Best Bites: The Most Memorable Cheese of 2023

We bring the curtain down on 2023 with the help of friends in fromage recalling the most memorable cheese that crossed their palates during the past 12 months.

Check out the tasting notes and make up your shopping list for the next visit to a cheese shop or, better yet, right to the cheesemaker. If you like, you can order online for convenient home delivery.

David Beaudoin first gained popularity as the Squeaky Cheese Guy. Nowadays, he’s known as the Canadian Cheese Ambassador. Here are his picks for the most memorable cheese of the year:

L’Attrappe Cœur, La Trappe à Fromage

L’Attrappe Cœur, La Trappe à Fromage, Gatineau, Québec

This heart-shaped brie has conquered my heart and many others at weddings and gatherings. Under its velvety bloomy rind reminiscent of white mushrooms is a milky and chalky paste that keeps on “oozing” away when ripening to perfection. Mild, chalky and fresh when young, it develops beautiful aromas of mushrooms and root vegetables when ripe.

Great Plains Blue, Coteau Hills Creamery

Great Plains Blue, Coteau Hills Creamery, Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan

A young mild blue, with light blue veins throughout the cheese, creates a nice balance between earthy, mushroomy, salty and creamy. This light blue cheese made from the milk of Caroncrest Farm in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, is a great entry-level blue cheese to be discovered. Only available in Saskatchewan, and in small quantities.

Miranda, Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser

Miranda, Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser, Noyan, Québec

Le Miranda is a firm washed rind cheese with a savoury and umami flavour that still awaits to be discovered nationally. This cheese is spectacular on its own or with sweet and savoury accompaniments, and a long deep lasting flavour.

Cheese educator and cheese sommelier Vanessa Simmons says her most memorable cheese moments happen when the joy of the season is shared with good friends, family, work peers or colleagues, walking them through a memorable Canadian artisan cheese experience. Personally selected and perfectly à point, these cheeses are all uniquely special in their own way—whether award-winning, or reserve aged, rare and hard to find, or some of the last of their kind.

Here are those extraordinary cheeses:

Jackie Armet is a longtime friend in cheese who has worked with me as cheese co-ordinator at The Great Canadian Cheese Festival and then the Canadian Cheese Awards. A graduate of the Professional Fromager program at George Brown College in Toronto, Jackie lives in Prince Edward County and offers in-person tutored tastings and consulting services via Cheese Experience.

Here’s what really tickled her palate in 2023:

The Dragon’s Growl, That Dutchman’s Cheese Farm

The Dragon’s Growl, That Dutchman’s Cheese Farm, Upper Economy, Nova Scotia

It’s a creamy Gouda cheese spread made with Dragon’s Breath Blue and Old Growler Gouda.

Cow’s milk creates a subtle, creamy and rich flavour as you spread it on anything from a cracker, baguette, burger, steamed or roasted vegetables, such as cauliflower, broccoli, potatoes. Certainly takes veggies up a notch.

Fredondaine, Fromagerie La Vache à Maillotte

Fredondaine, Fromagerie La Vache à Maillotte, La Sarre, Québec

Often nicknamed the “Oka” of Abitibi, Fredondaine pleases everyone with its softness and versatility. This cow’s milk, washed rind cheese is always a good go to cheese with hints of cooked butter and slightly nutty.


—Georgs Kolesnikovs

Georgs Kolesnikovs, Cheese-Head-in-Chief at, has never met a cheese he didn’t like . . . well, hardly ever. Follow him on his other adventures at On the Road, Across the Sea on Substack.

Three Canadian cheeses among the world’s best

Three Canadian cheeses were judged to be the best of the best at the World Cheese Awards held this year in Trondheim, Norway.

The annual competition attracted 4,502 cheese entries from 43 countries around the world. Thirty-two Canadian cheeses were among the winners. Three of the 32 were awarded Super Gold medals to indicate they were among the best 100 cheeses of the 4,502 entries tasted by 264 judges. They are:

Magie de Madawaska: Fromagerie le Détour, Témiscouata-sur-le-Lac, Quebec

Runny, luscious, creamy, buttery, nutty and ooey-gooey good when perfectly à point (fully ripened), that’s how Cheese Sommelier Vanessa Simmons of Ottawa describes Magie de Madawaska made with cow’s milk.

Mascotte: Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser, Noyan, Quebec

A semi-firm goat’s milk cheese, Mascotte tastes of roasted almonds with a goaty finish. Its rind releases a most appealing slightly woody aroma. An excellent cheese for raclette.

