Cheese. Meat. Potatoes. Gravy. Maybe with a pickle or slaw on the side. Comfort food beyond compare, that’s poutine.
Small wonder poutine has become such an iconic dish, and no longer only in Québec where it originated in the 1950s. Over the years, we’ve enjoyed poutine in its many variants clear across Canada.
Our current favourite is the smoked-meat poutine served at SumiLicious at Steeles Avenue East and Middlefield Road in Scarborough, just a few minutes from home. Perfectly fried potatoes, Montreal-style smoked meat with all its juices, and fresh curds from Fromagerie St-Albert Co-op. The result is superlicious.
We always order the meat fatty so it literally melts in your mouth. When we’re not up for a poutine, we go for a smoked-meat sandwich piled high with deliciousness. Either way, we’re in heaven, even when eating in the car on account of COVID-19 restrictions on dining in.
Sumith “Sumi” Fernando learned his craft over 17 years of working at iconic Schwartz’s Deli in Montréal. When Sumi and his wife, Shalika De Fonseca, both Roman Catholics, immigrated to Canada from Sri Lanka two decades ago, neither had ever encountered Jewish food before.
During his time at Schwartz’s, Sumi became obsessed with the spicy, wood-smoked, mile-high meat sandwiches that drew crowds at all hours of the day. “I would see people going crazy when they took that first bite, shaking their head [in awe],” Sumi explained in an interview in Saveur magazine. “I wanted to do something like that.”
So, how did two Catholics from Sri Lanka end up serving Jewish food in a predominantly Chinese neighbourhood in Toronto? They picked that corner of Scarborough, on the Markham border, because, during his years at Schwartz’s, Sumi noticed most customers from Great Toronto lived in Markham. Market research completed, they opened SumiLicious in May 2018—to rave reviews.
Sumi turns tough beef brisket über tender by marinating it in spices for 10 days, followed by smoking overnight. The meat is steamed just before it’s sliced by hand to order. As we said, the result is superlicious.
Our all-time favourite is the most decadent poutine served in Canada. At famed Au Pied de Cochon in Montréal, the poutine is topped with foie gras. Not only that, the crunchy fries are made with duck fat! The curds, when we last enjoyed the dish, came from La Fromagerie Champêtre. Chef Martin Picard—Who remembers him as Wild Chef on TV?—has served the foie gras poutine since 2001, helping to make Au Pied de Cochon a destination restaurant for foodies from around the world.
Just look at the slices of foie gras, the squeaky curds and the crunchy fries in the mouth-watering photograph by André-Olivier Lyra published in a feature on Montréal poutine in Nuvo magazine. Oh, to be back in Montréal right now!
During a visit to St. John’s, Newfoundland, we ate twice at Ches’s Famous Fish & Chips where we were delighted to learn the poutine is made with Bergy Bits Curds from Five Brothers Artisan Cheese and not some industrial operation on the mainland. Local and artisan always tastes better.
Cheese Ambassador David Beaudoin, our friend in cheese, hosted an informative webinar on poutine recently sponsored by Dairy Farmers of Canada, featuring three recipes you can try at home. Watch it now.
Georgs Kolesnikovs, Cheese-Head-in-Chief at CheeseLover.ca, has never met a poutine he didn’t like . . . well, hardly ever. Follow him on YouTube at Strictly Cheese.
This aged gouda has a wonderful grainy crystaline texture and an intense sweet-savory flavour with a caramel finish. Break it up in rustic chunks and serve with dried cured meats, olives, roasted nuts, mustard and dark bread. #CDNcheese
A pretty little cheese wrapped in spruce bark is perfect to feature on a cheese board. This rich cheese tastes of salted butter and bit of funky damp hay. The spruce bark strapping adds a pleasant resinous woodsy flavour. Cut the top off and slather on fresh crusty bread. #CDNcheese
A soft surface-ripened cheese that when served at around six weeks is rich and lactic, with mellow yeasty and vegetal notes. Serve it with dried fruits and nuts, fresh berries, or drizzle with honey. #CDNcheese
The popular Cheese Making Technology short course that Professor Art Hill has conducted annually since 1986 at University of Guelph, Department of Food Science, will be presented online this year on April 12 to 30.
