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Posts Tagged ‘top Canadian cheeses’

Top 5 reasons to go the Cheese Festival

Posted by Debbie

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

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.



Wheying in on Quebec’s top cheeses

Posted by Vanessa

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

Have you ever tasted cheese? I mean really tasted it. Rolled it around with your tongue and let it linger on the roof of your mouth? Cheese eating is a sensual and sensory pleasure according to Cheese Sommelier Vanessa Simmons. “You want the cheese to go right to the back of your mouth, popped up where the peanut butter used to get stuck when you were a kid, and swish it all the way around so you are absolutely coating your palate and getting all of your taste buds working,” she advises.

Vanessa Simmons is openly fanatical about artisan cheeses

Vanessa Simmons - Savvy Company Cheese SommelierI met Simmons at a tutored tasting for Quebec cheeses at The Great Canadian Cheese Festival in Picton, Ontario, in June. The Festival, showcasing the best Canadian cheeses under one roof, attracted 4,000 cheese lovers this year. Artisan cheeses from Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Manitoba and Alberta were all on offer.

One-third of the producers were from Quebec, Canada’s leading cheese-making region. According to Simmons, Quebec cheese makers are well organized and funded, share knowledge, are well informed by international research and display superior craftsmanship.

Tasting – REALLY tasting – your cheese

Simmons is passionate about cheese and even has a cow named after her. She led a two-hour Quebec cheese tasting and advised on proper tasting technique. The cheeses on our plates ranged from light to robust. We were given three choices for pairing — Keint-He Winery’s 2010 Pinot Squared, Stanners Vineyards 2010 Lincoln Lakeshore Chardonnay or Beau’s Beaver River beer. “At the end of the tasting you should not just taste cheese on the back of your palate, otherwise your wine is not bold enough to stand up to that cheese. If all you taste is wine or beer, there’s not enough going on with that cheese — it’s not big enough,” she said.

Premium Goat Milk Cheddar, Back Forty Artisan Cheese Co. and Black River Cheese CompanySimmons encouraged us to get physical with our cheese, to rip each piece in two and examine the formation of the curds inside. We noted whether the cheese broke evenly or if there was a jagged edge. We considered whether the cheese was made from a mould or hand crafted with care. We examined the outside, inside, colour and texture and noticed if the cheeses were creamy, hard, glistening or runny.

Then we savoured the fabulous cheeses of popular producers such as Fromagerie Médard, Fromagerie du Presbytère, Fromagerie Nouvelle France and Fromagerie du Pied-de-Vent.

Fromagerie Médard: Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean Region

Normand Côté is the fifth generation owner of Domaine de la Rivière, a farm in Saint-Gédéon, Québec, two hours north of Montreal. The dairy, Fromagerie Médard, named after Médard Côté, the son of the original landowner, uses milk from the farm’s Brown Swiss cows. Fromagerie staff member Diane Paget explained that the taste of the cheese varies depending on what the cows ate: “Was it just pasture or was it augmented because of a sparse year?”

Belle mère cheese Fromagerie MédardOn hand at the Festival were two Fromagerie Médard cheeses. The first one, Belle-Mère (in photo at left), an orange-brown washed rind semi-firm cheese was made from pasteurized milk and aged for three months. Washed rind cheeses are bathed in liquid, usually salted water, wine, brandy, local spirits, or herbs making them susceptible to bacteria that break down the curd from the outside, resulting in a more pungent flavour. The Belle-Mère with big buttery notes and aromas of lilac and lavender won a 2012 Selection Caseus award in the semi-firm, cow’s milk cheese category. Also made with pasteurized cow’s milk, 14 arpents, aged 30 days, was creamy and full of flavour, with the slight taste of hazelnut.

Fromagerie du Presbytère: centre-du-Québec Region

The Morin family has operated the Louis d’Or farm in Warwick, Quebec for four generations. In 1980, the farm went organic. Holstein and Jersey cows chow down on dry hay, clover, timothy grass, bluegrass and other organic grains and are not injected with antibiotics or hormones. “This dairy really pushes the envelope with raw cheese and more layers of complexity. They are more true to traditional cheese making,” says Simmons. A renovated church rectory built in 1936 houses the dairy. Friday nights are a celebration of cheese and community. Visitors converge on the rectory lawn with bottles of wine and beer to enjoy fresh cheese, music and bread.

bleu elizabethFromagerie du Presbytère took three awards at the 2013 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix, Best Blue and Best Organic for Bleu d’Élizabeth (photo at left) and Best Swiss-type Cheese for Louis d’Or, aged for 18 months. I sampled four Fromagerie du Presbytère cheeses.

