Best Bites: The most memorable cheese of 2021

For raclette, pick Tête à Papineau for its ooey gooey meltiness, says Vanessa Simmons.

We bring the curtain down on 2021 with the help of friends in fromage recalling the most memorable cheeses 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.

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

Tête à Papineau for raclette.

My most memorable cheese taste for 2021 was one that brought back a sense of normalcy from years past where I hosted a raclette tasting for a group of scuba diving friends to celebrate an amazing diving season and introduce them to this one-of-a-kind experience. It’s the special moments in time that make memories, and these days, we need to take advantage of those where and as we can. I’ve always found delicious Canadian cheese to be the perfect choice to play a starring role in raclette. I picked Tête à Papineau for it’s ooey gooey meltiness, low oil residue, development of “la religieuse” crusty rind and awesome toasted flavor that brings an umami taste to elevate sweet, salty and pickled accompaniments. 

Tête à Papineau is a semi-soft washed-rind pasteurized cow’s milk cheese from Fromagerie Montebello in Québec. Aged for about 60 days, under a thin golden apricot grainy rind its taste profile is a pleasant find. Aromas of sweet cream mix with flavours of butter, cream, and mild nut and then graduate to more prominent toasted nut over time and with heat, making it the perfect melting cheese to spotlight in raclette.

For Debbie Levy, cheese educator and a key player in the organization of the Cheese & Butter Competition at The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, the cheese experience of the year was delivered by Bois de Grandmont from Fromagerie Médard in the Saguenay-Lac Saint Jean region of Québec.

Bois-de-Grandmont made by Fromagerie Médard.

With its wood band and rustic appearance Bois de Grandmont from Fromagerie Médard was a clear winner for me. The spruce bark imparts a delightful woodsy note. That, combined with the soft buttery paste, left me wanting more!

Cheesemaker Rose-Alice Boivin-Côté represents the sixth generation of the Côté family farming the 100 acres of land granted by authorities in the 19th century to mothers and fathers of 12 or more living children. The objective: clear the forest and develop the region.

Ferme Domaine de la Rivière is located in Saint-Gédéon and now also features a bakery. For cheese production, only milk from a herd of 100 Brown Swiss cows is used.

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. In between Covid lockdowns, she has had a chance to visit cheese producers in Québec.

One thing that is quite apparent is that having cheese right from the farm or producer is different then buying it from cheese shops, even having it weeks later at home.

Her two favourites of 2021:

Ashen Bell or Cloche Cendré .

Ashen Bell or Cloche Cendré is a pasteurised goat milk cheese in a pyramid format made by Fromagerie du Vieux Saint-François in Laval near Montréal. Lovely smooth flavour without the sour usually associated with goat’s milk. Vegetable ash coats the rind. Delicious to have anytime during the day and extra special with a fresh bagel. The fromagerie is not federally licensed so its cheese is only sold in Québec where it is well known and considered a staple.


The name Fou du Roy from medieval times evokes a jester whose profession was to entertain the king and lords. Fromagiers de la Table Ronde is located in the Laurentians of Québec. Holstein cows produce the milk for this washed-rind, organic, farmstead cheese. Aged 60 days, it takes on flavours of butter, peanut and hay, with the sandy textured rind adding another dimension.

Our own “Wow!” moment in cheese came on a road trip across Northern Ontario when we visited Nickel City Cheese in Chelmsford, 25 minutes northwest of Sudbury, and ordered deep-fried cheese curds at the Poutinerie stand operated by the son of Nicole Paquin, Nickel City’s owner.

Deep-fried cheese curds at Nickel City Cheese in Chelmsford just northwest of Sudbury.

The deep-fried curds were outstanding. Crispy and crunchy on the outside, ooey gooey on the inside. Without a doubt the tastiest fried curds ever!

It doesn’t hurt that the poutine stand is steps from the cheese plant where the curds are made fresh several times each week. Close to 20 different types of curds are available at Nickel City.

That road trip across Northern Ontario delivered two other memorable moments in cheese:

Mattagami made by Fromagerie Kapuskoise.

—At Fromagerie Kapuskoise in Kapuskasing we discovered that Cheesemaker François Nadeau  has made huge strides in developing French-inspired cheeses in a few short years. We were especially taken by Mattagami, a cow’s milk cheese aged two years, named for a river near the fromagerie and inspired by Cantal, one of the oldest cheeses on the planet. Mattagami presents a rich and creamy texture. When aged over a year, it starts to crystalize, further enhancing the flavour of the cheese. Mattagami pairs well with red wine or dry white wines, and can be used to replace Cheddar in recipes.

Cheesemaker Walter Schep at Thunder Oak Cheese Farm.

Thunder Oak Cheese Farm outside of Thunder Bay was the first producer of Gouda cheese in Ontario, starting in 1955 after the Schep family arrived from the Netherlands. Today, Walter Schep, son of the founders, is the cheesemaker and does he work wonders with the creamy Dutch cheese! We were especially taken by the 4-year Thunder Oak. At that age, Gouda is no longer sweet and creamy but has developed intensity as it becomes harder. Now, it’s bold, sharp and caramelized, almost candy like. We love it!