The course—designed for artisan and commercial cheesemakers, cheese hobbyists, and government and sales personnel who work with cheesemakers—focuses on the science and technology of cheesemaking.
“The focus is on understanding the manufacturing principles of technological families of cheese, rather than becoming expert in the manufacture of particular cheese varieties,” says Professor Hill.
Each participant will receive a cheesemaking kit with sufficient tools to make cheese in their home kitchen as part of the course.
The University of Guelph has been offering some version of its cheesemaking course since 1893. It’s the second oldest dairy school in Canada.
When it comes to dairy and cheese, Art Hill is a man of many talents but his specialty is cheese technology. Over the years, his respected cheesemaking offerings have attracted national and international participants. When time permits from his duties as Professor, Dr. Hill influences government and industry policies on issues such as milk pricing, safety of cheese curds and raw-milk cheese, import of dairy ingredients, and cheese composition standards. He also serves as Chief Judge and head of the Jury responsible for evaluating and scoring cheese at Canadian Cheese Awards, the biggest cheese competition in Canada.
Flashback Friday: Post first published on March 7, 2010
There’s nothing quite like spending an evening nibbling on cheese and sipping wine with good friends. We invited two couples to join us for a five-course tasting menu. Here’s how it went down:
Riopelle de l’Isle:
One of the great cheeses of Canada, it’s made from raw cow’s milk on a small island— Île-aux-Grues—in the middle of the St. Lawrence River about 40 miles down-river from Quebec City. Riopelle de l’Île is named after Quebec’s most famous painter, Jean-Paul Riopelle, who lived on the island for two decades until his death in 2002.
He lent his name to the cheese, and provided the artwork that adorns the packaging, on the condition that one dollar for each wheel sold by Fromageries Île-aux-Grues would be donated to the island youth foundation.
A soft triple-cream cheese with a bloomy rind, Riopelle melts in your mouth and has a wonderful taste of hazelnut, mushroom, a hint of butter and a pinch of salt.
I’m so proud of “my” cheese because the two times I’ve shared it, guests have said it was their favorite. This is the Bonnie & Floyd that I was given in November after spending a day learning how cheese is made at Fifth Town Artisan Cheese in Prince Edward County.
Despite my difficulties in finding a spot in our apartment building to age the cheese at the right temperature and the right humidity, my Bonnie & Floyd turned out to be a real treat. Just like the cheese aged at Fifth Town, mine has a smooth paste with complex yet mild mineral flavours. Barely salty near the rind, and somewhat nutty, it provides almost sweet lactic flavours near the centre.
When I first cut into the wheel, I couldn’t believe how fresh and milky it tasted, a testament to how well the ewes who gave the milk are treated, and the speed with which the milk moves from farm to cheesemaker.
Second course/Warming up
Baked Woolrich Chevrai:
My sister gave us a lovely baking dish for Christmas together with a small log of Woolrich Dairy goat cheese and assorted herbs. After 20 minutes in the oven at 350F, it was a striking addition to the assortment of flavours on our menu.
It was nearing its best-before date, so was well aged, and most of our guests laced it with honey. With a Parisian-style baguette, it was a light and tangy treat.
Third course/Cheddar chowdown
Kraft Cracker Barrel vs 5-year Wilton vs 6-year Black River:
We had purchased the Kraft “aged cheddar” as it was on sale at a ridiculously low price at Wal-Mart but had not yet found a way to eat it; thus, my bright idea of blind-tasting the factory-made cheddar against two artisan cheddars.
It was no contest. Even sitting on the board, it was obvious which was the Kraft, but we proceeded with the blind-tasting anyway as it provided an entertaining twist to the proceedings.
The five-year Wilton is a very nice cheddar. Perhaps because it has rested in our refrigerator for four months, we could spot the occasional crystal developing.
Guernsey Girl is a delightful new cheese that is unique to Canada and deserves its own blog entry (which will come after we have another chance to try frying the cheese. Yes, this cheese is fried or grilled before it is served).
It’s an outstanding creation of Upper Canada Cheese using the rich milk provided by a herd of Guernsey cows on the Comfort family farm near Jordan, a Niagara Peninsula village.
When we think of a rich and powerful cheese at our house, we think Époisses Berthaut from Burgundy in France. It’s a washed-rind unpasteurized cow’s milk cheese with a natural red tint and its own rich and penetrating aroma.
