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.

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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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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.

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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:

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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.

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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, Pairings

The perfect cheeses to welcome hockey back

In case you haven’t already been beaten over the head with it by media and jersey-wrapped fans, hockey is back tonight. As I write this, the Toronto Maple Leafs lead the Montreal Canadiens 2-1 in my peripheral vision. I will not say anything about hoping it lasts, because it would be a likely jinx and I don’t need that on my conscience; also, my level of masochism isn’t quite high enough to be a true Leafs fan.  (Montreal just scored. Damn it, non-jinx attempt.)

I’ve always said that it’s impossible to be in a bad mood at a sports arena. The energy is infectious. But watching sports on TV takes a little more cajoling, and snacks are part and parcel of my engagement. Obviously, my munchies of choice always involve cheese, or even better, are just cheese with some accoutrements. I have a cheap and cheerful Brie du Marché by Alexis de Portneuf (who I just discovered make a number of my other favourite cheeses, pleasant surprise) waiting with some ginger jelly as we speak. It may not make it to my belly because of some unfortunate overdoing of dill Crispy Minis earlier, but that’s another story.

There is no bad cheese to serve with a side of hockey, but it’s always fun to tailor your cheese to what you’ll be serving it with – in this case, hockey. Chemical-laced ice and bloodied teeth don’t make for ideal mental images from which to draw inspiration, but the teams make it fun. I’m watching the Leafs and the Canadiens, so here are the cheeses I’d pick (if the majority of my friends weren’t at home with violent colds and flu and I were hosting instead of pigging out alone – ah, hockey season):

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For the Toronto Maple Leafs:
There are cheeses that are made with maple syrup, but I have to admit, I haven’t tried many – just one. But man, is it a doozy. There is a little setup in Keene, Ontario, not too far from where I grew up but far enough to make it a special trip, called Cross Wind Farm. They specialize in goat milk and meat products and many of their chèvres are mixed with spices, fruits and more for melt-in-your-mouth spreads. My favourite by far is the Maple Syrup Chèvre (I’ve also had the Herbs de Provence and Orange and Cranberry). It’s obvious that they use real maple syrup from the tantalizing bitter edge to the sweetness, which complements the dry, salty sweetness of the cheese nicely. Plus, bittersweet is an apt way to describe Leaf fandom, to say the least.

If you’d like to show off a little more, you can never go wrong with a baked brie (try my aforementioned Brie du Marché for a good affordable option), especially one that incorporates maple syrup. I’d do it one of two ways: Use pure maple syrup instead of egg wash to seal your dough covering (sticky, but oh-so-much better) for a touch of sweetness, or cut the top of the rind off and drizzle it directly on top with gay abandon and a sprinkling of pecans before baking.

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For the Montreal Canadiens:
Québec boasts no shortage of irresistibly smelly cheeses to sample. I have only been there a handful of times as an adult, but both times I made sure to try a few. When I visited my cousin during Winterlude last year (hi, Melissa!), she turned me onto La Sauvagine, one of Alexis de Portneuf’s. It has an noticeable yet accessible tang that will please both smelly cheese devotees and newbies alike. And the triple-cream texture, well – that speaks for itself.

To add a hard cheese to the roster, try Louis D’Or, arguably one of Canada’s most famous and  lauded smelly cheeses. When I first bought it on a trip to Montreal with my boyfriend, he complained that it made our whole hotel room smell like farts, even while safely tucked away in the mini-fridge, which it did. Still, it has the kind of vegetable-moldy flavour (think steamed broccoli) that you find more commonly in sheep’s milk cheeses. I can’t decide if I like this one more cold or room temperature, but if you’d like to ease into it, try it cold first.

The game’s still 2-2 and I have yet to bring out my Brie. My stomach is tied too, with fullness on one side and uh, Brie, on the other. That’s a whole other game.

Here’s to hockey, and more importantly, the cheese boards that viewing will bring.

(Main image: Coyau / Wikimedia Commons)

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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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