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, Flavour of the month

The Great Canadian Cheese Festival at a glance

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:

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Great Canadian Cheese Festival

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One of the brews that’ll be haunting my cup this summer, Muskoka Summerweiss.

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The people behind one of my favourite cheese producers, Cross Wind Farm (maple cream is to die for).

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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!”

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Best Baa’s Eweda Cru is one of my favourite local sheep’s milk cheeses. Such a unique flavour.

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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.

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Another beer on my patio wishlist: Beau’s Kissmeyer Nordic Pale Ale, a.k.a. liquid gold.

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The sweetest smile you ever did see, at Fromagerie Rang 9.

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That’s me, downing the last of my peach cider “sample.” They were generous.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Mountainoak Cheese Gold. It took the Extra Aged Gouda category at the 2015 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix. In practice, that’s a sharp, crumbly morsel that makes your mouth stand up and pay attention.

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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:

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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.

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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.

Did you make it out to the Great Canadian Cheese Festival? I’d love to know what you thought, and what you bought! Leave me a comment below, or tweet me @xCheeseTheDay!

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Cheesy musings

This weekend: great Canadian cheese in Prince Edward County

This weekend, Prince Edward County will host the fifth annual Great Canadian Cheese Festival, showcasing more than 150 cheeses from eight provinces across Canada, culminating in the country’s largest cheese show.

How am I just finding out about it this year?! Better late than never.

I’ll be heading up to PEC Saturday to sample all of the curds, slices and scoops on offer – I probably should have started fasting days ago to save room, but instead I’ll keep munching these chocolate almonds as a warm-up – in my first visit to the region.

PEC has become quite the hotspot: it was featured in Travel + Leisure as one of the Best Places to Travel in 2015, described as “a haven for creative types.” And because all of those creatives – or anyone craving a little more of an (brace for it) artisanal feel – need a place to stay, the Drake opened an outpost last year to capitalize on all of the Birkenstocked traffic.

If that “capitalize” sounded a little loaded with envy, peruse the photos below and let’s reconvene.

Drake-front-door1   Drake-deck  Drake-ski-ceiling-room Drake-bathroomDrake-restaurantDrake-tablesDrake-patio
Photos: Kayla Rocca/Flickr

We on the same page now? Yeah. I wanted to stay at the Drake, but as you can imagine, it books up way in advance. It’s definitely on my list, though.

Luckily, hordes of cheesemongers, cheese lovers and bad cheese punners (just me? Okay, the cheese stands alone) is more than reason enough for me to head up to the country. If you aren’t too far from PEC, it’s well worth the drive. The weather forecast says we’re due for a nice, not-too-hot, sunny day. Come say hi if you spot a tiny blonde girl bouncing around the stalls babbling about crystals, and I’ll share a curd with you.

If you have recommendations, questions or product you’d like me to hunt down while I’m at the Great Canadian Cheese Festival, tweet me @xCheeseTheDay or shoot me a comment on here, I’d love to hear from you! I’ll be posting cheesy finds, photos, interviews and more from the Great Canadian Cheese Festival over the next few days, so check back if you’re already experiencing fromage FOMO. Happy weekend!

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Cheesy musings, Pairings, Recipes

Concocting cheese for dessert and Buca on King

One of my favourite parts of my day job is getting to interview the MasterChef Canada competitors. While talking to top-5 home cook Christopher Siu about food trends, he brought up a recent trip to Tokyo and how innovative the culture is with their sweets. It got me thinking – not for the first time – about cheese for dessert.

I don’t mean a cheese board. Although that’s always welcome, I don’t see it as dessert, really, because the same spread would be at home during any course. Plus, I don’t want to wait for the end of the meal to dig into the cheese. I digress.

No, I mean cheese as part of a sweet dessert. After talking to Christopher, I started dreaming up ways to make cheese the centrepiece. First, I thought of a mascarpone parfait. I’d layer it with caramelized grapefruit and burnt toffee. I have no idea if those flavours would even go together, but my brain got real friendly with the idea, real fast. Then, further down the caramelizing route, I thought of flambéing halloumi, which, let’s be honest, is just a hilarious thought. But why not?

I settled on my third idea as a less out-there gateway dessert: bocconcini truffles.

