Cheesy musings, Profiles

Relaxing into fall and routines, with the confidence of Rougette

We like to associate spring with rejuvenation – clean sweeps, fresh blooms and sweet bird songs. But fall is just as much about renewal. If we’re reborn in spring, fall is when we’re reintroduced. We look to to take on new challenges and pick up where we left off, before all those hard-earned beaches and mojitos, and armed with a season’s worth of relaxation of fun, rather than all-too-recent memories of Polar vortexes. Plus, there’s nothing like fall’s universally-comforting flannel and an inevitable uptick in good hair days (what’s good, humidity?) to give you a push toward feeling like a grown-ass human.

Rougette is a grown-ass cheese. Not in the way of a stern headmistress, who pushes you to take your work seriously through a looming presence and gulp-inducing glances. Rather, it carries the type of grown-ass flavour of someone comfortable in their own skin.

Rougette at right, comfortably reclined like it's a damn chaise.

Rougette at right, comfortably reclined like it’s a damn chaise.

It’s buttery with a lick of saltiness. Rich without feeling weighty, and with hints of hay and barnyard. (I recently read barnyard for the first time as a descriptor of cheese and am still working out exactly how that translates. For now, all I can say is that it makes sense to me as a flavour, and came to mind when tasting Rougette – really, with something as subjective as describing a taste, I think faint detective is often all that matters.)

Rougette is like face cream for your tummy. It’s the voice of Chandler’s dad (the same voice, if you didn’t know, as Jessica Rabbit – is there any character who more exudes confidence?) en fromage.

It even wears a French name like a selective, sexy cloak, despite its German heritage (here’s a funny theory why). And if left to its own devices, at room temperature, Rougette’s depth and complexity of flavour reveal themselves even more.

Rougette-2

Rougette is the cheese you want in your side-car when becoming re-acquainted with yourself and your routine after a hedonic absence. It feels like an incarnation of looking yourself square in the eye and crooning, “Welcome back,” while somehow giving the work and errands that fuel your everyday life a luxurious sheen.

If you haven’t already guessed, I’m projecting. After a summer of mini-upheavals, sprints of travel, a cheese festival, a wedding and flying-by-the-seat-of-your-pants moments of fun (more on that later), I’m getting back into the swing of things with a gentle nudge of self-commitment and the melting memories of Rougette (plus a turkey table runner, for seasonal good measure). Hope you’ll cheese the day with me.

Turkey table runner

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Cheesy musings, Profiles

National Goat Cheese Month: I have a Lemon Fetish

Quick question: Do you think there are too many special “days”? E.g., National Nutella Day; National Lasagne Day; National Apple Turnover Day. I used to compile a gallery listing all of the food days in a given month at my day job, but stopped when I realized it was more work than ROI, although I’d be lying if I said a little part of it hadn’t lost its lustre when I realized there’s a “day” every damn day. Exhibit A: Today is National Lemonade Day (and my sister’s birthday – National Kaleigh Bee-day). Tomorrow is National Spumoni Day and National ~Brazilian Blowout Day~. Oooer.

Lemon Fetish cheese

That said, I can absolutely get on board with any of the cheese-themed occasions, and this month happens to be one: National Goat Cheese Month. For me, it’s an excuse to discuss the morsel I picked up from The Great Canadian Cheese Festival in June: Lemon Fetish by Fifth Town Artisan Cheese Co.

It’s a goat’s milk feta, which is an interesting flavour combination as it’s less sweet and creamy than your more-commonly-found fresh goat cheese. It’s crumbly, dry and somewhere between less-salty-than-feta and more-salty-than-fresh. But the highlight, as the name suggests, is the lemon.

Lemon Fetish cheese

It’s made with lemon zest and you can tell at first taste. Right after the initial saltiness, you’re hit by a wave of the sweet citrus flavour that only comes from lemon zest. There’s a slight tang of herbs and spices that I couldn’t place at first; Fifth Town informs me that it’s also laced with red fife flour. Makes sense.

One of my favourite easy dishes is sweet potato with herbed goat cheese and a splash of maple syrup in its belly button, like a spud on spring break. I subbed Lemon Fetish for my usual herbed cheese and it worked beautifully. I also used it in a fresh kale salad with lemon-honey-mustard dressing. But my favourite way to eat it was off a (butter, safety first) knife with nothing at all. Now that’s what they should be selling at lemonade stands.

Lemon Fetish cheese

“I wish I spoke whale!” I also wish that whales had Lemon Fetish on deck to distribute via blowhole to the masses.

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Profiles

A long-overdue indulgence: Grey Owl

Grey Owl needs no introduction, as one of the celebrated Canadian cheeses lauded in the same breath as Louis D’Or or Bleu Bénédictin. But I’ll introduce it anyway with a taste of its cult following.

