We’ll go for months without Pizy, and then, when we taste it again, we fall in love all over again.
There is no question Le Pizy, created by Cheesemaker Fabienne Mathieu at Fromagerie La Suisse Normande in St.-Roch-de-L’Achigan, Québec, is one of Canada’s best farmstead cheeses. When it comes to aroma, flavour and texture, Pizy is simply outstanding, and pretty in appearance, too.
We were first introduced to Pizy while spending too much money on cheese one afternoon years ago at Marché Jean Talon in Montréal in the company of Vanessa Simmons, arguably Canada’s leading cheese sommelier.
Vanessa’s tasting notes tell all:
Pizy has and remains one of my favourite top 10 Canadian cheeses, for sure. It’s even better if you keep it past the best-before date on the package by at least a week or two or more.
The cheese has more yeasty notes when it’s young which develops into more of a mushroomy, slightly nutty flavour as it ages. It’s very pretty, with the most delicate hue of champagne.
This small, soft, surface-ripened pasteurized cow’s milk cheese is fashioned after the Swiss Tomme Vaudoise, due to its shape (small wheel) and size (only ½-inch thick). Le Pizy has a thick bloomy ivory rind, with a rich, dense, paste coloring between ivory and pearl. Experience big milky, fresh field mushroom aromas and a fresh lactic taste with a sweet tang when it’s young, softening out as it ages.
The hand-crafted cheese produced at Fromagerie La Suisse Normande represents the marriage of two cultures, Swiss and French. Cheesemaker Fabienne Mathieu comes from Switzerland, husband Frédérick Guitel who manages the farm comes from Normandy in France.
Their resulting cow, goat and sheep’s milk products are a marriage made in heaven. Cheeses are made from animals raised on the farm, in true “fermier” (farmstead) fashion.
Of their five children, three want to ensure the continuity of their parents’ work: Bénédicte and Magaly at the fromagerie and Thibault on the farm.
The fromagerie began its activities in 1995 on the farm 50 kilometres north of Montréal.
Fromagerie La Suisse Normande will be represented by Plaisirs Gourmets at Canada’s Artisan Cheese Night Market on June 6 in historic St. Lawrence Market’s Temporary North Hall in Toronto.
Twenty-two category winners at the recent Canadian Cheese Awards, and the Canadian Cheese of the Year, Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar, will be in the spotlight. Plus another 100 more artisan and farmstead cheeses from coast to coast.
Clearly, the biggest selection of the best cheeses ever available for sampling and purchase in one place, that’s what cheese lovers will find at the sixth annual Great Canadian Cheese Festival in Picton on June 4-5.
Close to 40 Canadian cheese producers, including the crème of the crème of Quebec, will be on hand to share their passion and their stories with thousands of cheese lovers. There’s even an opportunity to socialize with cheesemakers at Raclette Rave, the Saturday evening social highlight of the Festival.
Thanks to St. Albert Cheese Co-op, the first 1,000 ticket holders admitted on Saturday will enjoy a sample package of freshly made cheese curds. Soft and creamy, St. Albert curds have a delightful squeaky sound when chewed. On Sunday, the first 1,000 ticket holders will chowdown on grilled-cheese sandwiches freshly made by competing chefs using a blend of 14 award-winning cheeses. Yes, 14!
Also on Sunday, there is free admission to watch County chefs compete in the Road to Royal Chef Challenge being hosted by Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in conjunction with the Festival.
But there is more to #TGCCF than cheese, in fact, more than 500 foods and beverages are on offer. Included in price of admission: informative cheese seminars presented by Dairy Farmers of Canada, artisan foods galore, fine wine, craft beer, crisp cider, plus a souvenir tote, a souvenir glass, live music, dairy farm animals, food court and FREE parking.
Tickets are sold at the door but buying them online in advance means speedy access to all the deliciousness via the Express Entrance. Admission is $50 per person, seniors, $45. Children under 15 admitted free. Click to order tickets online.
