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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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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Etorki rind smile
Profiles

Introducing: Cheese profiles!

It may seem obvious to you, but I’m finally accepting the importance of some sort of database of cheeses, their tasting notes and pairings, as well as any other relevant info about them, to a cheese blog. At least, the cheese blog I want to have, which I am slowly building, little by little.

I’ve been avoiding beginning the profiles in earnest (despite the litany of notes on my iPhone waiting to be fleshed out) because to be honest, I don’t get excited to write them. Once I’ve started, I’m on board and enjoying the process. But I can’t get jazzed enough to start them because they’re evergreen, one of my least-favourite kind of pieces to write. They’re not timely (uh, unless you never start them), there’s no hook, and worst of all, you know you need to have them, giving them a bit of extra drag factor.

While I might be more in the mood to write musings that are cheesy in nature rather than in actual practice sometimes, I recognize that I have a better chance of delivering an enjoyable product if I add an element of news you can use, so to speak, in information – while still tailored with my own personal spin and opinion – about cheeses I’ve tried.

So, this evening, in one of those moods where you aren’t attracted to doing anything (even mindless Netflixing! Gasp!), I decided to use my uninspired time for good and take a stab at a profile. I started with the one I knew I could write in my sleep, as it’s a cheese I’ve tasted countless times; one of my all-time favourites, Blue Haze. I hope you enjoy it.

I love recommendations and suggestions, too! If there’s a cheese you think I have to try, please let me know at @xCheeseTheDay or cheesetheday [at] outlook [dot] com, and I’ll write a profile on it the next time I’m virtuous enough. Thanks for reading!

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