It’s described as an iconic cheese in tasting notes published by Provincial Fine Foods: “Époisses is powerfully scented, soft-to-runny, and can sometimes deter people with its frank, leathery, animal aromas. Once past the lips, Époisses is spicy, earthy, salty and rich, but not nearly as potent as one might expect.”
When Cabrales, the great blue of Spain, is well-aged, it is fully potent—on the verge of overpowering the faint of heart. Our Cabrales was like that, even with a chutney or honey or fig jam, so ripe and so intense.
I had told Geoff, a longtime cheesemonger at Chris’s Cheesemongers in St. Lawrence Market, that we wanted a strongh finish to our evening—and did he deliver! Geoff carved our wedge from a wheel that was obviously fully ripe. Heck, half the piece was dark blue!
Our guests, who were as satiated was we were by evening’s end, barely tasted the Cabrales. Meaning Significant Other and I, over the coming week, must find ways to savour the strongest cheese we’ve ever tasted—or it will simply become too powerful, even for strong cheese lovers like us.
There was a loud groan from our full guests when we presented one additional variation on the evening’s cheese theme—cannoli—but six of the little suckers were devoured within minutes.
For starters, Henry of Pelham Cuvee Catharine Rose Brut and an excellent Pillitteri Gewurtzraminer Reisling. Then, Henry of Pelham Pinot Noir and a delightful Conundrum California White Wine (blend). Concluding with Casa dos Vinhos Madeira and a knockout Cockfighter’s Ghost Shiraz that was a match for our Cabrales.
With plenty of San Benedetto carbonated mineral water to stave off dehydration.
Red pepper jelly, Latvian chutney, Kalamata olives, Ontario honey and fig jam from France. Green grapes and strawberries. Honey dates, dried apricots and walnuts. Kashi crackers, multi-grain flatbreads and plain crackers. Parisian-style baguette and a multi-grain baguette.
We also offered tomato slices drizzled with Spanish olive oil and Modena balsamic vinegar and topped with a fresh basil leaf which worked exceptionally well to counter the buttery richness of Guernsey Girl.
One couple brought us two additions to our menu:
Le 1608 is a relatively new creation of Laiterie Charlevoix. A semi-firm, washed rind cheese, Le 1608 uses milk from Canadienne cows whose ancestors were brought to Canada from France starting in 1608. Most of these hardy animals are unique to the Charlevoix region of Quebec.
As Sue Riedl wrote in The Globe and Mail about a year ago, “Le 1608 develops a pale orange exterior that is washed with brine while ripening. Developing a full, barny aroma, the paste tastes nutty at the rind and has a complex, fruity flavour that emerges from its melt-in-the mouth texture. The pleasant tang of the long finish clinches this cheese’s spot as a new Canadian favourite.”
We couldn’t agree more.
What a mouth-watering, medium-strong, creamy blue cheese made from pasteurized cow’s milk in Auvergne, France!
Saint Agur was the perfect counter-point to our Cabrales. Kind of like a softer and finer Roquefort and, due to its double-cream nature, easy to spread on a plain cracker. (The next day, it tasted even better, leaving an almond-like impression.)
In retrospect, 11 cheeses over five courses were too much of a good thing. Four courses of maybe eight or nine cheeses would have been just fine.
The experts usually say allow for 400 grams of cheese per person when serving cheese as a meal. We provided 485 grams per person. When all was said and done, close to 400 grams were consumed on average per person.
Georgs Kolesnikovs is Cheese-Head-in-Chief at CheeseLover.ca.
I was first introduced to Louis d’Or when, during a visit to Fromagerie du Presbytère some 10 years ago, Cheesemaker Jean Morin (at left in photo) handed me a wheel.
“Have some cheese, Georgs,” he said, with a chuckle.
I almost sank to my knees!
Louis d’Or is made in 40 kilogram wheels. That translates to close to 90 pounds of cheese, not the easiest thing to manhandle.
Jean had just started making Louis d’Or, inspired by what he saw and learned from old-world cheesemakers in the Jura Mountains that straddle the border between France and Switzerland, the home of renowned Comté cheese.
He told me he had high hopes Louis d’Or would become equally famous in Québec and Canada. “It has the right taste,” he assured me.