The Brie Paysan, a pasteurized cow’s milk cheese had a bloomy rind and soft paste that melted in my mouth. Bloomy rind cheeses are covered with Penicillium candidum forming a white casing causing the cheese to ripen from the outside and become soft and runny on the inside. The vegetal, grassy and fungal notes offered an amazing expression of terroir.

Laliberté is a triple cream cheese, made with whole organic milk and aged for 45 days. The bloomy rind surrounds a soft paste with mushroom flavour and a creamy mouthfeel.

Louis d'Or cheeseLouis D’Or, made from raw organic cow’s milk is crafted in 40-kilogram wheels and develops complex flavours after nine months of ripening. This washed rind, firm pressed, cooked paste cheese has nutty and fruity aromas.

Bleu d’Élizabeth is a semi-soft fruit-flavoured cheese made from non-pasteurized milk, displaying blue and greenish veins resulting from the presence of Penicillium roqueforti.

Fromagerie Nouvelle France: Eastern Townships

A young brother and sister team, Marie-Chantal and Jean-Paul Houde, started a sheep farm and a cheese-making operation, the Fromagerie Nouvelle France in 2010. Jean-Paul tends to a herd of over 200 East Friesian sheep on the 250-acre farm in the village of Racine. Marie-Chantal makes cheese.

Fromagerie Nouvelle France’s signature cheese, Zacharie Cloutier, is a raw sheep’s milk cheese, named for an ancestor who came to Canada from France in 1634. This ancestor is also said to be a distant relative of Céline Dion. In its first appearance at the 2011 Selection Caseus awards, Zacherie Cloutier won gold for the best cheese in Quebec in all categories. This orange washed rind, firm pressed cheese, aged for six months, exudes aromas of butter and caramel.

Le pionnier cheeseLe Pionnier, a cheese-making partnership between Fromagerie Presbytère and Fromagerie Nouvelle France is a 40-kilogram wheel made of raw sheep’s and cow’s milk coming from the cheese maker’s herds. The cheese is a “great marriage of cow’s milk cheese according to Morin’s tradition, and sheep’s milk cheese, according to Houde’s tradition,” offers Simmons. Le Pionnier is a firm cheese with a bit of washed rind, a dense cheese texture and some earthiness, and is very robust. Aged for 10 to 12 months, Le Pionnier displays complex aromas of butter, brown sugar and macadamia nuts with a delicate floral note. As Simmons says, “This cheese says ‘look at me’ and is very indicative of their personalities. They are very outspoken cheese makers.”

Fromagerie du Pied-de-Vent: Iles de la Madeleine

In 1998, Jérémie Arseneau brought over a herd of Canadienne cows, a small black heritage breed, from Saint-Simon-de-Rimouski and l’île Verte to Îles-de-la-Madeleine. He launched the Fromagerie du Pied-de-Vent and began cheese production on islands traditionally known for a strong fishing industry.

Pied du Vent cheesePied-du-Vent (photo at left) is a whole milk, soft surface-ripened cheese with a bloomy natural rind and a dominant flavour of hazelnuts. Surface-ripened cheeses have mould on the rind, ripening the surface first and then the inside.

Tomme Des Desmoiselles is a raw milk thermalized cheese in a gouda-like style with a washed rind. The cheese is full and robust with a fruit aroma. You get a bit of salt in the cheese because the cows graze on hay and grasses around the edge of the island and right on the border of the St. Lawrence River. Two beautiful small hills on the Havre Aubert landscape inspired the fromagerie in the creation of this cheese.

Plan your route of Quebec cheeses from east to west

To sample some stellar cheeses, take a tour on La Route des Fromages du Quebec linking producers across the province. Enjoy the ride through Quebec’s scenic countryside. Many barns are open, allowing direct access to goats, sheep, cows or calves.

Ontario cheese tasting trails

In Ontario, check out Oxford County’s new cheese trail to see a life-sized statue of record-setting milk producer Springbank Snow Countess, or be a cheese maker for a day. Or head for the Taste Trail in Prince Edward County for a quick calcium fix. You’ll develop a whole new appreciation for fromage.


This article was written by Merle Rosenstein, a freelance travel, food and beverage writer.
Click here to see this article as it appeared in
Quench Magazine.