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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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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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Entertaining, Profiles

Tasting notes: The “vintage” brigade and whiskey cheddar

The air quotes come from my sideye at referring to cheese as “vintage” (see here). But don’t get me started on that again. I want to share the tasting notes I typed furiously into my phone before devouring the spread I got at St. Lawrence Market. I served some of these (plus herbed goat cheese and Le Rang Des Iles, which sadly didn’t make it to my notes) at my housewarming along with olives, jam, marinated portobello mushroom, artichoke and cherry peppers.

Cheese board

Highland Chief with Single Malt Whiskey

  • First impression: Dry, liquor taste
  • Sour like aged cheddar in the cheeks
  • Development of whiskey flavour is reminiscent of mould at first, but becomes sweet
  • Strong liquorice notes in whiskey flavour
  • Subtle caramel in the background
  • Slightly smoky, mellow finish
  • Clean with little bitterness
  • Incredibly creamy, like buttercream

Uniekaas Vintage 3 Year Old Gouda

  • First impression: Sweet like liqueur
  • Like a great fondue with beer or wine already added
  • Bitter like stout, slightly salty
  • Sweetness shines through, a little grassy
  • Similar to Beemster but stronger flavour
  • Creamy-firm texture with slight crystallization
  • Would be fantastic with something tart-sweet like currants (post-note: Had raspberry jam with it = perfect)

Oak Manor Vintage Cheddar
(You won’t see this one in the picture above, the cheese boards I served at my housewarming, because my boyfriend devoured it in almost one sitting. It’s a snacking cheese for sure.)

  • First impression: Smoked hay or grass
  • Sweet like an aged cheddar, then smoky
  • Progresses to deep caramel
  • Slight bitterness like coffee or hops
  • More lightly acidic than creamy
  • Not crumbly like traditional old cheddar, more dense and chewy

If you read the previous post, you’ll see that Le Rang Des Iles is missing from my tasting notes. Sorry about that. I saved it for my housewarming and thought I’d have a scrap left to study. Wrong-o. I remember it was stronger than a light bloomy rind like Camembert, but not as intense as a Sauvagine or a similar smelly slice. Creamy. Crumbly rind when chewed. Also, your friends won’t hesitate to eat it all.

The Grinch

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There are a lot of qualifiers attributed to birthdays. Birthday cake. Birthday beats. Birthday sex. No one (that I know, anyway) talks about birthday cheese, but by now it should come as no surprise that it is indeed one of highest importance on this, the day of my birth. (Picture this said like an Italian gangster.)

For my birthday this year (May long weekend, if you’re wondering ;)), my boyfriend took me to the new Ripley’s Aquarium downtown, which I’d been dying to go to, as an admirer of everything under the sea. We had made plans to go for a schmancy dinner after, but had to choose a new place after we realized the restaurant was not easily-accessible by public transit. Alas, another day.

I was in the mood for seafood (ironically), but really, my only request was a cheese plate. I know some people would here insist that that was their version of “birthday cake,” because they’re more into savoury and cheese and blah blah blah. Not I. I was planning to have a fancy dessert anyway, I just wanted to have my damn cheese plate and eat it, too, because it was a special occasion and I am a cheese brat.

We ended up going to Marben, a place I’d been to before and one of my favourite restaurants in the city. I had smoked scallop risotto and an Aviation cocktail I promptly fell in love with. But let’s get to the crowning glory: The cheese plate.

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First, let me address the elephant in the room. Clearly, there is something literally wrong with this picture. I tried to take a panorama and failed, miserably. I don’t know how. But I kept it because you can still see the cheese well enough and the longer I lingered over angles and composition, the longer it took for the cheese to get in my mouth.

There are three cheeses here and one of them remains a little foggy. One of the yellow wedges is Applewood Smoked Cheddar, the one on the left, I think. The middle bloomy rind is a soft version (which I didn’t even know they made) of Blue Haze, and was a delectable surprise, though I prefer the semi-soft one. The other one I remember being more tangy, though that could be wishful thinking if it was bland. I’m about 75 per cent sure it was Manchego-esque. (So-so odds, I know.)

The accoutrements were fantastic, too. The bluish-black jam was made from a berry I had never heard of and have since not remembered, but it tasted a bit like a sour blueberry. Then we had some roasted red peppers and honeyed walnuts. Oh, and toasty bread, of course. Yum.

All in all, though the names are hazy, the memories are not. Thanks for the treats and renewed hunger from writing this, Marben.

Cheesy musings

Flashback Friday: Birthday cheese

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Flavour of the month, Pairings, Profiles

Flavour of the month: Délice de Bourgogne

I mean, come on. Even the name melts in your mouth. It sounds more like a signature handbag crafted by Coco Chanel than an animal by-product (and even that description seems too harsh).

