You’ll notice a distinct sharpness, salty richness and earthy flavour with a bit of a kick in the piquant finish.  Traditionally, this cheese pairs perfectly with a glass of Icewine, Late Harvest Vidal, or traditional Port.  For a different twist, try an Apple Ice Wine from Quebec, with dried apricots as garnish to bring out a bit of extra flavour pop.


FACTBOX:
Cheese:  Highland Blue
Producer:
  Back Forty Artisan Cheese
Interesting Fact:
 Blue cheeses turn blue from the addition of bacterial culture Penicillium roqueforti to the milk during cheesemaking, then exposed to air when the cheese is pierced with needles.

 


Enjoy! – Vanessa

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Curd on the Street Gets Fresh

Posted by Vanessa

Thursday, June 30th, 2011
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Fresh Chèvre from Clarmell Farms is the closest reflection you can get of the goat’s milk from which it’s made – in partnership between Paul and Grace Mussell (5th generation Mussell family farmers) and Glengarry Fine Cheese. An elegant chèvre – it’s truly an expression of artisan cheesemaking mastery, and as Ottawa’s most “local” cheese, well worth a farm visit down River Road to Manotick.

This soft, unripened goat’s milk cheese, with its rich, snow white, “fluffy” textured paste gives a creamy, clean, fresh, tangy, taste with mild citrus flavours that linger long after you’ve savoured the first bite. Perfect for spreading (on anything!), crumbled on seasonal salads or melted over grilled vegetables/BBQ’d kabobs as a finishing touch. Clarmell’s chèvre is best enjoyed on a patio or picnic blanket with friends and your favourite summer white wine in hand.


FACTBOX:
Cheese: Fresh Chèvre
Producer:
Clarmell Farms
Where To Buy:
The Piggy Market (Westboro), Ottawa Farmers’ Market (Lansdowne), Clarmell Farms (Manotick), Glengarry Fine Cheese (Lancaster)
Interesting Fact:
This chèvre is classified as a “fresh” cheese due to its high moisture content and the fact it is unripened (not aged).

Enjoy! – Vanessa

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