Best Cheese, in Canada
You may all know this already, but Best of Show at 2011 ACS in Montreal went to Oregon’s Rogue Creamery for Rogue River Blue (www.roguecreamery.com) the 2nd time they’ve taken the blue ribbon home! Second place was shared by Ontario’s Finica Food for their Lindsay Bandaged Cheddar (www.mariposadairy.ca), and perennial winner from Wisconsin, Carr Valley, for Cave Aged Marisa (www.carvalleycheese.com). Third place was Quebec’s Fromagerie du Presbytère for Louis d’Or (www.fromageriedupresbytere.com/. These are all seriously delicious cheeses. It rare to sample Canadian cheeses we, sadly, cannot get here in the US…and to get my hands on limited production cheeses too.
Good times in Montreal! What a great city for walking, biking, and food. Old City feels like Paris; cobblestones, and lovely old stone buildings. The Atwater and Jean-Talon markets are stuffed with plump fruit and veggies, cheeses, tempting bakeries, gargantuan local roasted nuts, and the kind of charcuterie we search high and low for in the US. The restaurants are innovative and fresh. Check out Austin’s postings on his gastronomic tour of Montreal restaurants. We were all happy to sample real poutine!
And then the show! The ACS is a time for reconnecting. Cheesemakers, mongers, chefs, distributors, and related industries are a congenial group. They share information freely, and clearly, sincerely, like each other. Many cheesemakers spend most of their time on their farms, which can be global-enterprise big or Mom and Pop, no email, small. They come from every corner of North America, and they love what they do. You can taste it in every bite of cheese (which is a lot…), and you can see it on their faces as they pack the class rooms. Even the occasional language barrier doesn’t stop them.
The names of cheeses entered represent the kind of people we’re talking about. Ontario’s Fifth Town Artisan Cheese (www.fifthtown.ca) won a 2nd place ribbon for their Fellowship. Monteforte (ONT) won a 2nd for Abondance (www.montefortedairy.com). Charmingly, Meadowood Farms of NY (www.meadowoodfarms.com) won a 3rd place for their Curds of Endearment. The announcement of Cato Corner’s (CT) (www.catocornerfarm.com) 2nd place win stopped the room for a moment; Dairyere is fun to say!
Raw milk was a big discussion, although there was no distinction made in the competition categories. The 60 day debate is heating up. Will Studds frightened and entertained with his epic battle with The Red-Tape Man in Oz for the right to import Roquefort. He won. It took a decade, but that’s just a blink of an eye in buracracy-land. The US and Canada have their own skirmishes going with their regulators, but the discussion is happening, it seems, at the right levels. There were US and Canadian FDA representatives talking turkey on a panel.
For me, however, the best of the show is the excitement of winners. Point Reyes (www.pointreyescheese.com) won their first EVER ribbon; 1st prize in category for Toma. Jill and Lynn whooped, and cheesemaker Kuba Hemmerling looked like his grin would split his face. Tim and Pat from Utah’s Beehive Cheese (www.beehivecheese.com) were smiling like the cat that ate the canary in their 3 ribbon fetching trips. Marieke Penterman reminded me how to enjoy a moment by shimmying and shaking, on camera, as she claimed her many ribbons (www.hollandsfamilycheese.com). And brand new to the ACS, Mark from Larks Meadow (www.larksmeadowfarms.com) out of Idaho was shaking while his phone beeped and rang and buzzed.
I love what they do, which is why I love what I do.