When I asked Afrim Pristine what is the one recipe in For the Love of Cheese: Recipes and Wisdom from Cheese Boutique that I must try, he recommended his mother’s Gatto di Patate. How he knew we love potatoes in this house almost as much of cheese, I don’t know, but Modesta Pristine’s recipe delivered deliciousness in spades, spuds and curds.
It’s a classic Neapolitan dish—IlGattò di Patate in Italian—that Mrs. Pristine makes on special occasions, such as when relatives visit from Italy.
The recipe calls for Ragusano, Mozzarella, Salami Cacciatore and Yukon Golds, in addition to milk, eggs, unsalted butter, nutmeg, sea salt, ground pepper and fine breadcrumbs. We substituted Parmigiano-Reggiano for the Ragusano, an Italian PDO-protected cheese made exclusively in provinces of Ragusa and Siracusa, Sicily. It is one of the oldest cheeses in Sicily dating back to 1500.
After mashing the boiled potatoes with milk, eggs and grated Parmigiano, we cubed the Mozzarella and Salami and mixed gently with a wooden spoon, adding seasoning as we went.
After applying butter to the bottom of the casserole dish and adding breadcrumbs, in went the potato mixture with all its ingredients. Then a coating of breadcrumbs and more butter before our Gattò went into the oven.
After an hour in the oven at 350F, we concluded we had been too liberal with breadcrumbs, but what the whey. The aroma of baked cheese and potato was fabulous, lingering in our home till late in the evening.
The first scoop revealed a wonderful warm mixture of cheese, potato and salami.
Served with Italian sausages and green bean, we had ourselves a wonderful feast.
You’ve been thinking that cheese fondue is simply white wine and Swiss cheese melted together and served warm with cubes of rustic bread. Wrong!
As certified chef and cheesemonger extraordinaire Erin Harris demonstrates in her first cookbook, Essential Fondue Cookbook, fondue can feature Asian Tempura, Chocolate and Espresso and even Beef Bourguignon.
In all, there are 75 recipes in the compact cookbook that was released May 19. Order your copy, in paperback or Kindle, on Amazon by clicking here.
The cookbook may sell out quickly as Erin, who now calls Toronto home, has a huge following on Instagram. Her recipes appear regularly in Culture magazine.
When we obtain a copy of the fondue cookbook, we’ll post our take on a recipe or three. If you get cooking before we do, or have a favourite fondue recipe of your own, send us a photo by email mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org or post a link in the comments section below.
We first met Erin almost 10 years ago when she left behind a career as a chef and started a new life as a cheesemonger by operating her own kiosk, called The Cheese Poet, at Western Fair Farmers and Artisans Market in London, Ontario.
She closed the cheese kiosk in 2014 to begin a new role as Cheese and Catering Manager for Sobey’s Urban Fresh, first to work in Toronto and then to help open the new Urban Fresh store in Ottawa in 2015. Last year, she joined Aux Terroirs, the distributor of Québec cheese and charcuterie, as “cheese hustler” (as she puts its) which brought her back to Toronto.
But let’s start at the beginning: I’ve always loved cheese. Cheese was always around, on the dinner table, in my sandwiches, in the cheese drawer. My Dad loves a really good nippy cheddar cheese, and also a nice stinky blue. My Mom, she is equally a lover of cheddar, but also brie, especially when baked and served with something sweet. My sister loves a good goat cheese . . . fresh chevre, gouda, tomme. And then there was me: I love them all. I always wanted to learn more, going to the local market to try something new each week. Cheese parties with my friends, cheeses abroad while traveling, cheeses every day, if I could!
My love of cheese really came alive the year that I took La Cucina Italiana: Italian Culinary Diploma at George Brown College in Toronto. While living in such a great metropolitan area I had a huge variety of food shops to choose from so, nearly every day I would walk the five blocks down to St. Lawrence Market and check out all three cheese shops. I would pick up little 2-ounce pieces of cheese that looked different and interesting to me, take them home, and savour them. I spent most of my grocery money on cheese!
As part of the diploma, I was required to do a work term in Italy, home of the King of Cheeses! For six months I worked in Italy, and fell in love with a country that truly celebrates food—especially cheese (and wine, and pasta!). The first cheese that really made an impression on me was the Stracchino, a cheese that the lady of the house where I worked, would eat every day at the end of her meals with a piece of fruit. She would share her cheese with me in the early days, but then my own container started to show up on the table. “Get your own Stracchino!” was the clear message. And then there were all of the Pecorinos. Young, aged, rolled in herbs, soaked in wine, drenched in honey. I consumed more Pecorino than any other food in those six months.