The past decade has proven him right. Louis d’Or has become widely known and praised for its fine, complex flavours. It’s one delicious cheese!
Louis d’Or has been recognized as a world-class cheese. It has won the prestigious Caseus competition in Québec and the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix. At the most recent Canadian Cheese Awards, it was crowned Canadian Cheese of the Year
This past year I’ve had the good fortune of enjoying Louis d’Or—after nine months of aging, after 18 months and two years, and even after three years. It only gets better with more time spent in the former Roman Catholic church in the village of Sainte-Élizabeth de Warwick that Jean Morin has converted into a state of the art space for affinage.
The church sits across the street from the family dairy farm, Ferme Louis d’Or, and is adjacent to the former rectory which Morin purchased in 2005 to start up Fromagerie du Presbytère. (Presbytère is the French word for rectory.) Cheesemaking takes place in the former rectory which also houses fromagerie offices. The expansive new retail store is just down the street.
Cecilia Smith of Cheese by Cecilia in Uxbridge, Ontario, gets to taste a lot of cheese over any 12-month period. In the culinary arts program at George Brown College in Toronto, Cecilia has taught classes leading to the Professional Fromager certificate since 2014 as well as cheese appreciation and cheese pairing courses. She herself received the Professional Fromager Certificate from George Brown eight years ago and has worked as a fromager at Monforte Dairy and The Passionate Cook’s Essentials in Uxbridge
Earlier this year she was a judge at the 2020 cheese and butter competition held by Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. On Sundays during the summer months, Cecilia operates a market stall at the Uxbridge Farmer’s Market where she features Ontario’s best artisan cheeses.
“My most memorable cheese this year was Mason’s Delight from River’s Edge Goat Dairy,” Cecilia told me. “The marble interior is stunningly beautiful, the cheese sweet and tangy with a lovely umami finish.”
Mason’s Delight is a bloomy rind (think Brie or Camembert) goat cheese that has layers of vegetable ash running throughout. A rectangular cuboid shaped cheese that makes it simple to slice into eye catching slices. Vegetable ash not only looks amazing in cheese, it also balances the natural acidity of the cheese. Some people have said that this makes the cheese easier for them to digest.
In 1999, Katie Normet and her family purchased an abused and abandoned piece of land near Arthur, Ontario. After six years of building and land improvement, River’s Edge Goat Dairy was established in 2005.
Today, goals of the farm are to continue to improve the land, educate the public about food and farming, preserve Ontario farmland and, of course, to make the best cheese possible.
Her most memorable cheese of 2020 has been Alfred Le Fermier which she considers a staple, like cheddar.
“It’s woodsy, with hazelnut flavours and a flowery finish. It can be used in any recipe that calls for cheese. But I do prefer most cheese straight up on a cheese board. That‘s the best way to enjoy it.”
Alfred Le Fermier is made with organic raw milk from Holstein cows at Fromagerie La Station on the Bolduc family farm in the Eastern Townships of Québec. It’s a firm, cooked pressed cheese with a washed rind.
The cheese proudly carries the name of the family’s great grandfather, Alfred Bolduc. Alfred Le Fermiersymbolizes a family tradition whose mission is to cultivate the soil, live on it and hand it down to future generations in even better condition.
There is one imported cheese in the roundup this year: Saint Agur, a blue made with pasteurized cow’s milk in the mountainous Auvergne region of central France. Says Jackie:
“If you are not a fan of blue cheese, this is the gateway of blue cheese to get you there. With such a smooth creamy texture and a subtle spicy flavour, it will tempt you to try it again. Just add a glass of Port and you have a match made in heaven.”
A highlight of the cheese year for me personally was meeting, via social media, a young cheesemaker in Saskatchewan and getting to taste his cheese.
Kevin Petty was visiting Sion, Switzerland, for a friend’s wedding a few years ago when he was first inspired to get into cheese after being exposed to some of the best artisan cheesemakers in the world. Since then, he has learned from cheesemakers across Canada including Brother Albéric from the trappist monastery near Holland, Manitoba. He tells his own story in this brief video:
Kevin calls his cheese Caerphilly-style because “I started with a Caerphilly recipe but then I’ve changed it quite a bit over two years to make it my own.”