Sauvagine: Fromagerie Alexis de Portneuf, Saint Raymond, Quebec

Sauvagine is a cow’s milk cheese with a moist and supple rind that ripens from the outside in; runny ivory body; fresh butter taste with a hint of mushrooms; flavourful, culminating with a rustic taste.

For complete results from the World Cheese Awards, click here:

Wildwood: A true taste of the Swiss Alps

Wildwood: A taste of the Swiss Alps produced by Stonetown Artisan Cheese in St. Marys, Ontario.

Appenzeller, which hails from the Appenzellerland region of northeast Switzerland, is often described as the tastiest of Swiss cheeses.

Wildwood, which hails from St. Marys in southwest Ontario, is certainly the tastiest of the Swiss or Alpine cheese produced by Stonetown Artisan Cheese.

“A true taste of the Swiss Alps, creamy and herbaceous, reminiscent of Appenzeller,” that’s how Wendy Furtenbacher, who looks after marketing and business development for Stonetown, describes Wildwood.

“It has a silky texture and flavours of brown butter and nuts,” says Tammy Miller, owner of Country Cheese Company in Ajax, my neighbourhood cheese shop, where I sourced the wedge shown in the video.

Me, I only have three words for Wildwood: delicious, delicious, delicious.

The cheese, named after the Wildwood Dam in St. Marys, is rich and creamy on the palate with a nice balance of salt. It’s really quite unique in taste and appearance.

Not only does Wildwood have a distinctive flavour, it also has a rustic and appealing appearance. The dark aromatic rind gives the cheese a contrasting texture to the interior and generates aromas typically associated with washed-rind cheeses.

Wildwood tastes excellent in sandwiches or on a cheese platter with fruits, dried meat and bread. It also melts well and and can used in grilled cheese sandwiches, or to make an easy cheesy quesadilla for a quick lunch.

Wildwood makes an easy cheesy quesadilla for a quick lunch.

Tammy Miller recommends serving Wildwood with a cherry jam like Provisions Montmorency Cherry and Merlot Wine Jam.

Wildwood pairs well with red wine.

Aged 12 months. Ingredients: Unpasteurized milk, salt, rennet, bacterial culture.

Wildwood has won many awards, most recently being named Grand Champion at the 2023 SIAL International Cheese Competition.

Cheesemakers Jolanda and Hans Weber came to Canada in 1996 from their native Switzerland, with three children in tow, to begin a new life in St. Marys on their own dairy farm.

“Having previously worked in the Swiss Alps, it was always our dream to produce delicious, high quality cheese reminiscent of the renowned Swiss mountains and made from our own milk,” the Webers explain. “With a profound commitment to creating cheese of the highest quality, and the support of our family, as well as Ramon Eberle, a Master Cheesemaker from Switzerland, our humble dream became a reality.”

Fresh milk comes from 250 Holstein cows—who sleep on beach sand all year round. Two sons, together with their families, look after the cows while Jolanda and Hans handcraft the farmstead cheese: “In order to obtain a great taste, the milk is unpasteurized and has no additives. This ensures the cheese is pure and natural.”

The milk is thermized, which means its heated to reduce spoilage bacteria with minimum collateral heat damage to milk components. Artisan cheesemakers prefer thermization to pasteurization as the former does not cause changes in flavour.

Wendy Furtenbacher Madonna, a certified cheese professional widely known in a cheese circles as Curdy Girl, regularly samples Stonetown cheeses in Toronto-area supermarkets and cheese shops. Next week she’ll be sampling at Queensway Sobeys and the following week at Todmorden Sobeys, followed by Pantry Fine Cheese on Gerrard Street in Toronto. Details are generally posted on her Facebook page.

She also represents Mountainoak Cheese of New Hamburg, Ontario.

—Georgs Kolesnikovs

Georgs Kolesnikovs, Cheese-Head-in-Chief at, has never met a cheese he didn’t like . . . well, hardly ever. Follow him on his adventures at On the Road, Across the Sea on Substack.




In praise of younger cheddars

When you’re craving a fully flavoured cheddar, your best bet will be a cheddar aged two years or more. Fortunately, there are many excellent Canadian cheddars in the three- to five-year range.

But don’t overlook younger cheddars. They can be quite tasty, and they melt like crazy when you’re cooking or grilling. I have been reminded of these truths in cheese by the lovely Balderson Marble Cheddar.