Bocconcini truffle

If you’re thinking that bocconcini is too delicate a cheese to compete with semi-sweet chocolate, congratulations, you are two steps ahead of me! I had a bit of doubt but wanted to give it a go, anyway.

I soaked the bocconcini in buttermilk before turning it into a truffle, hoping it would add a touch more depth of flavour. It didn’t, but that’s why we do these drills! Right, kids? Then I popped them in the freezer for a spell so they wouldn’t get too melty during their chocolate bath.

Bocconcini truffle

Before making my chocolate, I did a quick jog on Google to see if anyone had already attempted a bocconcini truffle and succeeded more than I anticipated I would. Unsurprisingly, there were no bocconcini chocolate truffle recipes. But that did not deter me. No, that only made me think I must be onto something reeeeeally original.

Next was chocolate. I melted semi-sweet chocolate chips with butter and maple syrup. Then I speared each cheesy little guinea pig on a fork, rolled them in as much chocolate as would stick (not much) and topped them with black lava salt I got in Iceland (which I figured would make it feel fancier, even if the experiment failed). It has the consistency of fleur de sel but isn’t as light.

Bocconcini truffle

I brought the truffles over to my friend (and #1 reader!) Christie’s, who gamely tried a few. We both agreed: not a great combo. Not a bad combo, but as I feared, the bocconcini’s delicate flavour was totally overwhelmed by the chocolate.

I’m not giving up on cheese and chocolate though – I know they’re delicious together, if only because Nadège did a much better job pairing the two in my favourite parmesan chocolate bar. I’ll try a saltier cheese next time.

Then I got my wish at Buca (which I accidentally oversold to another MasterChef Canada cook, nay, winner, David Jorge – sorry, buddy! You’ll understand why in a moment). I entered a new age “box” last week, and for my birthday, my mom and I went to the seriously-acclaimed restaurant’s King location. There was a cheese plate (pictured without much of the cheese, because you should never have to wait to dig in on your birthday), obviously.

Buca-cheese-plate

The plate was jewelled with fresh buffalo ricotta, pecorino toscano and one of my all-time favourites, piave. Each was paired with a fruity partner: the ricotta with saskatoon berry (one of my favourite sidekicks), the pecorino with wine-soaked raspberries, and the piave with rhubarb.

Then it was time for dessert. I wanted something cool to offset the looming comatose fog rolling in, post-pasta with lobster (is there any better birthday dish?). Buca made all my wishes come true, even before I blew out the candle.

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Gorgonzola gelato, topped with blueberries. Now that is how you do cheese for dessert.

I should have wished for the recipe. There’s always next year.

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Recipes

Gimme a cacio e pepe, and make ‘er blush

Sometimes you just need a big bowl of cacio e pepe.

Cacio e pepe

Cacio e pepe is a year-round delight. Obviously, anything hot and liberally-coated with cheese is welcome in the wintertime, but its appeal goes beyond the usual hot-and-cheesy comfort food requirements. It’s a comfort food trifecta: filling, ridiculously simple to make and always delicious.

My boyfriend and I went to Folco’s in Markham, Ontario, for his birthday last year, where our friend is a chef. I can never decide what to get there, so I asked him what he’d recommend and almost immediately, he said cacio e pepe. “People don’t get it, because it’s basically just pasta and cheese,” he said, “but it’s incredible.” Spaghetti, pecorino romano cheese and pepper, to be exact.

BF got the cacio e pepe, so I had to get something else (yeah, we’re those people), but I regretted my choice as soon as I had a bite of his. It’s since become my go-to when I need a big bowl of comfort that won’t further sap my energy in its production.

I called up C’n’P for one such occasion a few weeks ago in the middle of an overwhelming week. I used this Mark Bittman recipe from The New York Times, because it looks like it knows what it’s talking about, and Bittman definitely does.

Cacio e pepe

If you’re looking at my bowl and thinking I went a little heavy on the pepe, you win a gold-star-shaped hunk of pecorino romano. Serves me right for being too lazy to put my black pepper in a proper spice container, instead haphazardly dunking my hand in like it’s a grab bag of beer on a long weekend instead of a potent spice.

The pepper overpowered the entire dish, and I devoured my entire bowl (and then another the night after). That’s the magic of cacio e pepe: it’s worth a burning throat. (And let’s be real, if you’re making this, you probably don’t have the energy to make another batch, you’re likely already well-settled into your “screw you” pants.)