Our final memorable cheese of 2021 we discovered only a few weeks ago when we started tasting our way through the Advent calendar featuring Québec cheese developed by Fromages CDA. Although we had enjoyed many of the award-winning cheeses produced by Fritz Kaiser in Noyan, Québec, over the years, we had never tasted Noyan, the first cheese he made way back in 1981 when he was a 23-year-old immigrant and about to become a pioneer in the artisan cheese movement in Quebec and, indeed, Canada.

Noyan, one of the first cheeses created by Fritz Kaiser 40 years ago.

Noyan has a smooth rind that is pinkish white to coppery orange in colour. The cow’s milk cheese has a cream coloured interior, and is both supple yet flexible. The aroma is reminiscent of fresh mushroom. The taste of milk and nuts becomes ever more robust with time.

Stay safe in the New Year, and enjoy Canadian artisan cheese as much as you can.

—Georgs Kolesnikovs

Georgs Kolesnikovs, Cheese-Head-in-Chief at, has never met a cheese he didn’t like . . . well, hardly ever. Follow him on YouTube at Strictly Cheese.


Best Bites: Ten most memorable Canadian cheeses of 2018

It’s time to bring the curtain down on another year and to recall the memorable Canadian cheese tasted during 2018—with the help of friends in fromage.

Plus an outstanding butter, one of several grass-fed butters that have appeared on the market this year.

Vanessa Simmons, cheese sommelier at Savvy Company and Savvy Cool Curds, the first artisan cheese-of-the-month club featuring hard-to-come-by cheese made across Canada, selected five very different cheeses:

Hatley Road – Fromagerie La Station, Compton, Québec

Hatley has been showing beautifully in 2018 on cheeseboards as a rich, full flavour washed-rind cheese made with organic farmstead milk. A blend of milky, fruity and nutty flavours balanced with salt. As far as award winners go, it’s not hard to see why!

Fleuron – Fromagerie de la Table Ronde, Sainte-Sophie, Québec

A natural, rustic, salt and pepper looking rind covers this elegant, tall column-shaped organic cow’s milk blue cheese. Inside hides a soft, often oozy, pale ivory paste with slate-grey veining, concentrated closer to the centre of the cheese. Earthy, woody and fungal aromas blend nicely with vegetal, creamy and slight salty flavours, making it the perfect mid-range blue for tasting pleasure.

Figaro – Glengarry Fine Cheese, Lancaster, Ontario

Ever since I started in the Canadian cheese industry, Figaro has made and remained on my Top 10 list.  Yeasty and rich, lactic, full of creamy, tangy flavour, it’s always a crowd-pleaser, disappearing in minutes!

Cranberry Chèvre – Mariposa Dairy, Lindsay, Ontario 

Cranberry Chèvre is nothing short of “wow” as a perfect blend of both sweet and savoury flavours where fruity goodness meets tarty tang rounded off by the mild spicy hint of cinnamon. As a final step in making the cheese, plump cranberries are hand-rolled onto the fresh chèvre logs to ensure full coverage and less damage to the fruit—guaranteeing a gorgeous display for your holiday cheese board.

Maggie’s Cheese Ball – Fromagerie Les Folies Bergères, Saint-Sixte, Québec

This holiday treasure is only available locally, and seasonally at Christmas time—made with love by Maggie Paradis. A blend of her local cow, goat and sheep milk cheeses, it’s a savoury sensation rolled in crushed pecans, rich and velvety in texture and sharp with a mild onion flavour.

Here are two picks from Jackie Armet, cheese co-ordinator at Canadian Cheese Awards and The Great Canadian Cheese Festival:

Grey Owl – Fromagerie Le Détour, Témiscouata-sur-le-Lac, Québec

At every meeting of the Awards and Cheese Festival organizing committee, I’m asked to bring a selection of Canadian cheeses for us to graze on while planning our cheese events. One cheese that stopped the discussion was Grey Owl. It was in perfect condition, with its beautiful contrast in paste and rind, and a dazzling flavour of lemon and tang in your month. It took us 20 minutes to get back to our meeting. It is cheese that always starts a conversation.

Mountainoak Farmstead 2-year Aged Gouda – Mountainoak Cheese, New Hamburg, Ontario

Everyone needs a go-to cheese. With a texture like parmesan, the subtle crunch, quality milk and consistency, you can’t help snacking on this cheese. Well done, Mountainoak!

For Janice Beaton of Janice Beaton Cheese Partners, there is only a single highlight:

Big Momma – Monforte Dairy, Stratford, Ontario

Hands down for me this year’s Best Bite was Big Momma, from Ruth Khlasen and Monforte Dairy. It blew me away. Perhaps I had the good fortune of tasting from a sublime piece—lucky me! The combination of pillowy, creamy smooth texture and the outstanding flavour of water buffalo milk, it t was all sweetness and light. With a good measure of enduring flavour underpinning the whole experience: gently lactic and subtly earthy. Wowza! It’s been a while since I’ve been transported when cheese hits my palate. Big Momma took me there!