It’s only aged about six months, like a medium cheddar, so the flavour profile is definitely understated and mild, but it makes for a very tasty snacking cheese, especially after it comes to room temperature. A mixture of white and coloured cheese curds give it a marbled appearance.

But Balderson Marble Cheddar really shines in a grilled cheese sandwich or cheese toastie. At our house, we have a preference for caraway rye bread generously buttered to make grilled-cheese sammies. As we have reported earlier, we love the smell and the taste of ooey gooey.

A younger cheddar like Balderson Marble melts like crazy in a grilled-cheese sammie.

The nice thing about a mass-produced cheese like Balderson Marble Cheddar is that it’s generally available in supermarkets everywhere and often at a good price. We purchased ours at $5.99 for a 280-gram block which works out to about $20 per kilo which is a great price for a fine cheese made without additives or modified milk ingredients. Like, it’s real cheese!

Balderson cheddars were first made 142 years ago, making it one of Canada’s oldest cheddars. In 1881, dairy farmers in Lanark County, near Perth in Eastern Ontario, had a bright idea. They decided to form a dairy collective, pool their excess milk production and build a factory to produce a cheddar cheese.

Balderson Cheese Factory in 1881. Improperly called a “shack” in the video above.

They built a small, wood-frame building at a crossroads known locally as Balderson Corners. The dusty junction was named after John Balderson, a retired sergeant from the British army who was among the first homesteaders in the area in the 1860s.

The Balderson Corners Cheese Factory is no more but there still is a cheese shop at the junction.

Production of Balderson cheddars now takes place a bit farther east, in Winchester, in the township of North Dundas, 45 kilometres south of downtown Ottawa, in Canada’s largest cheese plant.

Ownership of Balderson now is in the hands of Lactalis Canada. Lactalis is a French multinational dairy products corporation, owned by the Besnier family and based in Laval, Mayenne, France. Lactalis is the largest dairy products group in the world.

In addition to Balderson, Lactalis Canada owns iconic brands such as Cracker Barrel, Black Diamond, Astro, IÖGO, Lactantia, Beatrice and Président. Named on Forbes list of Canada’s Best Employers, Lactalis Canada directly employs 4,000+ Canadians and has more than 30 operating sites across the country.

A far cry from 1881 when a handful of men working in a small building at Balderson Corners started making cheddar, but you have believe the spirit of those early years still is reflected in the smooth flavour of Balderson Marble Cheddar.

Before you go, please hit the subscribe button so we can stay in touch to celebrate cheese, especially Canadian cheese.

—Georgs Kolesnikovs

Georgs Kolesnikovs, Cheese-Head-in-Chief at, has never met a cheese he didn’t like . . . well, hardly ever. Follow him on his adventures at On the Road, Across the Sea on Substack.


Best Bites: The seven most memorable cheeses of 2022

Maggie’s Christmas Cheese Ball/La Fromagerie Les Folies Bergères.

We bring the curtain down on 2022 with the help of friends in fromage recalling the most memorable cheese that crossed their palates during the past 12 months. We add our favourites, too.

Check out the tasting notes and make up your shopping list for the next visit to a cheese shop or, better yet, right to the cheesemaker. If you like, you can order online for convenient home delivery.

Let’s begin with cheese educator and cheese sommelier Vanessa Simmons, our BF in fromage:

My most memorable cheese taste of 2022 is Maggie’s Christmas Cheese Ball by Maggie Paradis of La Fromagerie Les Folies Bergères. Not only does Maggie make a variety of amazing goat, sheep and cow milk cheeses, but she and her husband, shepherd Christian Girard, are passionate, talented and wonderful people.

This coveted, sell-out cheese makes an appearance once a year for the holidays and is a combination of Maggie’s locally made cow and sheep milk cream and hard cheeses with a few added extras like scallions, lemon juice and sriracha that deliver its zing and umami, savoury flavour. Finished with crushed pecans for festive flair, it’s the best, silky, cheesecake-like cheese ball you will ever enjoy—made with love.

Pair with a local oaky Chardonnay, caramelized onion, bacon or apricot/peach jam and your favourite crusty baguette or sourdough bread and you have an instant party on your hands.

