Cheese-a-Rama

Posted on May 8, 2009

Recently I was lucky enough to be the recipient of a "care package" of Grand Prix cheese from the Dairy Farmers of Canada. With this offering in hand I hastily organized a modest cheese tasting at my house with S., my sister, her boyfriend, Randy, Leith and myself in attendance. While Leith offered little more to the situation than a few mmms, ahhs and more, pleases, I don’t think it is ever too early to nourish an appreciation for cheese.

The beautiful, warm spring day was coming to a close with a flash thunderstorm as our guests arrived. We gave them the official tour of our house (Randy had never been to our place before), as Leith ran circles around everyone offering toys and potties and cookies whenever a break in conversation allowed. After the niceties we adjourned to the living room and settled into some serious cheese tasting.

The rather generous sampling included 5 selections:
1. Kenogami from Fromagerie Lehmann in Quebec (the 2009 Grand Champion and winner in the washed-rind cheese category).
2. Le Ciel de Charlevois from La Maison D’affinage Maurice Dufour Inc. in Quebec (winner in the blue cheese category).
3. Cows Extra Old Cheddar from Cows Inc. in Prince Edward Island (winner in the Old, Extra Old Cheddar category).
4. Evanturel from Thornloe Cheese in Ontario (one of the finalists in the soft cheese with bloomy rind category).
5. Island Bries from Little Qualicum Cheeseworks Ltd. in British Columbia (one of the finalists in the soft cheese with bloomy rind category).

I have to be perfectly honest here: I adore cheese. I could probably live off it if it wouldn’t kill me to do so. I like soft cheeses and hard ones, mild cheeses and moldy, stinky ones. Every time I walk into a cheese shop it takes me a very long time to make a choice and I will often have to take a small sampling of at least five or six before narrowing the list down to a scant two or three. Cheese goes with everything and does truly make just about anything taste better.

My name is Jennifer and I am a Cheese-aholic.

So what did we think of these three award winning and two finalist cheeses? To put it in a nutshell (mmmm, nuts go well with cheese) we liked them all. They were all delicious and well rounded in their flavours. It was a fantastic selection. If you want a few more detailed comments, I am, of course, happy to oblige.

1. The "Kenogami" has a mild aroma filled with herbs and flowers. It has a mild buttery flavour and a soft, supple texture. It was the "Grand Champion" in the Cheese Grand Prix and I believe it held up to this title in my own cheese tasting. We all really enjoyed it and thought it was definitely a cheese we would want to try again and would likely recommend it to friends in the future. I think it would be delicious melted on a roast beef sandwich and did in fact manage to save a few small bits to melt on a hamburger the next day, which was amazing.

2. The "Le Ciel de Charlevois", a fairly mild blue, was creamy and had a lovely and not over-powering bite. My sister loves blue cheese and this one certainly did not disappoint. It would be the perfect cheese to use in an onion tart or in blue cheese biscuits where the flavour would not be too overwhelmed.

3. The "Cows Extra Old Cheddar" was the only disappointment in the group. I am a HUGE fan of old cheddar, and I was expecting more from this award-winning sample. It was milder than expected and simply did nothing for us on any level. I did melt it on some crusty foccacia a day later and though it looked deliciously brown and melty (is that even a word?) it still just didn’t measure up in terms of flavour.

4. The "Evanturel" was an interesting brie-style cheese with a line of edible vegetable ash running through its centre. It had an aroma of mushrooms and earthiness and an especially smooth texture. I did a little research and Brian O’Connor, the executive director of Thornloe Cheese, is quoted as saying, "We think the ash makes the cheese a bit creamier – that it has a hygroscopic effect and draws moisture into the cheese itself." Whatever it does, this cheese was creamy, delicious and definitely something I would want to eat again, and again, and again.

5. The "Island Bries", with its quirky name, was quite possibly the creamiest brie I have ever tasted. Brie is hardly an exciting cheese next to the alternatives; it has been around forever and hasn’t really changed much. As Randy said, we’ve been eating brie since it was "cool" in the 80′s – what more can they possibly do with it?! We all ate our words once we tasted this creamy, buttery cheese with a velvety white rind. It is officially my new favourite brie.

It was a great evening and we all really enjoyed the selection of cheeses we tasted. I’d love to do it again – but I don’t think that comes as a surprise, considering my addiction admission from earlier. A big thank-you to the Dairy Farmers and their honorable judges for shedding some light on the fantastic cheeses available across Canada.

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