“The cheese is made with raw cow’s milk, mostly Holstein. It’s aged on spruce boards for a few weeks and then vac-sealed. I started with a caerphilly recipe but I’ve made little changes over a couple years, just trial and error, trying to make something with a nice texture and taste. I kind of went where it was leading me without much of a plan.”
At Saskatoon Spruce, Kevin currently produces his original Caerphilly-style cheese as well as an applewood smoked version and a seasonal stout version
My first impression: It’s tasty cheese. The Saskatchewan take on the Welsh take on cheddar.
The 5-month version certainly has more depth of flavour and character than the younger cheeses I tasted. Wonder what it would be like at 9 months and older?
We also asked Kelsie Parsons about his best cheese memories of 2020. He’s in charge of cheese and deli at Sobeys stores across Canada and served as a judge at the 2020 cheese and butter competition held by Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. Here’s what he had to say:
“My best bites of 2020 were not about specific cheeses but rather moments shared with others, such a rarity this past year. I reminisce of enjoying cheese during a euchre game with neighbours mid-March (pre-lockdown), and on a summer hike with friends (there were 0 active cases in our county at the time). The flavours of a well-crafted cheese shine so much brighter when enjoyed during special moments with others.
“Wishing all a year of health and happiness, and, when it’s safe to do so, a chance to re-connect with friends and family over some lovingly produced Canadian cheese.”
Which is a very nice way to conclude our annual round-up of memorable cheese moments of the year just ending.
Georgs Kolesnikovs, Cheese-Head-in-Chief at CheeseLover.ca, founded Canadian Cheese Awards and The Great Canadian Cheese Festival.
Take, for example, the award-winning cheeses that Fromagerie du Presbytère in Québec has assembled in a Winner’s Basket for $29.95: Louis d’Or, Religieuse, Laliberté and Bleu d’Élizabeth, plus a cranberry-guinea fowl treat from Faisanderie St-Albert. Order three baskets to give as gifts and one for yourself and the fromagerie will cover the cost of shipping.
From Prince Edward Island, the Over the Moon Box from Cows Creamery contains three pieces of Cheddar, Avonlea Clothbound, Extra Old and Appletree Smoked, two pieces of butter, Sea Salted and Cultured, Cheddar Pop, freshly baked COWS Butter Biscuits, Receiver Butter Crackers, Prince Edward Island Honey, Avonlea Preserves, COW CHIPS, and COWS Caramel Corn. $125 with shipping included.
Stonetown Artisan Cheese in Ontario offers a Charcuterie Box for $58 that contains four 170-gram wedges of cheese, including Grand Trunk and Wildwood, German salami and crackers. Free shipping with every purchase of $100 or more.
So good to see Progressive Dairy Canada magazine produce an Advent calendar featuring Canadian cheese.
Really good to see excellent representation of cheesemakers from Vancouver Island to Newfoundland although we will quibble that many outstanding Québec cheeses are missing. Maybe next year we’ll have to develop an Advent calendar of our own.
Click the left picture tab for complete listing of results.
Winner profiles are found under the document tab on that same page.
Competition day videos are listed under videos.
A delicious extra old cheddar made by Maple Dale Cheese in Plainfield, Ontario, was declared a champion twice over in the 2020 Canadian Cheese & Butter Competition at The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair.
Maple Dale’s Naturally Aged Extra Old Cheddar was named Grand Champion Cheddar. It also scored Ontario Champion Cheddar honours in the oldest cheese competition in Canada that dates back 98 years to 1922 when the Fair was first held at Exhibition Place in Toronto.
In this Covid-19 era, The Royal hosted the only cheese judging and competition in Canada and one of the few such contests in the world this year.
Judging took place on September 24 with six expert judges sampling and evaluating the 164 cheese and butter entries submitted by producers across Canada. The results were announced this morning at The Royal Agricultural Virtual Experience on a special new digital platform at http://www.royalfair.org/virtual that replaces the in-person fair this year.
Be sure to visit The Royal Agricultural Virtual Experience on a special new digital platform at http://www.royalfair.org/virtualthat replaces the in-person fair this year. The site is loaded with features and videos.
Georgs Kolesnikovs, Cheese-Head-in-Chief at CheeseLover.ca, Canada’s most popular blog about fromage, served as co-host with Katie Brown of the virtual competition in the video above.