Gurth Pretty is a professional chef and cheese connoisseur whose goal is to show to Canadians and the world the delicious cheese produced in Canada. He combined his love for Canada and his passion for cheese to write The Definitive Guide to Canadian Artisanal and Fine Cheese and The Definitive Canadian Wine & Cheese Cookbook, co-written with Tony Aspler. These days he owns and operates Lakeview Cheese Galore in Mississauga, Ontario.

Greystone/River’s Edge Goat Dairy.

One of my most memorable cheese this year was Greystone, produced by Katie and Will at River’s Edge Goat Dairy. They use the milk from their herd of goats, located at their farm near Arthur, Ontario.

The appearance of this ash-coated, white bloomy rind goat ball reminds me of a French Bonde de Gâtine cheese. As Greystone ripens, its paste becomes creamier and develops a more noticeable goat aroma.

It is a delicious artisanal farmstead cheese!

Jackie Armet is a longtime friend in cheese who has worked with me as cheese co-ordinator at The Great Canadian Cheese Festival and then the Canadian Cheese Awards. A graduate of the Professional Fromager program at George Brown College in Toronto, Jackie lives in Prince Edward County and offers in-person tutored tastings and consulting services via Cheese Experience.

Wildwood/Stonetown Artisan Cheese.

My most memorable and impressive cheese this year is Wildwood made by Stonetown Artisan Cheese in St. Marys, Ontario. It was given to me as a mystery cheese and I felt it was from Europe. It has all the features that make Comte and Appenzeller outstanding. It could certainly be a challenger to the throne.

For Debbie Levy, longtime cheese educator, the cheese experience of the year was delivered by Blue Moo made by COWS Creamery of Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.

Blue Moo/COWS Creamery.

We are fortunate in Canada to have some great blue cheese makers and now I have added Blue Moo to the list. Love the texture of this triple cream. Although it’s a milder blue, there is something about its buttery savoury notes that just has me reaching for more!

During a cross-Canada road trip this year, we spent the better part of a day with Chef Dustin Peltier in the tiny make room at Loaf and Honey in Winnipeg learning about the trials and tribulations of producing Golden Prairie.

Golden Prairie/Loaf and Honey.

The recipe and method behind the cheese dates back to the 1700s in Trappist monasteries in France. It has been made in Manitoba by Trappist monks at Notre Dame des Prairies monastery since 1918, since the 1940s by Brother Alberic. When Dustin Peltier learned Brother Alberic, then in his 80s, planned to stop making Fromage de la Trappe, he was determined to continue the tradition. He spent a year being mentored by Brother Alberic, aiming to continue making the cheese in its traditional way, with raw, unpasteurized milk.

Unfortunately, Dustin ran into a bureaucratic maze at Manitoba Agriculture, which prevented him—or any other artisan producer in the province—from using raw milk in cheese production. Thus, he was forced to use non-homogenized, pasteurized organic cow milk in the making of Golden Prairie. The cheese is still hand-washed daily and aged for 60 days before being released to the public.

Golden Prairie has a unique flavour profile, with a touch of tang and loads of dairy. Only available for purchase in Manitoba at selected cheese shops.

During our camping trip to the Rockies, we also visited an old friend in cheese, Ian Treuer, now cheesemaker at Lakeside Farmstead Cheese in Sturgeon County just north of Edmonton. Here we found two memorable cheese tastes of 2022:

Chaga Cheddar/Lakeside Farmstead.

We’ve already reported on how the world’s first Chaga Cheddar came to be with its unique appearance and distinctive flavour, all the result of cheddar curds soaking in a bath of chaga tea before being molded, pressed and aged for up to seven weeks. The resulting cheese is beautifully marbled and has a creamy texture and mild, nutty flavour.

Clothbound Cheddar/Lakeside Farmstead.

The other memorable cheese we discovered was Lakeside Farmstead Clothbound Cheddar, a truly full-flavoured cheddar. Each wheel is made in the old-world tradition, hand-wrapped with cheesecloth, then sealed with wax and carefully aged for a minimum of one year. Clothbound Cheddar exhibits delightful nutty, fruity/citrus and caramel/sweet undertones with a complex and lingering finish. It has some crumble and crystallization providing a desirable mouth feel. All in all, it’s really delicious.

Lakeside cheese is available only in Alberta at present, from selected cheese shops and a retail store at the farm open Wednesday through Saturday.

—Georgs Kolesnikovs

Georgs Kolesnikovs, Cheese-Head-in-Chief at, has never met a cheese he didn’t like . . . well, hardly ever. Follow him on his travels across Canada on Substack at On the Road, Across the Sea.