The last time I saw Grey Owl, it was at one of my favourite cheese counters, at Algoma Orchards. Rather, I encountered a lack of it. The woman ahead of me had ordered an entire wheel of Grey Owl, but there was a mix-up and it had been sold accidentally. She was distraught (seriously). If that weren’t proof enough of Grey Owl’s hold, the fact that the entire wheel sold in a few days is. I felt for the woman, but at the time I hadn’t yet tried it, so I couldn’t fully understand. Now I get it.

Grey-Owl-1

I bought the teensiest, cutest little wheel at The Great Canadian Cheese Festival and saved it perilously close to its expiration; a blessing in disguise because then I had to eat the entire thing in one sitting without guilt.

I’m not sure how I avoided Grey Owl for so long, given its storied rep, but it’ll be on my rotation now, and definitely my next cheese board. Aside from Le Cendrillon, another revered Canadian cheese similar in flavour and construction (which, if pressed, I prefer of the two but let’s not divert limelight), there isn’t anything like it in Canada, especially in light of its different texture.

As mentioned, I let the clock tick on my Grey Owl, so the flavours were even more ripe and the texture quickly evolved. When I sampled it at The Great Canadian Cheese Festival, Grey Owl was pasty, as it is often described. But let it age and sit a bit at room temperature, as I did, and it’s a near-liquid indulgence at the centre. Exhibit A:

Grey-Owl-2

My first proper taste, at long last, was much more sour than I expected in the way that younger goat cheese is if you hold it on your tongue for long enough. Like a strong buttermilk that’s an almost a puckering punch in the mouth, offset by creaminess.

I preferred its ashy rind when it had a whole shelf life ahead of it at the TGCCF; it was still great when I had it at home but its pungent mouldiness interfered a bit with the more subtle centre. I wanted more of the sour, grassy butteriness that dominated my balanced bites, but was knocked over by the spicy, bitter aftertaste of the rind.

Don’t get it twisted: if you see Grey Owl, eat it. Fast. Before someone else does (see: aforementioned wheel sold right from under a loving devotee). But if you’re serving it to friends, I wouldn’t let it sit for too long so everyone becomes friends at its peak texture.

And for the sake of all that is holy (Mimolette, amen), serve it with honeycomb. As Nike once wrote on the question of whether to pair cheese with honeycomb: “Just do it.”

Grey-Owl-3

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Profiles

Fromage Friday: Laliberté by Fromagerie du Presbytère

Laliberté, like a lot of champions, breaks the mould. Pun intended, as per usual on Cheese the Day.

The bloomy rind cheese was crowned the Grand Champion of this year’s Canadian Cheese Grand Prix back in April. I scored myself a wedge at the Great Canadian Cheese Festival, and it was the first of my haul I dug into.

Laliberte-above-side

It smells like any other slightly-stinky soft cheese – I think smell has a lot to answer for in turning people off more pungent soft cheeses and blue cheese, but that’s part of the deal, I guess – but one morsel, and it becomes clear why it’s a favourite.

It’s backwards in the best sense.

Immediately at first taste, you get a hit of mushrooms like you’ve been smacked by an oyster mushroom with a grudge. That’s closely followed by strong sidekicks of herbs and hay, and pungent vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower. But the flavour isn’t mouldy.

Laliberte-side-CU

Then, when you’re expecting it to become bitter, like any other strong, soft cheese in its position would be, it goes easy on you.

It becomes milky, creamy and light. The texture dissolves like cream masquerading as cotton candy. You don’t want to chew it, or even interfere too much with what happens when you let it sit on your tongue. It’s even better when slightly cooler than room temperature, so it doesn’t disappear too quickly and its creaminess stands out.

There is no aftertaste that comes to collect; just something reminiscent of cheese curds, mixed with surprise. The only bitterness comes from its rind.

Laliberte-above-side2

Usually, the flavours are in reverse for strong soft cheeses. A shy, delicate beginning, followed by a bit of brash bitterness. Perhaps because it’s a cream-added bloomy rind, the milkiness carries more weight – I’m not sure how that works. But it’s something to witness. I’d bet even non-cheese-nerds would appreciate the surprising turn of events that it has to offer in terms of flavour.

Honeycomb is usually a reliable wingman for any cheese, and it does its due diligence here, but I found it too sweet, really, for Laliberté. It deserves to partner with something that makes it truly sing, which in this case, is baked baguette rounds with olive oil and herbs – it becomes butter in its’ nonexistent hands, kinda like you by the end of your bite.

Laliberte-side-M

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Cheesy musings, Profiles

Canadian Cheese Grand Prix: It’s on like Donkey Kong

That’s probably how I would open the awards if I were hosting, which is likely why they chose Ben Mulroney and Genevieve Borne instead. Totally fine, guys, wise choice.

I’ve profiled like Diddy Kong (that is, a speedy foil to the former DK) the last few days to marshal my thoughts on the nominees I was lucky enough to find and try ahead of the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix – the country’s biggest national cheese competition!