Whenever we visit La Belle Province, we seek out outstanding cheese that we cannot find in Ontario, fromage that is provincially licensed and thus not available outside Québec. At Yannick Fromagerie, in the Vieux Limoilou neighbourhood of Québec City, Nathalie Filion, introduced us to one such cheese:

Kénogami – Fromagerie Lehmann, Hébertville, Québec

Kénogami, a soft washed-rind beauty made by Fromagerie Lehmann with thermized milk from Brown Swiss cows in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region. It presents a wonderful soft, herbal aroma and tastes of cream, butter and nut.

The Lehmann family is very conscientious about the care they provide both to their animals and to their pasture. The farm uses no GMOs, no pesticides and no chemical fertilizer. They rely on a variety of wild plants to feed the small herd in the summer and in the winter they feed them hay and grain produced on the farm.

Curé-Hébert – Fromagerie l’Autre Versant, Hébertville, Québec

There is something special about the climate and the soil in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region as the final outstanding cheese of the 2018 Top 10 comes from a fromagerie a few kilometres from Fromagerie Lehmann.

Curé-Hébert is semi-soft, washed-rind farm cheese made with raw milk drawn from the Fromagerie l’Autre Versant’s herd of Ayrshire cows. Its orange-brown rind is partially covered by a fluffy white coat. Curé-Hébert features a mild aroma of cream, butter, mushroom and a hint of sweetness (honey or caramel). It tastes very slightly rustic and sweet.

Andy Shay, a long-time friend in fromage who recently moved from Sobeys Ontario to oversee cheese and charcuterie at Jan K Overweel Ltd., threw us a curve, albeit a welcome one:

Can-Dairy founders Mitch Yurkiw and Drew McIver.

Actually, mine is not cheese, but butter, and a tiny amount of cheese. Emerald Grasslands sets a new benchmark in the fast-growing Canadian butter category. Clarksburg-based Can-Dairy founders Mitch Yurkiw and Drew McIver are trying to make the world a better place, one delicious pat of butter at a time!

They contract milk only with Jersey cow farmers, known for their extra thick and yellow cream. But these are not just ordinary Jersey cows, they are certified grass fed on regenerative (sustainable) organic farms. With this amazing milk, Emerald Grasslands churns, a more gentle process on the fat structure, the butter and produces 84% MF butter—perfect for baking pastries.  For their salted version they sourced hand-harvested sea salt from Vancouver Island Salt Company, near Courtenay, British Columbia.

The result of all this care in sourcing and production is a mind-blowing, super-creamy butter that is rich and with floral notes, a rusticity of cows and just the right hint of salt. Truly. the way to make the most of an artisan crusty bread.  We rarely have a chance to taste the wonders of Echire or Isigny St. Mere, but now, maybe that is OK.

Rich and Drew are next using some of their milk for making Cheddar. I had the chance to taste an early prototype and as a guy who buys Iles aux Grues 2-year cheddar by the 40 lb block, I can tell you we should all hope to see this cheese in a store one day soon!

—Georgs Kolesnikovs, cheese-head-in-chief at, is the founder of Canadian Cheese Awards and The Great Canadian Cheese Festival.

Best Bites: Outstanding cheese of 2017

Le Paillasson: squeaky, slightly salty, warm on the inside.

It’s time to bring the curtain down on another year—and to recall memorable cheeses of 2017, with the help of friends in fromage.

The year just ended has been quite a memorable one for Janice Beaton, what with the closing of Janice Beaton Fine Cheese in Calgary and other dramatic changes in her life: “There is no way that I can leave the cheese world; I just had to change the way I personally operated within it.”

After the closing of the shop, Janice focused on a more personal way of serving cheese lovers by operating a stall in the very busy Calgary Farmers’ Market.

Five Brothers: Best seller.

Five Brothers—Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese, Woodstock, Ontario

“Our stall at the market was great. It was a combination of being Calgary’s first cheese shop and being the market ‘deli’! It was amazing. Lots of our downtown shop customers frequented the stall, and at the same time, we developed a new following, vis-à-vis being in the city’s busiest farmers’ market. I had two staff who worked in the stall from the time we opened there, and after we closed the shop in June, I was able to work in the stall a great deal.

“The number one selling cheese in the stall was Five Brothers from Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese. We LOVE that cheese, and obviously, so too our customers. What I have noticed over the five years of selling Five Brothers (and let me say, I found it originally at The Great Canadian Cheese Festival) is how it has evolved. Deepened, grown, developed nuances. Like a good human evolution! It has gained complexity and depth in a way that causes me to take my hat off to Shep Ysselstein and his commitment to excelling at his craft. And learning and growing.

“I cast my most memorable cheese vote in Gunn’s Hill direction, due to the resounding response we received when we introduced Five Brothers to our customers, and to their returning in droves to come back for more.”

La Paillasson: Enjoy on the grill or fried in a pan,

Le Paillasson—Les Fromages de L’Isle d’Orléans, Sainte-Famille, Québec

While vacationing in the Quebec City region this past summer, Gurth Pretty, Senior Specialist, Deli Cheese, Loblaw Companies, returned to Les Fromages de L’Isle d’Orléans.

“I had not been back, since 2005, when researching for my first book, The Definitive Guide to Canadian Artisanal and Fine Cheese. WOW! Lots of changes: bigger cheese production facility, cheese shop, sampling area, more cheese produced and sold. The shop was busy with customers.