We congratulate Erin on the first of what we fully expect to be many cheese-themed cookbooks. We look forward to cooking with her, as it were, when we have our copy of Essential Fondue Cookbook in hand.
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Knoydart Farm is located in Merigomish, Nova Scotia, so for Nova Scotia, near Antigonish and Pictou County near New Glasgow, they hand-deliver cheeses themselves or through a local company so orders reach consumers within one or two days, also all the way to Halifax region once a week. For anything further in NS or NB, PEI or NL, they use Canada Post and deliver within two days usually. They shrink-wrap all packages with frozen gel packs and then shrink-wrap again the outer box.
Our company just launched a website which includes both local Fifth Town and imported Italian artisan cheeses with free delivery on orders In our delivery area of Toronto/suburbs/Niagara over $99:
Fifth Town Artisan Cheese
We are offering our cheeses from Prince Edward County as well as cheese care boxes for pickup or delivery across Canada.
The Charlottetown Cheese Company
Not sure how far east you’re interested in, but I sell cheese in Prince Edward Island, with delivery in Charlottetown, Stratford, and east towards Montague, pick-up options available otherwise. (I’m usually at the Charlottetown Farmers Market.)
No need to live without cheese during Covid Times.
Here’s the Cheese Lover directory of Canadian cheese producers, distributors and retailers who will deliver cheese to your home, listed alphabetically
Here we go, our first attempt to make La Tartiflette Gourmande following a Chef Club video recipe, with the help of Sarmite and Maris Vitols, friends in cheese.
Instead of Reblochon, the French classic, we used an outstanding Canadian cheese, Origine de Charlevoix made by Laiterie Charlevoix in Québec.
Our tartiflette turned out rich and delicious!
Origine de Charlevoix is made by Laiterie Charlevoix in Baie-Saint-Paul one hour northeast of Quebec City, using milk from Canadienne breed cows. In taste and texture, the cheese is similar to Reblochon, the French classic.
We love the way Willem van den Hoek writes about the Gouda he and his wife Maja have been making for 40 years on their farm overlooking the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia:
When our cheese reaches the ripe old age of a year or so, its textures have become rather short (the cheese crumbles or breaks when cut) and developed a pleasant, crunchy feel (from crystals that start to form) in the mouth.
The flavours have greatly intensified and words like intense, piquant or sharp, come to mind, but also fresh and clean. That’s when we start to refer to our cheese as Growlers (old, very old, really very old)
They are real dynamite when served sliced, on crackers, fresh bread (white or whole wheat) or steamed breads, like black pumpernickel, or grated on dishes like pastas and pizza.
And as they continue to age they eventually compare to a Parmesan—hard, brittle, intense, great for grating.
By that time, in two to five years, we call it Hammer and Chisel cheese.
The Old Growler Gouda that we purchased last August while visiting That Dutchman’s Cheese Farm has definitely matured into Hammer and Chisel Cheese! Our wheel was made on March 22, 2018, two years and one month ago. It is indeed hard as a well-aged Parmigiano, with its pale gold paste dotted with crunchy, white lactate crystals.
When it comes to flavour, think complex and delicious, imagine nutty browned butter layered with caramel. The finish lingers ever so nicely . . .
The distinctive shape comes from the traditional Dutch gouda mould, or form, known as Kadova. Milk from neighbouring farms is heat-treated rather than pasteurized, thereby keeping some of the original flavours of the milk.
The rind is a classic, buttery yellow and coated in Plasticoat that protects the cheese while aging, but allows it to breathe, a vital aspect for maturing a natural-rind cheese.
Over four decades of cheesemaking, Willem and Maja have won many awards, including Best Canadian Gouda in 2016 for Old Growler and Best Canadian Gouda in 2014 for Mild Gouda. Then there is Willem’s extraordinary blue cheese, Dragon’s Breath, but that’s another story.
These days, daughter Margaretha and her husband play a greater role at That Duchman’s Cheese Farm but Willem is rarely absent from the make room when cheese is being made.
We mentioned Bay of Fundy earlier as a way of locating the farm but it actually overlooks Cobequid Bay west of Truro, Nova Scotia, east of Bay of Fundy itself.
