Michael Blackie has a ball with feta and elk at Cooks/Curds

People's Choice at Cooks & Curds. Photo by If Music Be Food of Love, Play On.

A unique feta and elk dish created by Chef Michael Blackie expressly for The Great Canadian Cheese Festival was voted the most popular dish by close to 400 guests at Cooks & Curds Cheese Gala, the social and gastronomic highlight of the Festival.

Chef Blackie, head of cuisine at National Arts Centre in Ottawa, named his creation Clarmell Feta Cheese Pistachio Crusted Sphere with Pulled Lip Sticky Chipotle-Saskatoonberry Elk.

Plainly put, Chef Blackie, using two kinds of rice flour, made a crusted ball with goat feta from Clarmell Farms and served it on a bed of pulled elk.

In reality, a fusion of flavours—rice, pistachio, olives, chipotle, brown sugar, honey, carrots, celery, onion and garlic—powered the dish to People’s Choice honours, with a scattering of Saskatoon berries providing a lovely Canadian finish.

Paired with a fruity, silky St. Laurent 2007 from Prince Edward County’s Harwood Estate Vineyards, Chef Blackie’s creation was a standout among standouts at the Gala in historic Crystal Palace. See the menu below.

Michael Blackie’s name is widely known because of his prestigious position at the National Arts Centre, but what is Clarmell Feta?

Clarmell Farms is a fifth-generation dairy farm on the Rideau River in Manotick, within Ottawa’s city limits, that moved from cow’s milk into goat’s milk two years ago. The Clarmell Farms feta and chevre are made with single-herd milk by Margaret Morris-Peters at nearby Glengarry Cheesemaking and Dairy Supply.

Quantities are limited, so buy it when you can at the farm’s store, open Mondays to Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., at 3401 River Road (within Ottawa’s city limits) or at Nicastro’s Food Emporium, 1558 Merivale Road, and Manotick Village Butcher, 2-5556 Manotick Main Street.

Chef Michael Blackie of National Arts Centre, Ottawa.

Chef Blackie was born in Leicestershire, England, and raised in Montreal. Following his apprenticeship, he worked as chef with Jamie Kennedy at the Founders Club, a private food establishment at Toronto’s SkyDome (now the Rogers Centre).

Chef Blackie also held positions as sous-chef at Toronto’s Westin Harbour Castle; Executive Chef at the Pierre Marques in Mexico; executive sous-chef at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Hong Kong, which was voted “Best Hotel in Hong Kong” by Asiamoney Magazine and won both the “Gold List Award” and “Best Hotel in Asia” awards by Condé Nast; and executive chef at the Oberoi in Bali, Indonesia-a five-star hotel that was given the highest overall score in the “Leading Hotels of the World” Quality Awards.

Chef Blackie visited Shanghai, Hong Kong and Macau in 2008 as guest chef on the “Canadian Asian Cuisine Tour,” and was a host chef on the “Exposing Canadian Cuisine” tour to Munich, Frankfurt, Hamburg and Zurich, sponsored by Ontario Tourism and Air Canada. In 2007, he won the Silver Medal in the Canadian Culinary Championship in Whistler, B.C., and prior to taking the helm at National Arts Centre two years ago, Chef Blackie was the culinary mastermind behind Perspectives Restaurant at the Brookstreet resort in Kanata, one of Canada’s top restaurants.

Click to view larger image of the Cooks & Curds menu.

The Cooks & Curds Cheese Gala at The Great Canadian Cheese Festival was co-ordinated by the singular Ivy Knight.

Photo of the People’s Choice winner by If Music Be the Food of Love, Play On. Read the review of Cooks & Curds.