The outside feels like a typical bloomy rind cheese, with a bright white rind as soft and pliable as milkweed, and just as rewarding – because, open it up, and inside you’ll find a surprise worth savouring. But better, because unlike milkweed, the inside won’t blow away.

Delice de Bourgogne

The texture is so rich and thick-but-light, the best comparison for letting it sink into your tongue is to molasses thinning and then blurring into a steady stream of steaming water. The middle of the cheese is firmer, chalkier, more similar to typical goat cheese in texture.

The flavour notes (My immediate thoughts on taste and mouth feel, hastily scribbled into my phone’s notes):
– Milky, buttery full-fat flavour (triple-cream, much?)
– Mushroomy!
– Sharp touch of mould tang, similar to Sauvagine, but not as sharp
– More mould flavour and grain closer to the rind
– Stronger aftertaste, not as light as popular bloomy rinds like Camembert
– “Like whipped cream, but better” – Yup, that about sums up my feelings on most soft cheeses.

I’m not much of a wine expert, but this made me want to drink a crisp, sharp white wine, like a Sauv Blanc or a Gewurztraminer. (I just Googled in the expectation I had spelled it wrong, and I got it right on the first try. I feel ridiculously proud. Look mom, no dictionary!)

Ordinarily, I don’t like crackers with my cheese. To me, grains just sully the main event; it’s like swindling a renowned author into writing the assembly instructions for an air purifier. But, in this case, because some downright opulent crackers were leftover at work, I gave it a go and I have to say, the juxtaposition in texture was worth it. The strawberry was really more for decoration, though that would’ve been nice too. This one was too chemical-y and I suspect full of fish genes, so I spit it right out. Thanks for the colour though, little buddy.

All in all: One of my favourite bloomy rinds ever. 4.5/5 little decorative strawberries.

Delice de Bourgogne

I even manipulated it into a mini sundae swirl – that’s how decadent the texture was!

P.S. I just saw that my last post was April 29 – what is it about the end of the month that makes me feel compelled to write? Is it when I have to pay rent and all the lovely bills to keep my lucky little life afloat that I use this as an excellent mask for procrastination, or do I subconsciously know I will feel better going into June if I managed a post in May, even if it was only one? Probably the first one.

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Heart-shaped gouda cheeses
Flavour of the month, Pairings, Profiles

Flavour of the month: Smoked gouda

I’ve been having an affair with smoked gouda lately. Smoked cheeses are to me what a good bloomy rind or soft cheese is to many cheese lovers: I know it’s unhealthyish territory, but like a good Downton Abbey binge or a *ahem* smokin’ bad boy, I just can’t get enough. (Okay, the bad boy part is more a cliché than true in my case. Unless Jason Statham is lurking nearby.)

But we’ll get to the smoky part. First, gouda. It’s like the quirky cousin of everyday mozzarella: Semi-soft, super melty and just enough flavour to allow it to shine in a dish, without needing to be the centre of attention. But gouda’s slightly tangy tinge gives it an edge and makes it a beautiful, while still accessible, option when you need the versatility of grocery store brick mozza, but want a bit more pizazz.

Over the past two months, I’ve used it in soups, sandwiches and salads, but my favourite option has to be the simplest: Grilled cheese. I layered my favourite thin multigrain bread with baked apples (I just threw them in the oven for a few minutes in a tinfoil pouch – this way you don’t need to wait for the apples to soften while you’re cooking the sandwich) and the smoked gouda. It’s also delicious with a bit of grainy mustard, but I opted for the more simple version this time.

Heart-shaped gouda cheeses

The first time I have ever felt compelled to carve cheese. Appropriately shaped.

My favourite part of building grilled cheeses is deciding which dipping sauce to serve it with. In this case, I was craving something sweet and tangy to bring out similar flavours in the gouda and apple, while complementing the smokiness. My usual cheese accompaniment, apricot and jalapeño chutney, would’ve been fine, but adding spice to smoky cheese when you’re already balancing it with sweetness can backfire and make it overwhelming. Plus, I didn’t have any. So I went with a simple balsamic reduction, which I actually overcooked a teeny titch so it was almost taffy-like, it was so thick, but boy was it delicious.

The best part of any smoked cheese, aside from the addictive flavour, is that you only need a little (not that that should stop you if you’re on a roll). I cut very thin slices for my grilled cheese and didn’t feel cheated at all.

One more thing: Remember when I said I’d used it in soups? Yeah, don’t. Gouda melts a little too well. I added it to French onion soup, and though the smokiness added a nice depth to the flavour, I regretted it (as much as I can ever regret cheese, anyway, which is minimally) when every bite literally coated my mouth with gum-like gouda. I can’t be sure, but it bore a striking resemblance to what I imagine eating melted Silly Putty would be like.

Minus the flavour. Because that s— was still heavenly, even while trying to scrape it off my teeth with a spoon.

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