The kitchen is the great equalizer. Food doesn’t care about the colour of your skin…
There’s cheese, and then there’s great cheese, and then there’s great Canadian cheese, band a bunch of artisanal Canuck cheese makers together and you have The Great Canadian Cheese Festival (#TGCCF) June 1 – 3, 2012 in Picton, Ontario. The single largest exhibition of Canadian artisan, farmstead and specialty cheese from coast to coast.
Georgs Kolesnikovs, Head Cheese (above), and self confessed cheese fanatic (www.cheeselover.ca) plays host to over 50 vendors that encompass the wonderful world of curd, plus things that taste good with cheese, like wine, craft beer and locally produced condiments (to name a few).
It’s the second such festival held in Piton’s historic Crystal Palace in Picton, Ontario. Kolesnikovs, founded the festival in celebration of our fine Canadian cheese makers, now rivaling some of the best in the world. From the fair, soft young cheeses, barely in bloom to the big, briny rounds of stinky, smelly blue, Canadian cheese is ripe and ready.
On the ‘must do’ list for cheese lovers: Tutored Cheese Tastings and the popular Cooks & Curds Cheese Gala.
Get yourself some cheese schooling at the cheese tasting seminars check out The Best of the West with Janice Beaton, Artisan Cheese Tasting 101 with Julia Rogers, Cheddars Coast to Coast by Andy Shay, Pairing Cheese with Wine presented by David Lawrason, Breakfast of Champions with Georgs Kolesnikovs and Taste of Québec, presented by Vanessa Simmons, Ottawa’s own cheese “sommelier” of Savvy Company fame.
The tutored tastings last about 90 minutes and are ticketed events ($50 class), running in tandem with the festival. Here’s a handy link for more info and tickets.
Saturday, June 2nd, The Cooks & Curds Gala features eight noted Canadian chefs, preparing tasting dishes with cheese and paired with Canadian wine, craft beer and cider, and what a line up of chef’s they have! From Toronto Jamie Kennedy, Whistler’s Jimmy Stewart, Domenic Serio of Prince Edward Island, Katie Hayes from Newfoundland, Talia Syrie of Winnipeg, Marc Cohen & Francois Gagnon from Montreal and representing Ottawa, Michael Blackie.
The strolling dinner on Saturday evening concludes with an after-dinner cheese board presented by Dairy Farmers of Canada, sweets, sparkling wine, ice wine, port, coffee and tea. Tickets are $100 in advance or $125 at the door — that is if there’s any left, the first seating is already sold out.
Chef Blackie gave us a taste of his cheesy plate for the gala: Highland Blue cubic melt, chorizo crispy bits, kumquat compote, mustard lettuce and acidulated shimeji mushrooms, made with Back Forty Artisan Cheese (which you can find locally at the Carp market all summer long). It was a busy plate, with each bite hitting a new note; pungent, earthy, savory, citrus, tangy and so aesthetically enticing. Even if you don;t like blue, you’ll love it once Michael Blackie’s done with it.
So much cheesiness to tell you about… The Fesitaval’s Food Court featuring Cheesewerks, Primitive Cuisine & Buddha Dog and on-the-spot milkshakes served up by the local 4H Club. Big believer in food education that I am, the festival is a great place for kids to learn all about the world of dairy; in the Festival Dairy Barn. Meet goats, sheep, cows and one big beautiful water buffalo (named Yvette) face-to-face and bring the camera because that right there is a show & tell moment.
- Advance ticket prices $35 for adults, $15 for youth and $5 for children, avalible on line right now.
The more I learn about the festival the more I want to go. Still new to the area and discovering all that it has to give, this Gypsy was privileged to a enjoy a sneak preview of what’s in store for you at Prince Edward County’s Great Canadian Cheese Festival at the festival launch in Ottawa at the Mill Street Brew Pub.
There’s something to be said for cheese made by hand and all the cheeses you see here were crafted by Canadian artisans, varieties made with sheep, goat, or cow’s milk, it was a little slice of cheese heaven.
My favorite of the selection on hand was the creamy, gooey, runny “Enchanteuse” pictured above. A 100% goat’s milk, soft, surface ripened cheese, it’s the handy work of Maggie Paradis and Christian Girard at La Fromagerie des Folies Bergères in Sainte-Sixte, Québec. So fragrant and fresh, it improved with each sample, I’m still amazed I could stop eating it. I would have gladly licked it off the lining of my handbag if I’d been stealthy enough to snatch it.
On the way out, Grace & Paul Mussel of Clarmell on the Rideau Farms gave us all a little bag of goodies that included a wonderfully bright goat feta and one of THE best samples of quark, I have had, anywhere… ever. I plan to make a cheesecake of it, I am going to need way more cheese for that (stay tuned).
The Celtic Blue (below), from Glengarry Fine Cheese is one of the most surprisingly light blues I’ve ever enjoyed, Vanessa Simmons calls it her “starter blue” for those who say they don’t care for blue cheese. Smooth and rich with such a rustic feel and a layer of thick cream around the blue veins, it was so striking I shot it twice.
The thing about many of the cheeses that you’ll find at the festival, is that they are made in such limited production they’re not often carried in traditional retail. Specialty cheese, gourmet & locavore shops and farmers markets often feature some of the best, and you will my find them on the menu at restaurants, but by and large consumers must go direct to the producer. Which is why the Great Canadian Cheese Festival was born, this way you can sample from among the best Canada has to offer, then when you fall in love (and you will) these boutique producers can hook you up, and (hopefully) direct you to a retailer close to home for your cheese fix.
Just checked the fesitaval’s ticket availability prior to publishing, and Friday’s ticketed events; Cook with Artisan Cheese and Take a Cheese Tour are also sold out, so don’t dilly dally if something here strikes your fancy, get your tickets, pack up the kids and go!
It’s great, it’s Canadian and… it’s all about the cheese.
Georgs Kolesnikovs, Cheese Lover productions Inc.
*Gypsy Note: charcuterie products seen here are supplied by Micheal Mackenzie of Seed to Sausage, who’s opening a new retail shop in Sharbot Lake, Ontario, this Saturday, May 19th. More shots to drool over and a few particulars later this week on Food Gypsy.