I was lucky enough be asked to style the winners of the Canadian Cheese Gran Prix 2015 for a few media events here in Edmonton. After the work was done, the fun began, as my partner-in-cheese-crime, Addie Raghavan and I tasted some of the most incredible cheeses that this country has to offer.
I don't know much about cheese, except that I like it (and I ended up eating a ton with some lovely wines), so Addie offered to guest post. Addie, and his friend Ian Treuer of the number one cheese blog in the country 'Much To Do About Cheese' (kindly, ha!) tasted the cheese for me, and here are Addie's thoughts. Over to Addie.
I had a wonderful time with Julian Bond, well known chef, and part of the jury for the 2015 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix, and Genevieve Fontaine from Dairy Farmers of Canada as Michelle and I manicured the cheeses and styled them ready for television and media. I later went over to my good cheese friend Ian’s place and we ravenously sliced into five of the cheeses and rated them in order of preference.
Laliberté, Fromagerie du Presbytère
The name makes sense. Let your emotions run wild as you bask in this pursuit of purity and happiness. The rind is well developed and one would expect a more runny paste given its maturity and moisture content. This triple cream bloomy rind has gravitas. The paste has surprising structure, almost like butter, the texture is like cultured cream, as the cheese melts away in your mouth. The taste, oh the taste. Strong mushroom notes pointing to a comfortable amount of geotrichum candidum mould populating the surface. The saltiness of the rind gives it a complete taste with a strong earthy linger. I’m wonder struck.
Pepper Raclette, Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser Inc.
I’m generally not a fan of flavoured cheeses as they sometimes hide imperfections of sloppy cheese makers. Other times, the flavours are just too strong. However, this pepper raclette is respectful to the cheese while allowing us to wander into the senses of pepper. The musty, earthy aroma of the rind goes well with the semi-soft paste of the cheese, just from a textural and mouth-feel perspective. The mild pepper notes works so well with the barnyard linger on the taste. The use of pepper, seemingly unsophisticated, is in fact very well though of. Great overall execution.
Handeck, Gunn's Hill Artisan Cheese Ltd.
You need to be seated while eating this one. The rind of this cheese is excellent: Tiny pockets and colonies of fungi and yeasts slowly chipping away at the cheese. This is a classic Swiss alpine, Gruyère/ Comté-like, cheese. Nutty yet creamy, a little savoury chive-like flavour, good salty finish with the initial bouquet lingering for a while. Would be great in a grilled cheese, or as Ian says on top of your French Onion soup (which would be a pretty classic way of using it).
Heidi, The Farm House Natural Cheeses
The aroma of wet cedar on the rind is an instant realization that this cheese is aged on wood. Tropical fruit notes invite your senses as you nibble at shards and crumbs of this aged cheese. The caramel butter like mellowness of the mid-palate makes me feel there is a washing of curd involved in the process. Wet grass lingers at the end, in a somewhat overpowering manner making it hard to instantly appreciate the next bite. Seems to belong to a Beaufort-style, but I may be wrong. It is definitely an inventive cheese.
Traditional Clothbound Cheddar, The Farm House Natural Cheeses
Full flavour of a classic cheddar with the occasional titbits of blue squiggles that have successfully invaded the outer extremities of the paste. You know what I enjoy most about nibbling on aged cheeses? Getting a few of the calcium lactate crystals between your teeth! Nobly aged and well executed, however the undesirable bitterness at the end makes me feel it is a few small fixes away from perfection.
Mike Chalut and his merry band of cheeses with Julian, over at 91.7 The Bounce
Check out the list of the 2015 Cheese Champions over on the Dairy Farmers of Canada website. If you would like to buy these cheeses, you can download the information from this PDF.