World’s first Chaga Cheddar created at Lakeside Farmstead

Cheesemaker Ian Treuer prepares to move blocks of Chaga Cheddar into the aging room at Lakeside Farmstead after it has air-dryed following a soaking in chaga tea.

Here are two things you need to know about Jeff Nonay, a third-generation dairy farmer in Alberta. He enjoys a cup of chaga tea. He has a passion for cheese.

Three years ago, Lakeside Dairy, a thriving dairy, beef and potato operation 30 minutes north of Edmonton owned by Nonay and his partner, Coralee, expanded into producing cheese. The Nonays hired Ian Treuer to, firstly, lead-hand the design of the cheese plant and, then, to become the head cheesemaker at Lakeside Farmstead.

One day Jeff asked Ian whether a cheddar infused with chaga, a type of fungus that grows on Alberta birch trees, might be worth developing.

After some trial and error, the first Chaga Cheddar in Canada—indeed, in the world—came to be.

After soaking in a bath of chaga tea, cheddar curds are molded, pressed and aged for up to seven weeks. The resulting cheese is beautifully marbled and has a creamy texture and mild, nutty flavour.

Jeff Nonay is all smiles with the way Chaga Cheddar looks and tastes. Photo by Curtis Comeau Photography.

Says Jeff: “We soak our curds in a chaga tea, imparting flavours of smoke, sweetness, earthiness. The brewing tea fills the room with smells of being around a campfire. While the cheddar and chaga flavours meld together, the texture quickly becomes creamy and smooth. The outside of the curd stains with the rich dark tea and makes for a spectacular looking cheese.”

Adds Ian: “Our chaga cheddar has an interesting flavour. You get the mild to medium cheddar flavour, but the chaga imparts an almost smoky, caramel/dark chocolate flavour.”

Cheesemaker Ian Treuer holds chaga, a type of mushroom or fungus that grows on birch trees in Alberta—and in northern climes around the world.

Chaga’s most noted accolade is its antioxidant power, according to Untamed Feast, the local experts who source the sustainably harvested chaga used by Lakeside. Chaga is also nutrient dense, containing the B vitamin complex, vitamin D, potassium, copper, selenium, zinc, iron, manganese, magnesium, calcium. Chaga is used to balance blood sugar and blood pressure, to purify the liver, to relieve pain, to modulate the immune system and as an overall tonic.

The cheese produced at Lakeside is truly “farmstead” in that milk comes solely from the dairy barn a mere 200 feet/60 metres from the cheese plant.

Adds Treuer: “The cows have a nutritionist that designs their feed. And that, to me, makes it a better milk to use.”

In addition to Chaga Cheddar, Lakeside produces Cheddar, Clothbound Cheddar, Butter Cheese, Brie, Alpine Cheese, Fromage Blanc, Cheese Curds, Cottage Cheese and Cultured Butter. The cheese is available only in Alberta at present, from selected cheese shops and a retail store at the farm open Wednesday through Saturday.

Ian Treuer first started making cheese at home more than a decade ago: “I was looking for a hobby and it was that or make beer—and I don’t really drink.”

It wasn’t smooth sailing at first.

“That first cheese was a hockey puck. It was hard . . . but I was determined to eat it,” Treuer said.

Treuer kept working at it, which eventually led to teaching classes and working at smaller cheese operations. Then, in 2019, he was asked to become the head cheesemaker at Lakeside Dairy.

Cheesemaker Ian Treuer is shown in the aging room at Lakeside Farmstead with wheels of Alpine, a raw-milk cheese that is aged 12 to 24 months.




“I spent 20 years in another career and then the opportunity to work in cheese kind of arose. I have a very understanding and supportive wife, who allowed me to leave a really good job to pursue cheese.”

Treuer calls the process of making cheese his happy place. He says no cheese is identical, as the result is influenced by the subtle differences in each batch of milk.

Wheels of Washed Rind Cheese and Brie are ready to be packaged and shipped to retailers and customers.

Lakeside Dairy owner Jeff Nonay is known in the Edmonton food scene for his beef. He says that helped get his foot in the door of local restaurants and retailers and on the minds of consumers but his ultimate goal was to add cheese to his offerings.

“It was produced only 200 feet away on our dairy farm, where it all started, and transformed here to something consumers can really wrap their taste buds around,” Nonay said.

Lakeside Dairy is a Nonay-family run dairy, beef and potato operation north of Edmonton that now also produces farmstead cheese.


