In case you haven’t already been beaten over the head with it by media and jersey-wrapped fans, hockey is back tonight. As I write this, the Toronto Maple Leafs lead the Montreal Canadiens 2-1 in my peripheral vision. I will not say anything about hoping it lasts, because it would be a likely jinx and I don’t need that on my conscience; also, my level of masochism isn’t quite high enough to be a true Leafs fan. (Montreal just scored. Damn it, non-jinx attempt.)
I’ve always said that it’s impossible to be in a bad mood at a sports arena. The energy is infectious. But watching sports on TV takes a little more cajoling, and snacks are part and parcel of my engagement. Obviously, my munchies of choice always involve cheese, or even better, are just cheese with some accoutrements. I have a cheap and cheerful Brie du Marché by Alexis de Portneuf (who I just discovered make a number of my other favourite cheeses, pleasant surprise) waiting with some ginger jelly as we speak. It may not make it to my belly because of some unfortunate overdoing of dill Crispy Minis earlier, but that’s another story.
There is no bad cheese to serve with a side of hockey, but it’s always fun to tailor your cheese to what you’ll be serving it with – in this case, hockey. Chemical-laced ice and bloodied teeth don’t make for ideal mental images from which to draw inspiration, but the teams make it fun. I’m watching the Leafs and the Canadiens, so here are the cheeses I’d pick (if the majority of my friends weren’t at home with violent colds and flu and I were hosting instead of pigging out alone – ah, hockey season):
For the Toronto Maple Leafs:
There are cheeses that are made with maple syrup, but I have to admit, I haven’t tried many – just one. But man, is it a doozy. There is a little setup in Keene, Ontario, not too far from where I grew up but far enough to make it a special trip, called Cross Wind Farm. They specialize in goat milk and meat products and many of their chèvres are mixed with spices, fruits and more for melt-in-your-mouth spreads. My favourite by far is the Maple Syrup Chèvre (I’ve also had the Herbs de Provence and Orange and Cranberry). It’s obvious that they use real maple syrup from the tantalizing bitter edge to the sweetness, which complements the dry, salty sweetness of the cheese nicely. Plus, bittersweet is an apt way to describe Leaf fandom, to say the least.
If you’d like to show off a little more, you can never go wrong with a baked brie (try my aforementioned Brie du Marché for a good affordable option), especially one that incorporates maple syrup. I’d do it one of two ways: Use pure maple syrup instead of egg wash to seal your dough covering (sticky, but oh-so-much better) for a touch of sweetness, or cut the top of the rind off and drizzle it directly on top with gay abandon and a sprinkling of pecans before baking.
For the Montreal Canadiens:
Québec boasts no shortage of irresistibly smelly cheeses to sample. I have only been there a handful of times as an adult, but both times I made sure to try a few. When I visited my cousin during Winterlude last year (hi, Melissa!), she turned me onto La Sauvagine, one of Alexis de Portneuf’s. It has an noticeable yet accessible tang that will please both smelly cheese devotees and newbies alike. And the triple-cream texture, well – that speaks for itself.
To add a hard cheese to the roster, try Louis D’Or, arguably one of Canada’s most famous and lauded smelly cheeses. When I first bought it on a trip to Montreal with my boyfriend, he complained that it made our whole hotel room smell like farts, even while safely tucked away in the mini-fridge, which it did. Still, it has the kind of vegetable-moldy flavour (think steamed broccoli) that you find more commonly in sheep’s milk cheeses. I can’t decide if I like this one more cold or room temperature, but if you’d like to ease into it, try it cold first.
The game’s still 2-2 and I have yet to bring out my Brie. My stomach is tied too, with fullness on one side and uh, Brie, on the other. That’s a whole other game.
Here’s to hockey, and more importantly, the cheese boards that viewing will bring.
(Main image: Coyau / Wikimedia Commons)