“I sampled their Le Paillasson cheese, freshly grilled for us. It was squeaky, slightly salty, warm on the inside and yet retained its texture. YUMMY! We bought several to enjoy later on the grill or fried in the pan.”

Small Batch Cheddar: Sharp and creamy.

Small Batch Cheddar—Farm Boy, Ottawa

It’s the first cheese Farm Boy has sold under its own label, but it’s produced by Bright Cheese & Butter in Bright, Ontario, a small independent producer that has been making cheese since 1874. Arguably, that makes Bright Cheese the oldest continuing cheesemaker in Ontario.

The extra old cheddar is a collaboration between a cheese lover in the executive suite at Farm Boy in Ottawa and the tiny cheese plant located in farm land between Kitchener and Woodstock, Ontario.

As soon as it was introduced in Farm Boy’s 23 stores across Ontario, the Small Batch Cheddar became a best-seller, largely the result of the perfect balance between sharpness and creaminess—everything that a Canadian cheddar should be.

Full disclosure: Two days a week, I cheesemonger at the Farm Boy store in Pickering, Ontario.

Five more exceptional bites

Here are five exceptional cheeses savoured by Vanessa Simmons of Savvy Company,  Ottawa, our favourite cheese sommelier, during the past year:

Milkhouse Tomme: Meaty and rich.

Milkhouse Tomme—Milkhouse Farm & Dairy, Smiths Falls, Ontario

A raw sheep milk cheese from Milkhouse Dairy that has really come into its own with its meaty richness.

Five Brothers Reserve—Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese, Woodstock, Ontario

Extra aged special release from Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese, a treat for the cheese lover on your list with its complex layers of butter over butter.

Zoey—Mariposa Dairy, Lindsay, Ontario

Grassy, herbal, with earthy aromas and flavours.

Brie—Golden Ears Cheesecrafters, Maple Ridge, B.C.

Buttery, mushroomy, soft, rustic, luxurious goodness, a hidden gem if you live in British Columbia.

Le Ménestrel—Les Fromagiers de la Table Ronde, Sainte-Sophie, Québec

A washed-rind cheese made with pasteurized organic milk. Pale straw to copper colour rind with a smooth paste, which tastes of butter, cream, nut and dried grass.


The first-ever Canadian Artisan Cheese Night Market takes place June 7 in Toronto at historic St. Lawrence Market, in conjunction with Canadian Cheese Awards/Le Concours des fromages fins canadiens, the biggest cheese judging and competition in Canada.

The Great Canadian Cheese Festival, generally held on the first weekend of June in Prince Edward County, is on hiatus in 2018, so we can focus all our resources on developing the Night Market concept for consumers and the inaugural Canadian Cheese Expo for the trade.

—Georgs Kolesnikovs, cheese-head-in-chief at, is the founder of Canadian Cheese Awards and The Great Canadian Cheese Festival.

Best Bites: Outstanding cheeses of 2016

Bibi, made by Fromagerie Domaine Féodale in Berthierville, Québec.
OMG! Bibi made by Fromagerie Domaine Féodale in Berthierville, Québec.

We bring the curtain down on 2016 with friends in fromage recalling the memorable cheeses that crossed their palates during the past 12 months. In alphabetical order, here is a baker’s dozen of outstanding cheeses of the year—plus a special mention for the 2016 Canadian Cheese of the Year and a word of advice for producers of non-dairy cheeses.

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.

Bibi – Fromagerie Domaine Féodale, Québec

Bibi is a delicious, oozy, creamy, finger-licking good Camembert-style cheese made by Guy Dessureault and Lise Mercier at Fromagerie Domaine Féodale. This cheese ranks in my very selective OMG! category. It is best enjoyed and savoured with a very special person. Make the experience part of a road trip as you will have to drive to the fromagerie, halfway between Montréal and Trois-Rivières, to buy it. It is a regional treasure! The warm hospitality of the two cheesemakers and their staff, at their recently expanded facility north of Berthierville, will make you feel like you are part of their family.

—Gurth Pretty, Senior Category Manager, Deli Cheese, Loblaw Companies

Blossom Blue, made by Moonstruck Organic Cheese on Vancouver Island.
Blossom Blue made by Moonstruck Organic Cheese on Vancouver Island.

Blossom’s Blue – Moonstruck Organic Cheese, British Columbia

Blossom’s Blue is an aged blue cheese made entirely with the unpasteurised, organic milk of Moonstruck Dairy’s own Jersey herd. Its texture is firm and dense, yet slightly crumbly. It is a touch sweet with the rich flavor of Jersey milk and a has great balance of salt and strength.

—Jonah Benton, Co-owner, Benton Brothers Fine Cheese, Vancouver

Fromagerie Au Fond Des Bois near Rexton, New Brunswick.
Goats at Fromagerie Au Fond Des Bois near Rexton, New Brunswick.