Nonay has had cheddar on the brain for a decade, after visiting a Québec dairy farm with its own cheese plant on site.

Five years ago, a devastating fire gutted a barn and killed 140 cows at the farm that has been in operation for decades.

“We lost a building, we lost animals and we needed to make decisions on what that meant on the farm,” Nonay said.

He said the fire was a fork in the road: a chance to look at what was lost and make decisions on other ways to run the business—and that included making cheese.

After Nonay rebuilt the barn, he started construction on the cheese plant.

“I could see in Québec (at Fromagerie du Presbytère) how it was done, and what we needed to do,” Nonay said but then the COVID-19 pandemic shut the world down.

Like aging cheese, patience is key. Nonay kept pushing, had the plant completed and began making cheese with Treuer in charge of production.

Nonay and Treuer have come up with a new flavour made from a type of fungus that is often found growing on birch trees in Alberta forests.

The world’s first chaga cheese has a fairly mild taste with a slight nutty flavour.

“It’s truly amazing, where we have been able to come up with something unique in the world of cheese,” Treuer said.

Your intrepid reporter first met Ian Treuer almost a decade ago when Ian was a judge at The Great Canadian Cheese Festival. The vat in the background holds 2,500 litres of milk which will yield 250-350 kilos of cheese.

These days Ian Treuer’s daily commute is a short one: a mere 100 steps separate his residence and jobsite at Lakeside Farmstead.

After tasting, testing and tweaking recipes for nearly a year, Lakeside Farmstead’s first cheese product, fresh curds, landed on store shelves in October, 2020.

The issue of milk sourcing is important. This is single-herd cheese, and just like single estate in the world of wine, the singleness of the raw product speaks to terroir (French for taste of place) and the very essence of the product. The taste, the smell and the texture of the cheese is not only a result of Treuer’s fine-tuning, but also because of what the animals are fed and how they’re raised.

While Ian Treuer turns milk into cheese, and Jeff Nonay tends to all aspects of farm life, including turning manure into compost, the dairy barn team ensures the cows receive the best food and care in a clean, low-stress working environment.

Lakeside milks 160 cows and finishes more than 150 beef animals a year.

“Sometimes I ask myself if I’m crazy to be doing all of this,” Nonay says. “Though when I look back, sitting in a rocking chair years from now, I want to think that the cheese is probably the coolest thing we did with our ability.”

The cheese idea sprouted after a young man from Québec came to the farm as part of an agricultural placement project for his education. “He had a backpack with a guitar, some maple butter and a block of amazing cheese inside,” says Nonay recalling the student’s arrival. The cheese was award-winning Louis d’Or, a Canadian classic.

When the placement ended and the young man returned to Québec, Jeff received a thank you note from his father, who, as it turned out, was Jean Morin, a fourth generation dairy farmer and the highly respected cheesemaker at Fromagerie du Presbytère in Sainte-Élizabeth de Warwick east of Montréal, maker of Louis d’Or and other award-winning cheeses.

Over the years, a friendship between the Alberta farmer and the Québécois fromager blossomed, and with that friendship, visits to Morin’s facility and an introduction into cheesemaking. Two of Jean Morin’s sons, first Charles, then Alexis, completed their placement at the Nonay farm.

More than a thousand people show up for Friday evening socials during the summer at Fromagerie du Presbytère in Sainte-Élizabeth-de-Warwick, about two hours east of Montréal.

“Everything Jean did spoke to my soul,” Jeff Nonay says, inspired not only by the creative process but by the enjoyment he witnessed from Morin involving the small community in his work at the church-turned-cheesiry, for in Sainte-Élizabeth-de-Warwick, those who make cheese together, eat, drink and rejoice together, too.

—Georgs Kolesnikovs

Georgs Kolesnikovs, Cheese-Head-in-Chief at, has never met a cheese he didn’t like . . . well, hardly ever. Follow him on on his travels across Canada on Substack at On the Road, Across the Sea.

Credit: Much thanks to Global News in Edmonton and the Eat North website for coverage of developments at Lakeside Dairy from which portions of the above report have been excerpted.

Zacharie Cloutier: Perfect pairing of art and science

Cheesemaker Marie-Chantal Houde and award-winning Zacharie Cloutier. Photo Le Val Ouest.

Marie-Chantal Houde has done it again. Her wonderful sheep milk cheese, Zacharie Cloutier, has been crowned the best cheese in Quebec—for the second time.