Here are the cheeses I profiled:

Le Baluchon
St-Albert’s Extra Old Cheddar
Le Mamirolle
Muenster by Bothwell
Raclette au poivre
Appletree Smoked Cheddar
Albert’s Leap Brie
Ricotta by Quality Cheese Inc.

Let’s take a moment of appreciation for the fact that Canada even has a national cheese competition. We’re becoming more internationally recognized and renowned as producers of fine ass cheese, and that warms my patriotic, cheese-lovin’ heart.

I’ll have a recap of the winners of the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix tomorrow (Eeeeeeee!), but if you, like me, can’t hardly wait, follow along with their live-blog on Twitter @100CanadianMilk!

Here’s how I’ll be enjoying the awards:

Tina Fey night cheese
Giphy

But if you want me to host next year, I’ll totally dress up and stuff. Snuggie-free.

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Profiles

Canadian Cheese Grand Prix: Ricotta by Quality Cheese Inc.

I am not a ricotta person. Despite past posts that may suggest otherwise, it’s always been more of a tool or sidekick to me in the past. It’s a crucial component in my lasagne; I love it as a vehicle on crostini for all manner of herbs and sauces, but ricotta on its own is generally my equivalent of a beige blazer (that is, boring).

Until I met Bella Casara Ricotta by Quality Cheese Inc. from Ontario (nominated in the fresh cheese category for the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix). I have to admit, I am not sure if this is the same ricotta as the one that one the overall Grand Champion title the last time the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix was held, in 2013. Both are made by Quality Cheese Inc., so it’s very possible, but this year’s nominee carries the Bella Casara label.

In any case, if it is the same cheese or similar, I can see why it won the overall title in 2013.

Bella-Casara-ricotta

It was my favourite of the eight cheeses I tasted. And I say that as someone who doesn’t even like ricotta.

It boasts an incredible juxtaposition of somehow being light and weighty in an indulgent manner that you don’t often find with ricotta – my problem with it in the past is that so many ricottas just taste and feel like nothing in my mouth.

This ricotta has bold hints of sour cream and citrus (and not just because it’s decadent with lemon zest, above) and tastes almost floral. But the real win is in its texture. It has some density to it; it doesn’t feel as whipped and airy as other specimens, which can be both good and bad, but judging on its standalone merits, is fantastically good.

It’s almost like a tribute to cottage cheese, elevated.

How many snacks are built and packaged around the concept of indulgence for 100 calories or mouthwatering flavour with the calories of just three breaths of oxygen? I don’t know what the caloric content is like, so don’t misunderstand me and think I’m promoting it as a light snack, because I don’t know that it would be accurate.

But damn, the marketing geniuses hawking low-cal indulgence can learn a lot from this little baby’s repertoire. Never have I tasted a cheese with flags so firmly planted in the lands of both decadence and lightness.

This is the eighth profile of eight cheeses I tried ahead of the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix. Click here for more on the awards.

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Profiles

Canadian Cheese Grand Prix: Albert’s Leap Brie

I had a moment while eating this Brie when I actually thought to myself: This is heaven on earth. To be fair, it was the first time I had ever smothered a slice of Brie with honeycomb and hadn’t realized how mind-blowing that would be. But it was also in no small part a testament to this gentle Brie.

Fans of bloomy-rind cheeses with stronger flavours like La Sauvagine won’t take to Albert’s Leap Bel Haven Triple Creme Brie by Quality Cheese Inc. from Ontario (nominated in the cream-enriched soft cheese with bloomy rind category for the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix). But devotees of straight-up creamy cheeses like Délice de Bourgogne will fall in love.

Brie

The rind is not mouldy or bitter in the slightest. It is almost chalky, but in an appealing way. I described it as “crisp” in my notes, adding that I find that to be a rare description for a Brie, but there you have it. It has faint hints of sour cream at its peak but is far less heavy than other creamy soft cheeses.

The flavour is overwhelmingly milky, which may not impress some tasters, but I think it should be noted that complexity and conflict of flavours is not indicative of quality – at least to me. I enjoy bold-flavoured cheeses and sometimes fail to appreciate simpler tastes. There is beauty to be found in stripper-down flavours, too (or else why would caprese salad be on every menu come summertime?).

Albert’s Leap has that clean simplicity in spades and makes it easy to appreciate. It would be a great gateway cheese for Brie-ophobes (they’re real and they’re out there). I served my boyfriend, one such Brie-ophobe, a similar straightforward baked Brie a few weeks ago and he is now a convert.

Albert’s Leap is understated – to be paired with a classic like a jean jacket or flowing cotton skirt, and a sunny patio.

This is the seventh profile of eight cheeses I tried ahead of the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix. Click here for more on the awards.

Brie

My slathering game could use some work, but honeycomb is so delicious I just can’t be arsed to care.

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