You can tell two people meeting for an informal cheese tasting are head-over-heels in love with cheese when they both show up with cheese board and cheese knives in hand.
Kathy Guidi and I had a chuckle about that when we met at A Taste of Quebec in Toronto’s Distillery District to sample the gold and silver medalists in Selection Caseus 2010, the chief cheese competition in Quebec. (We used her board as it was larger.)
Kathy, who has forgotten more about cheese than most of us will ever know, is the author of the newly published Canadian Cheese: A Pocket Guide and a long-time cheese educator and consultant to cheesemakers and cheesemongers.
The Caseus 2010 overall winners are:
- Louis d’Or, Fromagerie du Presbytère, gold medal,
- Hercule de Charlevoix, Laiterie Charlevoix, silver,
- Le Monnoir, Fromagerie Au Grés des Champs, bronze.
The first two are generally available at A Taste of Quebec managed by Thomas Sokoloski and other cheese shops. The third I’ve had to order from Leslieville Cheese Market; more on Le Monnoir in a future post.
Louis d’Or is a relatively new firm cheese made by Jean Morin, a fourth-generation dairy farmer, at Fromagerie Presbytère housed in a former rectory across the street from the Morin organic dairy farm in tiny St. Elizabeth de Warwick, about two hours east of Montreal.
When I visited Fromagerie du Presbytère last summer, Jean Morin told me he was proudest of Louis d’Or of all the cheese he makes, and that includes Bleu d’Élizabeth, a favourite at CheeseLover.ca, which was the Caseus gold medalist in 2009.
“It’s a beautiful cheese,” Kathy said of Louis d’Or, nutty, with floral notes. Me, I love the milky richness of the cheese, a testament to the organic raw milk provided by the Morin family’s Holstein and Jersey cows. The Louis d’Or we had was maybe a tad dry as it didn’t quite have the knock-your-socks-off quality that I recall from last summer.
There was no question our Hercule de Charlevoix was at the top of its game. Fruity, creamy, complex, with a delicious rind. One of the great cheeses of Quebec, no doubt about it. Another example of what a powerhouse of gastronomy the Charlevoix region of Quebec is—and how Jersey cows often lead to superb cheese.
“Don’t let the bold aromatics intimidate you from trying Hercule,” Kathy writes in her book. The flavour is actually quite refined.
For our third cheese, Kathy recommended we try Bleu de la Moutonnière—and I am so glad she did!
If you believe a blue cheese must be soft, creamy and veined, you might be put off by the appearance of this Bleu. It looks more like a clothbound cheddar than a blue, although bursts of blue are clearly visible. But so much taste, so much flavour, and very blue indeed. Kudos to cheesemaker Lucille Giroux and her partner Alistair MacKenzie.
In her book, Kathy says, “This distinctive blue offers the epitome of zesty blue piquant and salt flavour balance while allowing other mores subtle, sweet, grassy cheese flavours to shine through.”
When I gave two budding caseophiles a taste of all three cheeses a few days later, they could not say which one was their favourite because all three seemed so outstanding to them, each in its own distinctive way.
That’s the sign of memorable cheese plate, isn’t it? All cheeses so tasty you cannot pick only one as a favourite.
Three months after his last visit to Quebec, Georgs Kolesnikovs, Cheese-Head-in-Chief at CheeseLover.ca, says he’s overdue for another trip to La Belle Province.