Cabrie – Au Fond des Bois, New Brunswick

Belgium-born Didier Laurent is cheesemaker and owner at Fromagerie Au Fond Des Bois located, as its French name implies, “deep in the woods” near Rexton, New Brunswick, on 267 acres of land bordered by the St. Nicholas River. All of Didier’s cheeses are made exclusively from the milk of his own goats with no additives. The 98 dairy goats raised in his goat house include Nubians, Alpines and Saanens. This is a goat’s milk bloomy-rind cheese that could easily pass for cow’s milk cheese with a soft and flowing texture with a rich, salty, earthy flavour. I love this cheese with Pinot Noir or a bubbly.

—Heather Rankin, Co-owner, Obladee, a Wine Bar, Halifax

Cheesemaker Lyndell Findlay at Blue Harbour Cheese in Halifax.
Cheesemaker Lyndell Findlay at Blue Harbour Cheese in Halifax.

Electric Blue – Blue Harbour Cheese, Nova Scotia

This cheese is a relatively new blue from urban cheesemaker Lyndell Findlay. She is one of the few sheep’s milk cheese producers in Nova Scotia. She purchases her milk from a farm in Stewiack and makes the cheese at her facility on Robie Street in Halifax’s North End—the first of its kind here in the city. The cheese reminds me of a mild Roquefort with a creamy, chalky texture, delicate bite and slightly sweet finish. Perfect for the “blue-fearful” cheeselover, it’s very accessible. It pairs really well with our local, aromatic whites like Tidal Bay, especially those with a touch of balanced sweetness.

—Heather Rankin, Co-owner, Obladee, a Wine Bar, Halifax

Fuoco made by Fromagerie Fuoco north of Montréal, Québec.
Fuoco made by Fromagerie Fuoco north of Montréal, Québec.

Fuoco – Fromagerie Fuoco, Québec

We don’t see much water buffalo milk cheese in Nova Scotia, so this is a real treat. It’s made without rennet (perhaps coagulated with an acid instead) so it is suitable for strict vegetarians. It’s a semi-soft soft, washed rind cheese with a friendlier “fetor” than some washed-rinds! At peak ripeness it is totally decadent, rich and oozy with hazelnut and salted butter notes. Superb with a full, fruity white wine or Saison (beer).

—Heather Rankin, Co-owner, Obladee, a Wine Bar, Halifax

Cheesemaker Shep Ysselstein of Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese near Woodstock, Ontario.

Five Brothers Reserve – Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese, Ontario

It’s a rarity, but there might be some of the 2016 stock left if folks move fast. Available at Gunn’s Hill, it’s a coveted 18-month batch, released only in December of every year. Ripened for an additional 10 months, Five Brothers Reserve becomes more rustic in appearance, almost “leathered,” with its rind developing shades of darker brown. The “eyes” in the paste are more pronounced and tiny crystals are present, a result of the aging process, a sign of a good cheese! Enjoy its fruity and malty aroma on the nose. This cheese is complex while keeping its smooth and creamy texture and finishes with a subtle bite. Waves of scotch-y, malt-y and caramel flavours ride over your palate and linger for a long time.

—Vanessa Simmons, Cheese Sommelier, Savvy Company, Ottawa

Ile-aux-Grues, 2-year cheddar, takes its name from its island home in the St. Lawrence River near Québec City.
Ile-aux-Grues, 2-year cheddar, takes its name from its island home in the St. Lawrence River near Québec City.

Ile-aux-Grues, 2-year cheddar – Société Coopérative Agricole de l’Île-aux-Grues, Québec

At home, my personal favourite, everyday go-to cheese continues to be Ile-aux-Grues 2-year cheddar. I am never without at least 10 kg on hand. Enough flavor for character, not too much to overpower cooking or more sensitive palates. Perfect for grilled cheese, baguette and cheese, plowman’s lunch, omelettes, host gifts and drop-in entertaining.

—Andy Shay, Cheese Buyer, Sobeys Ontario

Maasdammer made by Triple Island Cheese in Cherryville, B.C.

Maasdammer – Triple Island Cheese Farm, British Columbia

The Tuijtels family up in Cherryville, B.C., has been producing this and many other cheeses according to their generations-old family recipes. They prefer to focus on high quality milk, and not an overly large production. This gives the Maasdammer its deep, buttery, sweet taste. Great as a base for fondue and with a crisp dry Reisling.

—Jonah Benton, Co-owner, Benton Brothers Fine Cheese, Vancouver

Margaret Peters-Morris of Glengarry Fine Cheese near Cornwall, Ontario.
Margaret Peters-Morris of Glengarry Fine Cheese near Cornwall, Ontario.

Nevis – Glengarry Fine Cheese, Ontario

Another rarity to find in stores. We featured it in Savvy Cool Curds for November and it was nothing short of knock-your-socks-off yummy! Nevis comes in a larger format wheel as a washed rind cow milk cheese. A dark gold basket weave exterior compliments a golden straw interior which is cheddar-like in texture. Nevis is all buttery goodness with a tangy finish.

—Vanessa Simmons, Cheese Sommelier, Savvy Company, Ottawa

Rathtrevor made by Little Qualicum Cheeseworks in Parksville on Vancouver Island.
Rathtrevor made by Little Qualicum Cheeseworks in Parksville on Vancouver Island.