Picton Fairgrounds is located in the heart of Prince Edward County, south of Belleville in Bay of Quinte Region. One hour from Kingston, two hours from Toronto, three hours from Ottawa and New York State, and less than four hours from Montreal.
Additionally, in an unprecedented awards sweep, Louis d’Or was named champion in three different categories:
On top of that, their fabulous Bleu d’Élizabeth was selected champion in the blue-cheese category!
Clearly, Jean Morin was the happiest and proudest cheese producer in Canada last night as the Gala of Champions unfolded at Palais Royale in Toronto, scene of a lavish awards ceremony cum cheese-tasting organized by Dairy Farmers of Canada, sponsors of the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix.
In his acceptance speech, Jean was quick to give credit to his brother, Dominic, who looks after their herd of cows, and to Dany Grimard, who runs the make room in the former rectory that serves as the creamery across the street from their farm in Sainte-Élizabeth-de-Warwick two hours east of Montréal.
Jean and Dominic are fourth-generation dairy farmers who have found amazing success as first-generation cheese producers in a few short years. What’s the secret of their success?
“Happy, healthy cows,” Jean says. “It all starts with the milk, and the care we show the cheese as we make it.”
Appropriately, smiling cows adorned the tie Jean wore to the awards gala.
Phil Bélanger, chair of the 2011 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix Jury and president of the New Brunswick Chapter of La Confrérie de la Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, had this to say about Louis d’Or:
“The milky richness of this cheese is a tribute to the organic milk with which it is made. The cheese has a smooth texture, warm nutty and floral notes in aroma and taste. Inspired by the traditional cheesemaking know-how from the Jura region, the cheesemaker created an amazing cheese.”
Louis d’Or is truly a magnificent cheese, with fine, complex flavours, eloquently expressed after nine months of ripening. The Louis d’Or cheese gets its name from the Louis d’Or Farm, which produces the organic milk used to make it. The name of the cheese also refers to the French currency of the same name used under the reign of Louis XIII in 1640.
The first opportunity for the public to taste Grand Prix winners in one place—and meet the makers such as Jean Morin—will be at The Great Canadian Cheese Festival on June 4-5 in Picton in Prince Edward County, Ontario’s newest wine region and fastest-growing culinary destination.
At the Festival, cheese expert and author Gurth Pretty, one of the Grand Prix judges, will lead a tutored tasting on cheese of Western Canada. Grand Prix champion Margaret Peters-Morris will conduct a demonstration of cheesemaking at home.
Here is the complete list of 2011 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix winners, with asterisks indicating those already committed to taking part in The Great Canadian Cheese Festival:
The Canadian Cheese Grand Prix is a competition sponsored and hosted by Dairy Farmers of Canada, celebrating the high quality and proud tradition of Canadian cheese made from 100% Canadian cow’s milk.
For the 2011 competition, a record-breaking total of 203 cheeses from six provinces was submitted for judging in the competition.
A panel of Canada’s top cheese experts spent two days in Montréal rigorously tasting and evaluating the best cow-milk cheeses this country has to offer as they narrowed the field down to 51 cheeses in 17 categories.
Georgs Kolesnikovs, cheesehead-in-chief at CheeseLover.ca, couldn’t believe his ears when Jean Morin mentioned him and the upcoming Great Canadian Cheese Festival in his acceptance remarks.
It is hard to imagine someone with a greater enthusiasm for cheese and its appreciation than Vanessa Simmons. “I’ve never met a cheese I didn’t like,” she insists, and I believe her. I met Vanessa on a Monday night in Ottawa as she led a cheese-tasting class presented by Savvy Company titled the Great Canadian Cheese Discovery. Held at Thyme and Again Food Shop, the class focused on Quebec artisan cheeses.
Vanessa is a Cordon Bleu-trained chef, whose passion for cheese first developed when she made her own feta during a cooking class. She says she was amazed that it seemed to take just “magic, faith and some TLC” in order to produce a great-tasting cheese. She was hooked.