It’s a must-stop for anyone visiting Nova Scotia. If you live outside the province, it’s the only way to purchase van den Hoek cheeses. Blame archaic Canadian laws governing inter-provincial trade. That Dutchman is too small to afford the cost of federal licensing and distribution.
The cheese shop on the farm is huge, displaying all the cheese made by the van den Hoek family, other artisan cheesemakers around the region, and many other tasty items. One wall is a viewing window into the make room.
If you visit That Dutchman, be sure to allow a couple of hours to stroll around the animal and nature park complete with Scottish Highland cattle, emus, donkeys, pigs, and lovely gardens.
Looking for last-minute ideas for delicious cheese to give as special gifts during the holidays—or to create an appealing cheese board?
Here are recommendations from the cheese lovers who work behind the scenes to make the Canadian Cheese Awards, the biggest cheese competition and judging in the country, happen every two years.
Awards Co-ordinator Jackie Armet picks Laliberté “because it is simply delicious. It has so many rich qualities for a soft bloomy rind cheese. Delicate but bold in flavour with a lovely creamy finish and always the first to go on a cheese board.”
Laliberté is made by Fromagerie du Presbytère in Sainte-Élizabeth de Warwick, Québec, by Cheesemaker Jean Morin and his équipe.
Awards Registrar Heather Robertson goes with Vacherin Mont d’ Or from Switzerland: “It’s a Christmas tradition! Pair it with some bubbly and fresh bread and you are ready for hibernation.”
Vacherin Mont d’Or is a seasonal cheese of Switzerland that delivers an amazing explosion of aroma and taste.
Nathalie Rollet Schofield, who serves as liaison with cheese producers in Québec, selects La Madelaine made by Fromagerie Nouvelle France.
“La Madelaine is an easy to love cheese. Rich and creamy, its mild taste will appeal to many. The unusual shape makes it readily identifiable. Made from sheep’s milk, it has a smooth and alluring taste.”
Cheese Ambassador Roxanne Renwick has been sampling cheese at Eataly Toronto, the luxury Italian food hall that recently opened in Yorkville.
She recommends Northern Italy’s La Tur: “A lush rich cream dream with a three-dimensional complexity of the cow, sheep, goat milk mix. Sweet grass and funky tang. A heavenly cloud of a cheese that transports me every time I have it.”
As Cheesemaker Ruth Khlasen puts it, “This Water Buffalo Camembert will make you decide where your loyalties to the name Matilda lay. Tom Waits’ gravelly rasp, or a patriotic love of Australia? For an elegant dinner party, choose the Waltzing Matilda with a delicate layer of ash under its bloomy rind.”
Pair it with a drizzle of honey to elevate the taste experience a notch.
Another delicious cheese from Ruth Khlasen, this one made with Ontario water buffalo milk. It offers a strong aroma and distinct, complex flavours. You might catch a hint of hazelnut as the cheese melts in your mouth.
Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese is a small artisan cheese dairy nestled within the rolling hills of Gunn’s Hill Road in Oxford County in Southwestern Ontario. The cheeses produced at Gunn’s Hill are truly unique, although you can taste the Swiss influence from techniques and recipes Cheesemaker Shep Ysselstein learned while making cheese in the Swiss Alps. Handeck is a handcrafted, washed-rind cow’s milk cheese that is produced using the same methods as a typical Swiss mountain-style cheese. Handeck Reserve is delicately aged for 36 months on cedar planks, adding robust quality to the cheese. It is a drier hard cheese with rich and complex flavours and nutty overtones. Available only at Christmas.
If your cheesemonger doesn’t carry Handeck Reserve, go with 5 Brothers Reserve. It doesn’t quite have the heft of Handeck but is delicious just the same.
The voicemail was brief and to the point: “Georgs, you mustcome and sample the new cheese from Pieter.”
The caller was Tammy Miller at Country Cheese in Ajax, my neighbourhood cheesemonger in Durham outside Toronto. I stopped by a few days later, and right away sent an email to Pieter van Oudenaren at Mariposa Dairy in Lindsay, Ontario:
“Wow, Pieter, Thea is a stunner! Tell me more so I can spread the word to Canadian cheese lovers.”
To the point, Thea is an outstanding bandaged cheddar made with Ontario sheep’s milk by the Lenberg Farms Classic Reserve division of Mariposa Dairy where Pieter has had a hand in developing aged cheese like Lindsay Bandaged Goat Cheddar and Tania Toscano Sheep Cheese over the last nine years.