Great Canadian Cheese Festival sponsors and producers

Canadian cheesemakers represented:

Salt Spring Island Cheese
Poplar Grove Cheese
Bothwell Cheese
Cows Creamery
Fromagerie Blackburn
Fromagerie du Presbytère
Fromagerie Île-aux-Grues
Fromagerie La Station
Fromagerie Le Détour
Fromagerie Médard
Fromagerie Nouvelle France
La Fromagerie Du Champ à la meule
La Moutonnière
Laiterie Charlevoix
Le Fromage au Village
Les Bergeries du Fjord
Les Fromagiers de la Table Ronde
Maison d’Affinage Maurice Dufour
Best Baa Dairy
Black River Cheese
Empire Cheese & Butter
Fifth Town Artisan Cheese
Glengarry Fine Cheese
Mariposa Dairy
Primeridge Pure
Quality Cheese
Union Cheese Factory
Upper Canada Cheese

Prince Edward County wineries:

Harwood Estates Vineyard & Winery
Rosehall Run Vineyards
Lacey Estates Vineyard & Winery
Sandbanks Estate Winery
The Grange of Prince Edward Vineyards and Estate Winery
Keint-he Winery & Vineyards
Karlo Estates
Redtail Vineyard
Huff Estates Winery
Closson Chase Vineyards
Casa Dea Estates Winery
Waupoos Estate Winery
Stanners Vineyard
Sugarbush Vineyards

Ontario craft brewers:

Mill Street Brewery
Beau’s All Natural Brewing
Barley Days Brewery
Grand River Brewery
Creemore Springs Brewery

Local artisan food producers:

Major Craig’s Chutney
Sprucewood Handmade Cookie
Henderson Farms
Mercury Chocolates
Scottish Accents
Evelyn’s Crackers
Queenies Bake Shop

First Great Canadian Cheese Festival a huge success

Georgs Kolesnikovs, founder of The Great Canadian Cheese Festival, welcomed more than 2,000 cheese lovers to the inaugural event.

More than 2,000 cheese lovers enjoyed the first-ever Great Canadian Cheese Festival last weekend, assuring the event will become an annual fixture on the Canadian cheese calendar.

Total attendance was an amazing 2,246, with the Artisan Cheese & Fine Food Fair drawing 1,607 cheese fans from as far as New Zealand. (OK, the Kiwis were visiting family in Ottawa.) The Cooks & Curds Cheese Gala, with close to 400 guests, was a sell-out. The Cheese-Tasting Seminars were at capacity. The Cheese Tours sold out two weeks earlier.

Many exhibitors reported selling more cheese during the five-hour Fair than in any other five hours in their experience. One Quebec prominent cheesemaker reserved booth space for the next 10 years. All eight chefs asked to be invited back for the Cooks & Curds Cheese Gala.

June 1-3 are the dates for 2012, again at historic Crystal Palace in Picton, in the heart of Prince Edward County, Ontario’s fastest-growing culinary destination and Canada’s newest VQA wine region.

More than 100 artisan cheeses were available for tasting and purchase, including the cheddars of Black River Cheese.
Fromagerie du Presbytère was one of 14 cheese producers from Québec represented.
Fifth Town Artisan Cheese was one of the 10 Ontario cheesemakers at the Festival.
County wineries, such as The Grange of Prince Edward, and Ontario craft breweries offered tastings.
The ambiance of historic Cystal Palace and the surrounding grounds was perfect for a Cheese Fair.
Cheese, wine, beer and artisanal food: recipe for a great day in the country.
Good eats and good companions, who could ask for more?
Dairy Farmers of Canada presented winners of the 2011 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix in a guided tasting led by Debbie Levy.
The tasting plate of Grand Prix winners.
Henderson Farms was among the artisanal food producers at the Sunday Fair.
Slow Food the County dispensed recipes and information.
Andrew Laliberté offers a taste of Fifth Town Artisan Cheese.
Anything this golden must be Jersey du Fjord!
Huff Estates Winery pours a sample for tasting.
What or who has the rapt attention of these children and one parent?
Petra Kassun-Mutch and Stephanie Diamant (at left) demonstrating how cheese is made and offering children (and adults) tips on how to taste cheese.
Another treat for children as well as adults was the visit by Big Momma from Ontario Water Buffalo Company.
Big Momma brought along a four-week-old baby but all he wanted to do was nap.
Waupoos Estates Winery was the first winery established in Prince Edward County.
Volunteers such as this tasting-ticket seller were key to the smooth running of the Festival.
A full day of Cheese-Tasting Seminars on Saturday preceded the Cheese Fair on Sunday.
Stephanie Skinner represented Culture, Official Magazine of The Great Canadian Cheese Festival.
A cooler bag for hauling home purchased cheese was included in the price of advance tickets.
Everyone wanted a souvenir snapshot with our Cheese-Head-in-Chief. Here he is with the staff of Culinarium in Toronto.