The honour came last night at the conclusion of Sélection Caseus 2022, the annual Québec-government sponsored judging and competition for artisan cheese made in Québec with all milks: cow, sheep, goat and water buffalo.

Complete results of the competition are online in English:

Fromagerie Nouvelle France cheese is distributed by Plaisirs Gourmets. You’ll find Zacharie Cloutier in the best cheese shops across Canada. Ask your cheesemonger to order it. Or order online directly from the fromagerie.

We first met Marie-Chantal Houde way back in 2010 when she was developing Zacharie Cloutier on Sundays when she had use of the make room at Fromagerie du Presbytère. The next year she struck gold at Sélection Caseus for the first time. Her star had begun to ascend in a hurry.

Here’s our initial post about Marie-Chantal, her brother, Jean-Paul, who manages the sheep, and Fromagerie Nouvelle France in Racine, Québec, a 90-minute drive east of Montréal. It appeared in September 2014.

Marie-Chantal Houde: The cheesemaker as a rock star

THEN: Marie-Chantal Houde in the make room at Fromagerie du Presbytère developing Zacharie Cloutier five years ago.
THEN: Marie-Chantal Houde in the make room at Fromagerie du Presbytère developing Zacharie Cloutier five years ago.

Five years ago, on a visit to Fromagerie du Presbytère in Sainte-Elizabeth-de-Warwick two hours east of Montreal, I noticed a young woman up to her elbows in curd in the make room—even though it was Sunday.

Jean Morin, co-owner of the fromagerie, explained: “Oh, that’s Marie-Chantal (Houde). She’s developing a sheep’s milk cheese to sell under her own label. I let her use my facilities on Sundays. She’s really talented. In a few years, she’ll be a rock star in cheese.”

NOW: One of its kind in Canada, a copper vat from France is used in the making of Zacharie Cloutier and other award-winners like Pionnier and Jean Morin’s Louis d’Or.

The next year, Marie-Chantal’s new cheese, Zacharie Cloutier, made its first appearance at Québec’s prestigious cheese competition, Caseus 2011, and struck gold. The sheep’s milk cheese was named best cheese in all milks. No cheese had ever won top honours at Caseus in its first year. Her star had begun to ascend in a hurry.

At this year’s Caseus competition, Fromagerie Nouvelle France, which Marie-Chantal started five years ago with her brother Jean-Paul, dominated the competition like no other cheese producer had done in the 16-year history of Caseus—confirming Jean Morin’s prediction.

ZAC: The best sheep's milk cheese made in Québec today.
ZAC: The best sheep’s milk cheese made in Québec today.

Zacharie Cloutier was named Grand Champion as well as Gold Award winner. Nouvelle France also won the two sheep’s milk categories, Zacharie Cloutier taking washed, natural or mixed rind honours while La Madelaine was judged best bloomy rind. Additionally, Pionnier, a collaboration between Nouvelle France and Fromagerie du Presbytère, was named best blended-milk cheese.

Fromagerie Nouvelle France is based on a 250-acre farm on the outskirts of the village of Racine, in Québec’s Eastern Townships. Jean-Paul tends to the East Friesian sheep, Marie-Chantal makes the cheese.

ZAC: The best sheep's milk cheese made in Québec today.
SIBLINGS: Jean-Paul looks after the East Friesians, Marie-Chantal makes the cheese. They’re the fourth generation in their family to work the land.

Vanessa Simmons, cheese sommelier at Savvy Company in Ottawa and featured presenter at The Great Canadian Cheese Festival who served as one of 21 judges at Caseus 2014, writes:

“Fromagerie Nouvelle France’s signature cheese, Zacharie Cloutier, is a raw sheep’s milk cheese, named for an ancestor who came to Canada from France in 1634. This ancestor is also said to be a distant relative of Céline Dion.

“Marie-Chantal’s love for her craft and talent transfers directly to her flagship cheese. Zacharie Clouthier is a semi-cooked, firm, raw sheep’s milk cheese with a very distinct exterior basket weave design attributed to a specially selected mold that gives the cheese and apricot rind its unique appearance.  Inside is a dense, meaty, bone-colored paste that portrays a mix of complex aromas and flavors: salt, butter, hazelnut, caramel, and coconut, with a hint of ripe pineapple. A rare treat.