Rathtrevor – Little Qualicum Cheeseworks, British Columbia

From Little Qualicum Cheeseworks in Parksville on Vancouver Island, Rathtrevor has quickly become one of our favorite local cheeses. Made with the unpasturised milk from their own mixed herd of Ayrshire, Brown and Canadienne cows, this Alpine-style cheese is nutty, sweet and delicious. Great on its own with a glass of wine, but also a fantastic melter.

—Jonah Benton, Co-owner, Benton Brothers Fine Cheese, Vancouver

Glasgow Glen Farm is a family affair for Jeff MCourt, his wife and two children.
Glasgow Glen Farm is a family affair for Jeff MCourt, his wife and two children.

The Ewesual – Glasgow Glen Farm, Prince Edward Island

This is a hard, 18-month, sheep’s milk Gouda made by Jeff McCourt at Glasgow Glen. Jeff bought Martina TerBeek’s business “The Cheeselady” in 2012 which was one of PEI’s only artisanal cheese business operating for 25 years specializing in Gouda. The farm is a 12-acre lot, overlooking Hunter River and Rustico Bay. This cheese has a parmesan-like flavour and texture—sharp, buttery, herbaceous, nutty,and a touch crumbly. Perfect with a hearty glass of Red.

—Heather Rankin, Co-owner, Obladee, a Wine Bar, Halifax

Note to dairy-free cheese producers

As Canadians continue to re-examine their diets and understand that diet is a key measure in controlling health, there is rising interest in alternatives to traditional cheese.

I tried cheeses from Fauxmagerie Zengarry (Glengarry, Ontario) and Nuts For Cheese (London, Ontario) and while several of these are very good (Zengary Gruyere with cumin and Nuts for Cheese Chipotle Cheddar and Super Blue) they are not to be compared to traditional cheeses. My advice to these cheesemakers is to learn from the traditional techniques, embrace their creations for what they are, because they are good, but avoid the copy of traditional names and the implied similarity of flavor and texture experience. I can see lots of people finding this interesting.

—Andy Shay, Cheese Buyer, Sobeys Ontario

Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar: Canadian Cheese of the Year.
Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar: Canadian Cheese of the Year.

Canadian Cheese of the Year

For most of 2016—until the last of it disappeared in a shrimp bake a few days ago, there was always a kilo or more of Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar in the cheese fridge at

Crowned Cheese of the Year in the 2016 Canadian Cheese Awards, the old-style cheddar, made according to an Orkney island recipe, is truly a Canadian classic. Now generally available across Canada, it’s a must-try cheese, if you’ve not sampled it already.

A highlight of 2016 for us was a visit to Cows Creamery in Charlottetown, P.E. I., home of Avonlea, several other outstanding cheeses, fabulous ice cream and awesome chocolates—not to mention a huge selection of T-shirts featuring cows in many different settings.

The warm hospitality shown to us by Scott Linkletter, proprietor, and Armand Bernard, cheesemaker, only made the visit more memorable.

—Georgs Kolesnikovs, Cheesehead-in-Chief at and founder of The Great Canadian Cheese Festival and Canadian Cheese Awards/Le Concours des fromages fins canadiens.

Best Bites: Twelve outstanding cheeses of 2014

We lower the curtain on 2014 with Vanessa Simmons, respected cheese sommelier at Savvy Company in Ottawa, recalling the 12 Canadian cheeses that made the year memorable for her palate. Check out her tasting notes and make up your shopping list for the next visit to a cheese shop.


  • Celtic Blue Reserve: Glengarry Fine Cheese
  • Even more robust, buttery than the Celtic Blue we know and love from Glengarry Fine Cheese.


  • Taliah: Taliah
  • New-on-the-scene earthy ewe’s milk clothbound cheddar from Québec.


  • Lenberg Farms Classic Reserve by Celebrity Lindsay Bandaged Cheddar: Mariposa Dairy
  • Continues to wow year after year. Tangy, fruity, yet clean.


  • Bonnechere 2 year: Back Forty Artisan Cheese
  • One-of-a-kind and very rare to find aged. Packs a punch of flavour with awesome bite on the finish.


  • Magie De Madawaska: Fromagerie le Détour
  • Runny, lucious, creamy, buttery, nutty and ooey-gooey good when perfectly à point (fully ripened).

Canadian Cheese Awards

  •  Bella Casara Mascarpone: Quality Cheese
  • Rich, and oh so sinful, with flavors of butter, cream and a hint of sweet dulce de leche (to quote myself!). Eat right from the spoon.


  • Quality Cheese Hand-Pulled Burrata: Quality Cheese
  • Heaven. Pure indulgence. Need I say more?


  •  Sylvan Star Natural Smoked Gouda: Sylvan Star Cheese Farm
  • Surprising! Hints of bacon, maple and smoke, with an overlay of butter and nut rounding out its smooth and supple texture.




  • Pont Blanc: Au Grés des Champs
  • Texture of soft ice cream sandwich with flavours and aromas of fresh sweet milk and grass that lingers and lingers.


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Best bites: Outstanding cheeses of 2013

Ruckles from Salt Spring Island Cheese Company. Photo: Bob Chelmick.
Ruckles from Salt Spring Island Cheese Company. Photo: Bob Chelmick.