All photos courtesy of CountyLive.ca, the home page for residents of Prince Edward County.

Cooks and Curds sold out! Tasting Seminars and Cheese Fair still available

With a dessert menu like this, small wonder Cooks & Curds Cheese Gala at The Great Canadian Cheese Festival has fully sold out.

Tickets are still available for All-Day Cheese-Tasting Seminars on Saturday and the Artisan Cheese & Fine Food Fair on Sunday.

Here’s what’s still available in seminars. Because the full range of topics no longer is available, the All-Day Seminar admission price has been reduced to $100.


Keynote Presentation: 9:00 to 10:00 a.m.

An introduction to what arguably are the best cheeses made in Canada today—from cow’s milk, goat’s milk and sheep’s milk. Taste the three cheeses, meet the makers, start the day on a high.

Tasting Seminars, First Session, 10:15 to 11:30 a.m.

Canadian Cheddar: A Vertical Tasting
A great way to entertain, vertical tasting means tasting the same cheese at various ages, from as young as possible to well-aged. Tasting different cheddars in this manner will introduce your taste buds to the amazing range of flavours to be found in Canada’s favourite cheese.
Presenter: Deborah Levy of Dairy Farmers of Canada, cheese educator

Lunch: 11:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.

A healthy buffet lunch for All-Day Seminar Pass holders by Waring House in Picton.

Tasting Seminars, Second Session: 1:00 to 2:15 p.m.

Battle of the Blues
Marvel at the different taste sensations delivered by a cross-section of blue cheeses made in Canada, from Tiger Blue in British Columbia to Dragon’s Breath in Nova Scotia with several stops in Ontario and Quebec.
Presenter: Andy Shay of AndyShay.com, cheese consultant and cheese buyer at Sobeys Ontario

Wine or Beer with Cheese: How Does One Decide?
Presenter: Andrew Laliberté of Fifth Town Artisan Cheese, chef and sommelier

Tasting Seminars, Third Session: 2:45 to 4:00 p.m.

Europe’s Cheese Classics
Roquefort, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Gruyere and others, why are they still the yardsticks by which all cheese is measured? How close are North American cheesemakers to catching up? Taste a selection of classics.
Presenter: Gurth Pretty, cheese guru and author of The Definitive Guide to Canadian Artisanal & Fine Cheese

Artisanal Cheese Defined and Defended
Why integrity of ingredients matter. Why turning milk into cheese is a craft. Why the bond between and farmer is important, and worth preserving. What’s with MMIs? A selection of artisan cheeses for tasting.
Presenter: Ruth Klahsen of Monforte Dairy, cheesemaker

Invest in Cheese/Getting started in cheesemaking
For cheese lovers interested in getting into the business of cheese.
Presenter: Andy Shay of AndyShay.com, cheese consultant and cheese buyer at Sobeys Ontario


All-Day Tasting Program includes one adult admission to full day of cheese talk and cheese tasting, Saturday, June 4, including a Festival tote bag, a buffet lunch, the keynote presentation and one seminar in each of three sessions. In most seminars, the cheese will be paired with wine, beer or cider. FREE parking