I’m not a cheese snob. Sure, I have a preference for farmstead and artisan cheese, but several industrial cheeses are among my favourites. Having said that . . . here comes the big BUT:
All cheese is not created equal. Two restaurants recently demonstrated that.
At Currah’s Cafe & Restaurant in Picton, Ontario, we ordered baked brie. The menu said the brie was Canadian, so we asked the waiter who the producer was. At first he said he did not know. We had to prod him to ask the kitchen. Off he went, and back he came: “It’s Danish brie.”
“Oh,” we said, “the menu says it’s Canadian.”
“No, it doesn’t,” he replied.
“Oh, yes, it does,” we insisted, and off he went to look at a menu.
“You’re right,” he said. “Someone in the kitchen lied.”
“Well . . . could you please ask who the producer is? We like to know what we’ll be eating.”
After a few minutes, he returned with the news: “It’s from Montreal.”
“OK, that’s a big city. Who or where in Montreal?”
“All they know is it says ARS on the package.”
Hmmm, never heard of a cheesemaker in Quebec called ARS. (Later, thanks to Google, we discover ARS Foods, a specialy foods supplier.) When the dish arrived, the presentation was lovely and the onion marmalade quite nice, but the cheese was, well, pedestrian.
With so many stunning soft cheeses in Quebec that will easily match genuine Brie from France, why would Currah’s, which clearly aims to play with the big boys on the resto scene in Prince Edward County, chose to go with a no-name pretender?
In Campbellford, a half-hour north of Picton, Rubbs Barbecue Bistro serves a good-looking poutine. The fries are chunky, the gravy beefy, and the cheese curds are layered through the dish. Here’s the but again: When one asks about the source of the cheese, “Sysco” is the response.
Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with Sysco, which helps serve millions of meals in restaurants, hotels and others across Canada, but just a few minutes down the road from Rubbs is one of the finest producers of cheese curd and cheddar in Ontario: Empire Cheese & Butter Co-op.
At Empire, which dates back to 1870, cheese is made in the traditional way in open-style vats, with no additives to boost production and no flavours added.
All cheese is not created equal. All restaurants are not either.
Georgs Kolesnikovs, Cheesehead-in-Chief at CheeseLover.ca, will gladly return to Currah’s and Rubbs when they bring the cheese they serve up a notch.