Say Cheese!

Every day my inbox lights up with invites to product launches, wine tastings, restaurant openings and gourmet food events. (I know: #foodeditorproblems.) I have to turn down the majority of them otherwise I’d never get any work done and I’d weigh 300 pounds. But when I was recently asked to attend a lunch hosted by the Dairy Farmers of Canada, I only got halfway through the subject line of “Canadian Cheese Grand Prix…” before replying “SOLD!”

The event in question was a special media tasting of all the winners of the recent 2013 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix, which selected the very best Canadian cheeses from a whopping 225 entries.

Sampling the crème de la crème at a table of fellow food scribes, it was a very civilized way to spend the lunch hour. From the 17 category winners, here are my three favourites.

1. Grizzly Gouda, Sylvan Star Cheese Ltd.

Winner of both the Gouda and Farmhouse Cheese categories, this 1-year-old wheel from Red Deer, Alberta reminds me of Parmigiano-Reggiano. (See #2 in the above photo.) It’s very firm with a deep nutty, caramel flavour and loaded with so much umami it sends your tongue into overdrive.

2. 5-Year Age Cheddar, The Black River Cheese Company Ltd.

This orange cheddar from Prince Edward County, Ontario took the Aged Cheddar (more than 3 years) category. It’s sharp and crumbly, yet super creamy on the palate. This bad boy would make a seriously delicious grilled cheese sandwich or melt into a magnificent mac and cheese.

3. Ricotta, Quality Cheese Inc.

This creamy ricotta made headlines when it took the Grand Champion category, an honour never bestowed upon a fresh cheese. Made in Vaughan, Ontario, it shows off the purity and freshness of the milk. While you can eat it straight from the tub by the spoonful, it’s terrific smeared onto sourdough toasts and topped with truffle oil, honey and cracked pepper.

Watch a video of Lynda Reeves and I making our own versions of mac and cheese.

Photo credit:
1. Eric Vellend