“Le Pionnier, a collaboration between Fromagerie Nouvelle France and Fromagerie Presbytère, is a 40-kilogram wheel made of raw sheep’s and cow’s milk coming from the two cheesemaker herds. The cheese is a great marriage of cow’s milk cheese according to Morin’s tradition, and sheep’s milk cheese, according to Houde’s tradition. Le Pionnier is a firm cheese with a bit of washed rind, a dense cheese texture and some earthiness, and is very robust. Aged for 10 to 12 months, Le Pionnier displays complex aromas of butter, brown sugar and macadamia nuts with a delicate floral note. This cheese says ‘Look at me’ and is very indicative of their personalities. They are very outspoken cheesemakers.”

COLLABORATION: Marie-Chantal Houde and Jean Morin toast the introduction of Pionnier, now also a Caseus winner.

Born on the family farm in Racine 30-something years ago, Marie-Chantal studied at l’Institut de technologie agroalimentaire in Saint-Hyacinthe, then at l’Université McGill in Montréal and l’École nationale d’industrie laitière et des biotechnologies in Poligny in the Jura cheese region of France.

Jean-Paul Houde represents the fourth generation of farmers in his family. His knowledge of the fields, grains, soil and harvesting he owes to his grandfather. His father taught him animal husbandry, to love and care for the animals and, of course, how to milk them. Jean-Paul manages 400 East Friesian sheep of which 250 are milked in rotation. The Solidar sheep farms in Chicoutimi and the sheep farm Fou du Berger in Hatley also supply milk for cheesemaking.

For Marie-Chantal, fine cheese is a marriage of art and science. Her passion for cheesemaking seems boundless. We look forward to seeing—and tasting—where her star will take her.

—Georgs Kolesnikovs

Georgs Kolesnikovs is founder of The Great Canadian Cheese Festival and Canadian Cheese Awards/Le Concours des fromages fins canadiens.


With deep-fried cheese curds, poutine and a pogo stick, we celebrate 44 years in love

Whenever a road trip takes us into Northern Ontario, we always plan a stop at Nickel City Cheese in Chelmsford near Sudbury.

The beginning of our road trip out West was no different, except we had a special anniversary to celebrate: 44 years in love.

Who would have thunk that chance encounter on August 25, 1978, during registration at the Russian Academy of Classical Ballet in Toronto would lead to this: An anniversary celebration in Room 112 at Valley inn Motel in Azilda on the outskirts of Sudbury, Ontario, a short drive from Nickel City Cheese in Chelmsford where from the on-site food shack we ordered delicious deep-fried curds, an excellent poutine with curds that really squeak, and a house-made pogo stick that we shared as a meaty app.

The libation was a lovely Grand Cru champagne, Brimoncourt Extra Brut, gifted to us by good friends Maris and Sarmite on the occasion of my recent 80th birthday. Smooth and creamy, it elevated our simple meal to unexpected heights.

Nickel City Cheese is the outcome of a dream Nicole Paquin cherished for many years while toiling as a civil servant in the Ontario Attorney General’s ministry in Sudbury. She was originally from Québec and grew up with fresh curds readily available.

“I remembered the fromage des villages from where I grew up in Québec, and wanted to bring that here,” she said. “We had fresh cheese on a regular basis.”

She took early retirement, studied cheesemaking at University of Guelph, and in August, 2018, opened the doors of Nickel City Cheese.

She makes cheddar exclusively and offers nearly 20 flavours of fresh cheese curds. Thus, it was a natural progression to open a Poutinerie run by her son next to the creamery. And, eventually, a donut shop that features funnel cake, and now an ice cream stand, too.

The milk comes from a Dairy Farmers of Ontario co-op supported by 14 local farms.

Double disappointment

On our return trip from the Rockies, we planned to again stop in Chelmsford for deep-dried curds and the excellent poutine. Much to our chagrin, we found the Poutinerie closed for the season—even though the website says it will be open until November 1.

To add insult to injury, the fast-food joint in Chelmsford that specializes in deep-fried chicken ran out of chicken just as we placed our order, so we ended up eating barely warm burgers for dinner back at the motel.

Dare we visit Chelmsford again?

Footnote: In a recent email, Nicole Paquin confirmed the poutinerie, donut shop and ice cream shop are closed for the season while the cheese shop hours are as follows:

  • Monday to Friday—10am to 5:30pm
  • Saturday to Sunday—10am to 5pm

Nickel City website:

Nickel City on Facebook:

1 2 3 40