Entertaining, Holidays, Recipes

Nothing says Canada Day like fried cheese and ketchup chips, eh?

O, Canada Day. Is there anything better than your nation’s holiday marking the unofficial start to day-drinking and carnival-food season — I mean, summer?

Caesars set glorious and free from their boxes to preside over camp chairs; dog-traumatizing fireworks for at least three nights straight; “best country in the world” overheard at least once, or every 45 minutes if you’re in my ultra-patriotic dad’s vicinity.

And, of course, enough ketchup chips for stained fingers that rival a community-theatre Lady MacBeth’s.

Or enough ketchup chips to smother on hunks of smoked cheddar cheese, then fried in butter.

Yeah, you read that right.

Smoked cheddar — Provincial Smoke, to be exact ūüėć — coated in ketchup chips and fried. In butter.

If the thought of crispy, ketchupy cheese nuggets makes you grimace, turn back now. (Lily-liver.) And don’t ever come to any BBQ of mine with that good sense.

Ketchup chips are a national treasure, but they’re only half the goods here. Provincial Smoke is a ridiculously rich smoked cheddar. Creamy, tart, with an earthy, acidic bite.

If you’re a fan of smoked cheeses, this Ontario raw milk cheddar is your new best friend — it could give your good ol’ grandpappy’s pipe a run for its money, that show-off.

And crispy-coated with a hint of sweet & salty ketchup, well, it would be borderline blasphemous not to serve these smokey little bundles around a campfire.

Ingredients: makes 12

  • 1 cup Provincial Smoke cheddar, cubed (about 1-inch)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup flour, or enough to coat
  • 2 tsp Caesar rim spice or celery salt
  • 1 tsp each salt and pepper
  • 2 cups ketchup chips (PC brand is my fave)
  • 2 tbsp butter


Place ketchup chips in sealed plastic zipper bag and let loose any residual anger toward that guy that cut you off in traffic. I.e. Pound them until they’re crumbs.

Combine flour, Caesar rim spice (for an extra Canuck boost), salt and pepper in a shallow layer on plate. Arrange alongside beaten egg and ketchup crunch.

Coat each cube of cheese in flour mixture, then egg. Roll in ketchup chips and try not to lick them off immediately like the sodium-crazed animal you are. Wrap in tinfoil or wax paper and freeze for 30 minutes.

Melt butter over medium-high heat in a frying pan. In groups of 4, fry frozen cheese cubes in butter.

Timing is the only tricky part: my first attempt, I didn’t fry them long enough and they were still cold in the middle. My second attempt, I left them too long and the cheese melted out.

The sweet spot is about 8-10 minutes total, 1-2 minutes per side to get a good crisp. But the best gauge is good ol’ eyeballing. You want a golden brown crisp on all or most sides.

I’d recommend a nibble to check when they’re done (#yum) but you can also do a poke test with a skewer, if you’re a proper Penny. ūüíĀ

Then throw that propriety out the window, ’cause these are muck-directly-from-the-pan worthy. Ketchup-stained fingers are totally patriotic.

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 ‚Äď and obviously, sampling to my heart’s content ‚Äď 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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Lalibert√© by Fromagerie du Presbyt√®re. 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 √† 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¬†‚Äď 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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Canadian Cheese Grand Prix: Appletree Smoked Cheddar

Smoked cheese is the Neil Patrick Harris (pre-Oscars-host) of the fromagerie. It can do no wrong. Give a slice of the smoky stuff to a cheese snob and a layman and they’ll both smile¬†‚Äď the snob will probably have to teach you something about the wood it was smoked on, though.

But like NPH hosting the Oscars, smoked cheese is a surprisingly-difficult balancing act. The very thing that makes it appealing can also be its downfall. Smokiness tastes deliciously sinful after a few bites, but it get old really fast if it’s too strongly smoked. (Freaks like me who’ve OD’d on heavy smoked cheese know this all too well.)

Appletree Smoked Cheddar by Cows Creamery from PEI doesn’t have this problem. It’s nominated in the smoked cheese category for the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix.

Smoked cheddar

It’s dry and crumbly, but not so dry that the smokiness is left to its own devices and becomes pasty in your mouth (sorry for that visual, but that happens sometimes). Instead, it melts into a deliciously creamy texture, like magic. Its flavour is pure smoke, rather than bitterness or dryness inspired by it.

I was watching a¬†Friends¬†rerun while I tasted it, so that was the main influence for me comparing Appletree to Ross and Rachel’s relationship, but I do think my reasoning stands up. You be the judge.

It has a smoky, sexy bite at the rind (like R&R’s first kiss at the coffee shop! Watch it below), but sweet (aww, he was going to take her to prom) with caramel and whiskey notes. Leaves a good flavour in the cheeks (also a side effect from smiling when they finally get together). I used six Os in my “soooooo¬†good,” and I would use the same number for R&R.

Blue Haze

Blue, Blue Haze

Yes, just like “Red, Red Wine.” I’d serenade it if I could think of something more original than “daze” to rhyme with “haze.” (Note: Hit the adjacent F instead of D the first time and am now onto something. Thank you, universe.)

I first tasted Blue Haze under a clear, fittingly-blue summer sky at the Mill Street Beer Hall. It had just opened and it was my first time there. I obviously wheedled my way into “splitting” (read: racing to devour as much as possible) the cheese board with my boyfriend before deciding on a main. I don’t remember much about the other cheeses that were seated like sultans among the cured meats, garnishes and spreads; I think there was a Manchego-esque block in the bunch. All I remember is the silky, smoldering feeling of falling in love with Blue Haze.

It’s smoky in a welcome, all-encompassing way, almost ashy, “like mould without the edge” (according to my most recent tasting notes) at the rind, where the flavour is most concentrated. It’s sweet and almost tastes hoppy, like beer. The texture is creamy like any run-of-the-mill p√Ęt√©, but melts like a fine foie gras (which coincidentally, I still don’t like the taste of, despite my best efforts, but which I will eat anyway if you put it in front of me). ¬†My notes also say “Milliners underneath”, which I can only assume was meant to be something else but was Autocorrected to “Milliners.” So, thanks for that, Apple. You’ve probably ruined a masterpiece in observation.

Blue Haze

It starts out as a blue cheese in Quebec, but earns the faded-yet-defining tendrils of smoke from Provincial Fine Foods in Ontario, where it’s cold-smoked.

“The small amount of heat in the cold-smoking process will crack the cheese,” Cole Snell of Provincial told Fiesta Farms, for a post titled¬†“A Cheese That Will Change Your Life,” natch. “We smoke it for an hour, then vacuum seal and age it for another month to let the smoke really penetrate the cheese. My favourite way to eat it is with honey or chocolate.”

I met Snell when he owned About Cheese (#RIP) in Church Wellesley Village, my first friendly neighbourhood cheese shop. It was there that I first set a cheese budget for myself, indulged in more than my fair share of samples, learned the difference between bloomy rind and Brie, and a lot more, at the hands of Snell. I didn’t know he was a big deal, he was just a maybe-stoned (sorry dude, you’re just so chill) aficionado with a bevy of passion and recommendations. You’ll hear more about Snell on this blog eventually, but for now, suffice it to say the guy knows his sh-t: Honey and chocolate are indeed, the unequivocal best things to eat with Blue Haze. (I humbly suggest maple syrup, too.)

Word to the wise: If you’re going to Google it, be sure to include “cheese” at the end. Go try it now without, and you’ll see why. Suddenly the name makes more sense, yeah? And is more funny? Okay, put down the Blue Haze, you’ve had enough.

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 clich√© 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¬†‚Äď 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 jalape√Īo 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.