We bring the curtain down on 2013 with friends in fromage recalling the memorable cheeses that crossed their palates this year. In alphabetical order, mainly, here are 22 outstanding cheeses of the year just ending—plus new Canadian fondues and a pilgrimage cheese lovers must make.

Flavoured cheeses

It is surprising, even to me, that two of my three faves of 2013 are flavoured cheeses, which to me is a testimony to high-quality cheesemaking. Flavours that meld with the cheese substrate where the cheese and the flavour counterpart do a sublime dance.
—Janice Beaton, Owner, Janice Beaton Fine Cheese, FARM Restaurant

Ruckles, Salt Spring Island Cheese Company
David Wood knocks it out of the park, again. In a sea of so many pedestrian offerings of marinated goat cheese, Ruckles is in class all its own. Firm yet silkily textured cylinders of cheese are bathed in grapeseed oil which is speckled with a mix of thyme, rosemary, chives and garlic, in perfect proportion.

Chili Pecorino, The Cheesiry
The Chili Pecorino is one of my favourite offerings from Rhonda Zuk Headon’s repertoire. The balance of chilis embedded in this toothsome cheese provides a gentle heat that lingers on the palate while the nutty, olive flavour of this sheep milk cheese still holds its own. Not an easy accomplishment but Rhonda pulls it off!

Cheese fondues

Cheese fondue, the melted-cheese dish popular some years ago, is making a comeback—but without the classic ingredients of Comté, Beaufort, Gruyere or Emmental.

Four new ready-to-eat Cheese Fondues arrived on the market in 2013. All amazing, with either Louis d’Or, 14 Arpents or Victor et Berthold or the one from Charlevoix with both 1608 and Hercule in the box!
Alain Besré, Fromagerie Atwater and Aux Terroirs

One of my best bites was a fondue made from Victor et Berthold, a beautiful washed rind from Fromagerie Du Champ a la Meule in Québec. This cheese made one of the most delicious fondues of all time. It made me very happy.
—Wendy Furtenbacher, Blogger, CurdyGirl, Cheesemonger, Sobeys Queensway

 Outstanding cheese of 2013

Alfred Le Fermier (24 months), Fromagerie La Station de Compton
Alfred Le Fermier is a true, rustic, organic, raw cow’s milk farmstead cheese made in small batches, pressed and cooked, washed/turned by hand, as a way of life on the farm. It has a European style, but with local terroir, as a result of choosing closely the hay from their local Estrie region. Note heavy woodsy, herbal and mild floral aromas, with layers of milky, grassy and buttery complexity on the palette, more pronounced when aged for 24 months.
—Vanessa Simmons, Cheese Sommelier, Savvy Company

Beau’s Abbey Style Cheese, Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese
A delicious marriage of Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese of Woodstock, Ontario, with Beau’s All Natural Brewing of Vankleek Hill, Ontario. This sumptuous semi-soft cheese is washed with a seasonal beer from Beau’s. Beer and cheese together, pure bliss!
—Gurth Pretty, Senior Category Manager, Deli Cheese, Loblaw Companies

Brebichon, Les Fromages du Verger
I simply adore Brebichon, a farmstead sheep milk cheese that is oh so creamy, delicate and lucious. This apple juice washed cheese is an absolute must buy on every stop I make at Fromagerie Atwater in Montréal.
—Wendy Furtenbacher, Blogger, CurdyGirl, Cheesemonger, Sobeys Queensway

Chemin Hatley, Fromagerie La Station de Compton
Made with organic raw milk from a closed herd of fourth-generation family-farmed cows, this cheese readily fulfills its potential. Supple and fragrant, with yeasty and savoury aromas, and a long layered finish.
—Julia Rogers, Cheese Educator, Cheese Culture

Crottin à ma Manière, Fromagerie L’Atelier
The goat’s milk cheese Crottin à ma Manière from Simon Hamel at Fromagerie l’Atelier in the Bois-Francs region of Québec surpasses famed Chavignol of France, is much cheaper and it’s federally licensed.
Alain Besré, Fromagerie Atwater and Aux Terroirs

Dragon’s Breath Blue, That Dutchman’s Cheese Farm
A rare find and 2013 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix finalist, Dragon’s Breath Blue is a closely guarded family secret. Unique in shape and size, these small cylinders of blue cheese are aged only a few weeks then coated with wax for ripening another 2-6 months. The flavor and texture varies by season, more buttery/creamy in the summer months with higher fat content in the milk. Note sharp blue flavor, moist texture with fruity notes, and little blue veining depending on exposure to air. More than worth the shipping charges!
—Vanessa Simmons, Cheese Sommelier, Savvy Company

Figaro from Glengarry Fine Cheese. Photo: Vanessa Simmons.
Figaro from Glengarry Fine Cheese. Photo: Vanessa Simmons.