I interviewed Christopher Siu, the top-five MasterChef Canada competitor, at my day job today. He brought up pink peppercorns and how they are well suited to desserts. I’ve been dreaming of them (along with unlikely cheese desserts – stay tuned) all day, and decided somewhere between sprinkled-in-mascarpone and stuffed-on-chocolate-truffles that they would be a perfect substitute in my next cacio e pepe.

I know it’s slight sacrilege, but I’m dying to know how it would taste with pink peppercorns instead of cracked black pepper. I have a hunch it would be a splendid dish-saver if you’re heavy-handed with the pepe, like me.

P.S. If you keep reading cacio e pepe and pronouncing it peepee, know that a) that’s hilarious and b) you’re not alone, I keep thinking that when I type it out and I am a grown(ish)-ass woman. It’s paypay, like the soccer player. But way more lovable.

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Cheesy musings

Canadian Cheese Grand Prix: The winners

Two out of the eight cheeses I tried won in their categories, of which I’m ridiculously proud, even though my choices were completely based on availability and nothing more. Stillll.

Matthew McConaughey

Here is the full list of winners from the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix:

  • Fresh cheese: Bella Casara Ricotta, Quality Cheese Inc., ON (one of my picks)
  • Fresh pasta filata: Cherry Bocconcini, Natural Pastures Cheese Company, BC
  • Fresh cheese with grilling properties: Le Paillasson de l’isle d’Orléans, Les Fromages de l’isle d’Orléans, QC
  • Soft cheese with bloomy rind: Comox Brie, Natural Pastures Cheese Company, BC
  • Cream-enriched soft cheese with bloomy rind: Laliberté, Fromagerie du Presbytère, QC
  • Semi-soft cheese: Fleur de Weedon, Fromagerie P’tit Plaisir, QC
  • Washed- or mixed-rind soft cheese: L’Origine de Charlevoix, Laiterie Charlevoix Inc., QC
  • Washed- or mixed-rind semi-soft cheese: Raclette, Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser Inc., QC
  • Washed- or mixed-rind firm cheese: Alfred Le Fermier 18 months, Fromagerie La Station, QC
  • Firm cheese (except cheddar and gouda): Heidi, The Farm House Natural Cheeses, BC
  • Swiss type cheese: Louis D’or, Fromagerie du Presbytère, QC
  • Mozzarella (ball, brick or cyclinder) or pasta filata: Oaxaca, Local Dairy Products, ON
  • Brine-ripened cheese: Feta Cheese, Tiras Dairies Inc., AB
  • Gouda (aged 1 to 6 months): Gouda Medium, Sylvan Star Cheese Ltd., AB
  • Aged gouda: Gouda Aged, Sylvan Star Cheese Ltd., AB
  • Extra aged gouda: Mountainoak Farmstead Premium Dutch Gold, Mountainoak Cheese Ltd., ON
  • Blue cheese: Le Bleu d’Élizabeth, Fromagerie du Presbytère, QC
  • Flavoured cheese with added non-particulate flavouring (except smoked cheese): Griffon Raclette, Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser Inc., QC
  • Smoked cheese: Gouda Smoked Natural Cheese, Sylvan Star Cheese Ltd., AB
  • Flavoured cheese with added particulate solids and flavouring: Pepper Raclette, Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser Inc., QC
  • Mild cheddar (aged 3 months): L’Ancêtre Organic Mild Cheddar, Fromagerie L’Ancêtre Inc., QC
  • Medium cheddar (aged 4 to 9 months): L’Ancêtre Organic Medium Cheddar, Fromagerie L’Ancêtre Inc., QC
  • Old cheddar (aged from 9 months to a year): Traditional Clothbound Cheddar 9 to 12 months, The Farm House Natural Cheeses, BC
  • Aged cheddar (1 to 3 years): Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar, Cows Creamery, PE
  • Aged cheddar (more than 3 years): Extra Old Cheddar 5 Years, St-Albert Cheese Cooperative Inc., ON (one of my picks!)
  • Farmhouse cheese: Handeck, Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese Ltd., ON
  • Organic cheese: Alfred Le Fermier 18 months, Fromagerie La Station, QC
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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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