Vanessa is now working toward her Cheese Education Guild certificate with Canadian cheese maven and author Kathy Guidi. Once a week, Vanessa leaves work early and drives five hours from Ottawa down Highway 401 in order to attend the cheese appreciation course in Toronto.
“My brother jokes I either need a boyfriend or a dog, because I spend way too much time with cheese,” Vanessa says with a laugh.
We began our sampling with Le Joupon Frivole from Fromagerie Les Folie Bergeres in St-Sixte, a soft, rich surfaced-ripened sheep’s milk cheese. It was fresh tasting and had a thick texture, forming a paste that coated the mouth. The milk used for Le Jupon Frivole is thermalized, a process commonly used in Quebec. Unlike the high heat of pasteurization, thermalization uses lower heat over a longer period of time. It is therefore gentler on the milk, and helps maintain its original flavours.
Our second cheese of the evening was Foin D’Odeur, produced by La Moutonniere in Sainte-Helene-de-Chester. When it was presented to us, this ripe cheese was melting all over the plate. Foin D’Odeur is a bloomy rind sheep’s milk cheese. It had grassy, natural flavours, while the rind tasted mushroomy.
Nearly every cheese we tasted that night was packaged in a beautiful, hand-designed label, as Vanessa pointed out to the group. The unique labelling reflects the grassroots nature of Quebec cheesemaking. The labels serve as an indication of where the cheeses comes from, and speak to the personal attention they receive from their makers.
Our next sample was a knockout little cheese, and one of my two favourites from the evening’s selection. Le Pizy from Fromagerie La Suisse Normandie in Saint-Roch-de-L’Achigan comes in a tiny wheel, but packs a rich, buttery taste with a bit of a tang. A winner at Quebec’s Selection Caseus awards this year, this cow’s milk cheese is a standout.
We then moved to the most playful cheese of the evening, Sein d’Helene from La Moutonniere. Literally “Helen’s breast,” this cheese is sold in a cone-shaped package, both to reflect its cheeky name and the mountainous region from where it hails. The cheese mixes sheep and cow’s milk; it is a fresh, earthy tasting cheese with a bit of acidity.
Our next selection was a goat’s milk cheese from Fromagerie La Petite Heidi in Saint-Rose-du-Nord called Tomme Le Rosee de Saguenay. The cheese presented barn aromas and had a sweet, tangy taste. It is dry and crumbly in texture with a yellow-coloured rind.
Next up was the second of my two favourites from the evening: Hercule de Charlevoix from Laiterie Charlevoix in Baie-St-Paul. The cheese is named for a legendary local figure, Jean-Baptiste Grenon, dubbed “Hercules of the North”. According to local lore, when Grenon was captured by the English in the 1700s and hung, he fought so hard and so long, the English were so impressed they released him from the gallows. The cheese certainly exhibits some of that same strength with its powerful flavours. A thermalized cow’s milk cheese, it tastes of earth and nuts, with a rind that tastes of chocolate.
Our final cheese of the evening was the only bleu on our plate: Bleu Moutonniere from La Moutonniere dairy. Vanessa has nicknamed this blue-veined sheep’s milk cheese “the converter” for its ability to change the minds of staunch anti-bleu cheese tasters. My neighbour at the table was one of these self-professed bleu haters, so I eagerly awaited her reaction to this cheese. Bleu Moutonniere was a big performer at this summer’s American Cheese Society awards, claiming first prize in the “blue-veined sheep’s milk with rind” category. The cheese is smooth and creamy, with bright coloured blue veins snaking throughout the wheel. It is salty and earthy, and quite inoffensive for a bleu cheese. Bleu Moutonniere managed to live up to its name at the table, as my neighbour declared “this is the only bleu cheese I’ve ever been able to stomach!”
As the evening wound down, I finished up my wine, and mingled a bit with the crowd of satisfied cheese students. Finally, I made my way over to bid goodnight to Vanessa. Like a true cheese enthusiast, she was standing by the cheese table, making sure none of the evening’s offerings went to waste.