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The Great Canadian Cheese Festival runs from June 4 to 5 at the historic Crystal Palace in Picton, Ontario, in the heart of Prince Edward County, a newbie culinary destination and Canada's newest VQA wine region. I was at a press event ahead of the festival, where a man in a cheese wedge hat described the plans for the festival in great, cheesy detail.

The festival will bring together over 30 cheesemakers from coast-to-coast (as well as likeminded cheese lovers, natch), to taste and buy the best in artisan, farmstead and specialty cheeses.

More than 100 Canadian cheeses will be available for tasting — and purchase — at the festival's Artisan Cheese & Fine Food Market on Sunday, June 5th. What's more, the 2011 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix winners will be presented in a tutored tasting by Dairy Farmers of Canada to kick off the festivities on the 4th. (Side note: I attended the gala dinner for the Grand Prix last month. Dinner consisted of five courses of award-winning cheese, and nothing but. I almost died — and went to heaven.)

The first day of the Great Canadian Cheese Festival caps off with the Cooks & Curds Cheese Gala, where a stellar lineup of chefs will be cooking with Canadian artisan cheeses on their tasting plates, to be paired with Canadian wine, craft beer and cider. Participating chefs include Jamie Kennedy, Jamie Kennedy Kitchens, Toronto; Anthony Rose, Drake Hotel, Toronto; Michael Blackie, National Arts Centre, Ottawa; Michael Howell, Tempest, Wolfville, Nova Scotia; Craig Flinn, Chives Canadian Bistro, Halifax; and Andreas Feller of Blumen Garden Bistro, Picton, Ontario. (Side note #2: Over the years I have eaten food from every one of these chefs, and every one is a winner. And, I can almost guarantee at least one of them will be making gourmet poutine (hint, hint).

Finally, for those interested in witnessing the cheesemaking process first hand, cheese-plant tours will be offered to nearby Black River Cheese and the awesome LEED-certified Fifth Town Artisan Cheese, with stops at cow and goat dairy farms, on Friday, June 3rd.

All in all, it sounds like a grand old cheesy good time.

Tickets to the Festival are sold only online at Cheesefestival.ca.
June 4-5, 2011
(866) 865-2628

Now that I've whet your appetite, try one of these delicious cheese recipes.

Photo credits:
1-6. Amy Rosen

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