If there is a better way to spend a Saturday in June than sampling cheeses and libations from across the country against the backdrop of Prince Edward County, I haven’t found it yet. I only wish the Great Canadian Cheese Festival was a monthly occurrence.
My boyfriend gamely drove us up for the day (it’s about a 2 1/2 hour drive from Toronto) and it was well worth it. We were able to make it through all of the booths in an afternoon, but next year I’d like to go for the weekend to enjoy the events and demonstrations. And really, to ride out the blissful atmosphere for a second day.
Seeing and chatting with so many cheesemongers and cheese nerds like myself – and obviously, sampling to my heart’s content – left me plastered with a smile like I’d just planted my face in a baked triple-cream brie I stole from an unsuspecting neighbour’s windowsill. (Let’s pretend that it makes sense to cool a baked brie on a windowsill like a pie for a mo’, if only to imagine the smell wafting in the air.)
Here’s the best Saturday I’ve had in some time, at a glance:
One of the brews that’ll be haunting my cup this summer, Muskoka Summerweiss.
The people behind one of my favourite cheese producers, Cross Wind Farm (maple cream is to die for).
I like to think of this “get away van” in the manner of the Ikea commercial: whoever owns this brought it in anticipation of all the good deals they were going to get at the cheese festival. Thus, they came running out at the end of day screeching, “Start the car! Start the caaaaaaar!”
Best Baa’s Eweda Cru is one of my favourite local sheep’s milk cheeses. Such a unique flavour.
My long-suffering boyfriend driving hilariously like a old lady because his back was sore. I like to think it’s more aerodynamic this way, too, though.
Another beer on my patio wishlist: Beau’s Kissmeyer Nordic Pale Ale, a.k.a. liquid gold.
The sweetest smile you ever did see, at Fromagerie Rang 9.
That’s me, downing the last of my peach cider “sample.” They were generous.
I sampled probably 70 different types of cheese, and bought 11 hunks, slices and wedges. Here are the spoils I snagged and the unrequited crushes I developed:
Fleur Saint-Michel by La Fromagerie de Terroir de Bellechasse. This grilling cheese is made with garlic scapes, so it tastes like a morsel of garlicky grilled cheese all its own. It made my boyfriend’s eyes widen.
Laliberté by Fromagerie du Presbytère. This was the Grand Champion of the 2015 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix. The mongers seemed surprised that the person in front of me wanted to buy the entire wheel. That’s like breakfast for a cheese freak.
Lemon Fetish goat feta cheese by Fifth Town Artisan Cheese. It’s no accident that there are mere crumbs left in the Lemon Fetish section. This one’s a heavenly sweet-salty-tangy mix.
Allegretto by Fromagerie la Vache à Maillotte. I’ve seen this one a number of times around the cheese block in Toronto, but I finally tried it in Prince Edward County. It’s another succulently-aged, dry and fruity cheese.
Other cheese nabbed, but not pictured, are:
- Natural Pastures Cheese Company Naturally Smoked Boerenkaas
- Grey Owl by Fromagerie Le Détour (a classic! Pretty sure Taylor Swift wrote “Style” about Grey Owl)
- Le pont tournant by Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser
- Rebellion 1837 by Fromagerie Montebello
- Natural Pastures Cheese Company Aged Farmhouse
- And it wouldn’t be a Canuck cheese fest without St. Albert cheddar cheese curds! (I ate half the bag in one day.)
I also developed strong feelings for Blue Harbor’s Urban Blue Cheese. Look at that rind. This was one of the first cheeses I sampled, so I decided to do a lap and come back before buying. Foolhardy. Of course I forgot to loop back. I’ll have to track this one down for another hit of that smooth, mellow nibble with just a touch of bite.
And of course, the Big Kahuna I couldn’t land. I fell absolutely head over heels in love with Glasgow Glen’s Pepper & Mustard Extra Old Gouda. Alas, we weren’t meant to be in PEC – the gouda was only available for online ordering. But I’ll be tracking it down. When you know, you know.
I’ll be adding profiles and more details on all of the cheeses I snapped up at the Great Canadian Cheese Festival in the coming weeks. Suffice it to say, the experience was worth the ticket price, lengthy drive and then some. I’ll be back again next year.