Figaro, Glengarry Fine Cheese
I choose Figaro from Glengarry–not that I don’t love (and love the Global award!) for the Lankaaster Aged but I kind of forgot about the amazingly fresh and delicate qualities. And we found each other again this year–lucky for me.
Sue Riedl, Cheese Columnist, The Globe and Mail 

Fleur des Monts, La Moutonnière
Not as consistent as one might want, though still an ambitious and expressive farmstead cheese modeled loosely after Manchego, but more floral, bright and pungent.
—Julia Rogers, Cheese Educator, Cheese Culture 

Grizzly Gouda, Sylvan Star Cheese
I’ve served the Grizzly Gouda from Sylvan Star many times at events or at home this year and it is outstanding in its complexity, looooong finish and “ability to wow” factor.
Sue Riedl, Cheese Columnist, The Globe and Mail 

La Sauvagine Réserve, La Maison Alexis de Portneuf
Somehow the cheesemakers at Alexis de Portneuf improved their already mouth-watering, soft, mixed rind La Sauvagine cheese. What did they do? Add cream to it, making it a triple crème. Grab some of this cheese while you can. A limited amount of this OMG mouth experience was created.
—Gurth Pretty, Senior Category Manager, Deli Cheese, Loblaw Companies

Laliberté, Fromagerie du Presbytère,
I have to start with Laliberté from Fromagerie du Presbytere–the triple cream that I could not stop eating, and made from organic milk to boot.
Sue Riedl, Cheese Columnist, The Globe and Mail

Lankaaster Aged, Glengarry Fine Cheese
Supreme Global Champion at the 2013 Global Cheese Awards, this firm to hard cow’s milk cheeses comes shaped in a loaf or wheel, covered in a waxy rind, and is a Gouda-style after Dutch farmstead cheeses. It’s a rich, dense, chewy cheese with intense buttery, fruity, caramelized nutty flavors that linger forever.
—Vanessa Simmons, Cheese Sommelier, Savvy Company

Le Vlimeux, Fromagerie Le Mouton Blanc
It’s not hard to see how this multiple Caseus award-winning cheese is smokin’ hot! Vlimeux is a firm, pressed, uncooked raw sheep’s milk cheese, with a hard, waxy, glossy, caramel-hued rind. Smoke, salt and nut permeate the interior overlaying the cheese’s natural sweet milky flavors in a perfect complement.
—Vanessa Simmons, Cheese Sommelier, Savvy Company

Maple Cheddar, Black River Cheese
What could be more Canadian than Black River’s Maple Cheddar? This cheese provides a bite that is perfectly balanced between sweet and savoury, and just —Wendy Furtenbacher, Blogger, CurdyGirl, Cheesemonger, Sobeys Queensway

Parmigiano-Reggiano rinds
Okay, this is part of the cheese but my wife and I cannot resist adding small cubes of it into our soups, chili, tomato sauce and risotto. The dried rind softens in the broth, releasing its flavour and becomes chewable. We love it so much that we actually have to buy some from our local grocery store.
—Gurth Pretty, Senior Category Manager, Deli Cheese, Loblaw Companies

Pont Blanc, Fromagerie Au Grés Des Champs
Pont Blanc is a soft, lactic, surface ripened cow milk cheese. A rare find outside the farmstead retail store, the skin-like rind on this beauty reminds of intricate ivory lace, while the dense interior has the texture of a soft cream sandwich and moist piece of cheesecake. Note pronounced flavors and aromas of fresh sweet milk, and grass that linger and linger.
—Vanessa Simmons, Cheese Sommelier, Savvy Company

Ricotta, Quality Cheese
The 2013 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix Grand Champion, the humble Ricotta from Quality Cheese reigned supreme, winning against more than 225 of Canada’s best cheeses, a first ever for both an Ontario cheese and a fresh category cheese. Fresh, creamy, melt in your mouth Ricotta (which means re-cooked in Italian, as it’s made from the leftover whey after making other cheese). Very light, but rich, and very versatile as a simple cheese to eat with a variety of garnishes/condiments or used in cooking.
—Vanessa Simmons, Cheese Sommelier, Savvy Company 

Taleggio, Northern Italy
Taleggio (1996 Italian DOP) has and will always be in my Top 10. It’s a semi-soft, washed rind, smear-ripened Italian cheese that is named after Val Taleggio where it has been made since the 10th century. The cheese has a thin crust and a strong aroma, but its flavour is comparatively mild with an unusual fruity tang.
Alain Besré, Fromagerie Atwater and Aux Terroirs

Water Buffalo Mozzarella, Old West Ranch

James Meservy deserves a medal for perseverance! He has faced many challenges in the last two years in his attempt to bring high quality Old West Ranch Water Buffalo Mozzarella to the artisan Canadian cheese market. When it is in its finest form, it is dense and velvety without being the least bit rubbery and sweetly milky with a tangy underpinning that keeps us reaching for more.
—Janice Beaton, Owner, Janice Beaton Fine Cheese, FARM Restaurant

Only one imported cheese—Taleggio—made the 2013 most memorable list, but Julia Rogers offers this recommendation:

As far as international picks go, I’d suggest that any cheese lover make a pilgrimage to Neil’s Yard Dairy in London. The pleasures are too many to enumerate, but this is mecca, without a doubt. Here’s just one photo. And, yes, I tasted virtually everything in the shot.
—Julia Rogers, Cheese Educator, Cheese Culture

Neal's Yard Dairy: Mecca for cheese lovers. Photo: Julia Rogers.
Neal’s Yard Dairy: Mecca for cheese lovers. Photo: Julia Rogers.

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