Hand-crafted in small batches using premium sheep’s milk from Miklin Farms near Georgina, Thea Bandaged Cheddar is made in the old world way by wrapping the cheddar wheel with cheesecloth which helps to age the cheese and preserve the flavour.
Aged nine months in a humidity-controlled aging room, the cheese yields a woody and buttery aroma, a sharp nutty profile with subtle caramel undertones. It has the sought after crystallization of a well-aged cheddar with a firm but creamy texture.
As Roxanne Renwick, a cheese specialist in Toronto, puts it: “Thea is rich and creamy yet full of tyrosine crystals. Sweet, salty and slightly tangy.”
The name Thea (along with the names Luuk, Taavi and Zander of truckles made at Mariposa Dairy) is a common Dutch name. It reflects the Dutch heritage of the VandenBerg family, Mariposa founders and owners, and the Dutch reputation for great cheese.
Cheesemaker Pieter van Oudenaren was born and raised in Bobcaygeon, a short drive from Lindsay. His parents emigrated from the Netherlands in the 1950s. The family name comes from Oudenaarde, a Flemish city in Belgium. Pieter’s father, Harry van Oudenaren, who is turning 95 this month, owned and operated an auto repair garage in Bobcaygeon for many years. Pieter took over the business and operated it for 27 years before the cheesemaking bug took hold nine years ago.
Since then, it has been one award after another for Lenberg Farms cheeses, including Grand Champion honours for Thea at this week’s Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto.
“What’s your secret in making such fabulous cheese?” we asked Pieter.
“A secret is a secret. In the words of Monty Python, ‘Blessed are the cheesemakers.’ I have been blessed with a great company and owners to work for and with. Good components, co-workers, a wife that supports and prompts me, and consultants that have helped me along the way to help me to tweak the recipes.”
Pieter describes himself as a learner: In recent years, he’s learned to sail a boat, drive a horse and carriage, and make maple syrup, in addition to making award-winning cheese.
He and his wife, Grace, who is executive secretary at Mariposa, have two daughters.
Miklin Farms in Georgina is owned by Mike and Linda Thompson and operated with their children, Anna, Laura and Joe. The Thompsons have been farming sheep for 29 years. They currently have 1,000 breeding/milking ewes, milking 500 at a time year round. The breed of sheep is Rideau crossed with East Friesian.
Thea is hand-made in relatively small quantities and thus is in limited distribution. Here are cheese retailers in Ontario that carry Thea:
Jean Morin has been the winningest cheesemaker in Sélection Caseus, the prestigious annual competition for Québec cheese producers, for the past decade.
Fromagerie du Prebystère won Caseus Gold with Bleu d’Élizabeth in 2018, 2013 and 2009, with Louis d’Or in 2012 and 2010, with Taliah in 2016, and with Pionnier, in collaboration with Fromagerie Nouvelle France, in 2017.
This year he struck gold again with Religieuse, a marvelous washed-rind cheese ideally suited for raclette or just plain eating.
Here are winners in the top six categories announced last night in a ceremony in Quebec City:
Canada’s Artisan Cheese Night Market is a unique sampling show where consumers can taste and buy cheese, charcuterie, chocolate, roasted nuts, shortbread, olive oil, drunken jams, gourmet butter, ginger tonic, chutney, and small-batch wine and craft beer and cider, and spirits, and much more. 19+
Tickets are still available for Session 1 (12 noon to 3 pm) and Session 2 (3:30 to 6:30 pm). Session 3 (7 to 10 pm) has SOLD OUT.
It’s all happening at historic St. Lawrence Market’s Temporary North Hall at 125 The Esplanade in downtown Toronto.
Vanessa Simmons is crazy about cheese. The Toronto Star described her as being “openly fanatical about artisan cheese.”
She’ll demonstrate her passion during a Tutored Tasting on how best to pair artisan cheese with craft beer at Canada’s Artisan Cheese Night Market. It’s much more of a natural pairing than, say, wine and cheese.
They’re informative, they’re entertaining—and you get to taste the very best in Canadian cheese at Artisan Cheese Night Market Tutored Tastings.
Each presentation features six to eight fabulous Canadian artisan and farmstead cheeses, selected artisan condiments, plus offerings of Ontario wine, craft beer or cider, all from Artisan Cheese Night Market vendors and exhibitors.
The two topics run concurrently from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m., so pick the one topic that appeals to you most. Admission is $45 per person, 19+.