The second seminar in our ongoing Taste Talks series focused on Quebec artisan cheeses, and we were very lucky to have expert Lise Morissette from Plaisirs Gourmet lead our two sessions.
Lise greeting attendees from Oudekirk & Taylor of Guelph and from The Great Canadian Cheese Festival.
We were lucky enough to have nine of the best Quebec cheeses available here in Ontario. Differing somewhat in style from our European seminar, all were treated to wonderful anecdotes and personal stories of the creation of many of these cheeses. Plaisirs Gourmets have been on the forefront of the Quebec artisan cheese movement for many years, and were actually instrumental in helping to create some of the cheeses we enjoy today.
Big, beautiful Petits-Vieux… note the visibly delicious curd structure!
A new arrival to our warehouse was the Petits-Vieux from Fromagerie Medard. A firm, brushed rind cheese that has a nose heavy with mineral notes and engaging mustiness, a hallmark of actually being aged in a stone cellar. With a texture reminiscent of the large traditional cheese of the Auvergne region in France, Cantal, its flavour is like a fine, mildy piquant cheddar blended with cultured butter.
While both of the below blue cheeses; Rassembleu & Fleuron, hail from the Laurentides north of Montreal, the pale ivory Tomme des Demoiselles in the back has a slightly longer journey to your table. Made from the milk of a single herd of vache Canadienne in the Madeleine Islands by Fromagerie du Pied-de-Vent, this cheese would require a five hour ferry, and then a twenty-ish hour drive to Quebec City…. Fortunately, it arrives by boat and gets to skip the whole Nova Scotia-New Brunswick-Gaspe Peninsula road trip we would have to endure.
Three more ready to be presented… Fleuron, Rassembleu, & Tommes des Demoiselles.
I would be quite remiss not to discuss Fleuron, the simply wonderful blue pictured above. I have a special place in my heart, as it is my favourite Quebec blue cheese. Using their own certified organic milk, it is one of only four cheeses made by the Alary family at Les Fromageries de la Table Ronde. Soft, creamy, and with subtle blue veining, Fleuron has a complexity not often rivaled. It has a grassy bitterness similar to that of the highest quality Spanish olive oils, and a salinity that reminds one of the ocean… so one could easily be forgiven for wanting to melt a wedge into a bowl of new crop baby potatoes…and then having a long nap.
The plates of our labours.
The full list of cheeses from the tasting plate above are as follows: Rang des Iles, 14 Arpents, Belle-Mere, Petits-Vieux, Tomme des Demoiselles, Menestrel, Zacharie Cloutier, Rassembleu, & Fleuron. As a nice treat to end the tasting, we were all given a healthy chunk of Riopelle d’Isle, the venerable stalwart of Quebec artisan cheese.
Lise getting into high gear, describing the cheese making process of 14 Arpents & Rang des Iles.
The milk for the cheeses of Fromagerie Medard that Lise is passionately describing in the above photo come from the family farm that has been in the possession of the Medard family for five generations, since 1881. As the story goes, they acquired the 100 acres for farming from a grant from the Quebec government, giving land to families with 12 living children… TWELVE!
From left: Petit-Vieux, Belle-Mere, Rang des Iles, & 14 Arpents
Another Taste Talk in the books… I have it on good authority that the next few will feature some of our some of favourite meats… so check back for details soon!
written by Daryl in News on Sun, October 20, 2013 | Reply
There have been a spate of recent articles casting a growing spotlight on the massive problem of food waste in North America. This is in part to a somewhat radical concept being launched by Doug Rauch, the former president of massive US-based food retailer Trader Joe’s. Rauchs’ new venture, The Daily Table, is a dual purpose restaurant/retailer that will process “expired food” into nutritious consumer ready meals. The first will be in the Boston area, and will ambitiously tackle two problems at once; reducing our food waste and bringing healthful, affordable meals to some low-income urban food deserts.
A little WWI era wisdom
There have been recent studies that indicate around 90% of Americans (and probably Canadians as well) throw out perfectly good food, and a shocking 40% of food supply goes unused, primarily due to our troublesome food dating systems and consumers ‘delicate’ visual sensibilities. Somewhere around 40 MILLION tons of food gets rejected annually in North America, either in grading, production or ‘expiration’. The photo below is of Grant Baldwin, a Vancouver area filmmaker who ate only clean, wrapped, discarded food for 6 months and recorded his experiences. Their film, Just Eat It , is currently in post-production and slated for a Spring 2014 release.
Lots and lots of `bad` hummus. *Image courtesy of CBC`s The Current*
According to a recent Globe and Mail article by Sylvain Charlebois, Associate Dean at the College of Management & Economics at University of Guelph, this problem is compounded by food manufacturers using best before dating to their advantage. They are in effect, coercing distributors and retailers to manage their inventory on the manufacturers terms, sacrificing food products that are still healthy & nutritious for the sake of increased profitability and simplified production schedules.
Honey; in various states of deliciousness.
A classic example often listed is that of honey, a borderline magical elixir that never truly goes bad. The reasons are in the chemistry of honey; a pH of between 3 – 4.5 and extremely low moisture level do not allow for bacteria to develop. It may crystallize and become rock hard, but that is nothing that a little heat cannot remedy. In fact, the oldest honey ever found was in the country of Georgia, dates to about 5000 years ago, and by all accounts is still quite edible. This begs the questions, why is the honey I purchased yesterday “Best Before” May of 2015… a scant 18 months from now?
Best before? I think not…
The folks at Thrillist compiled some of the dedicated, unenviable, and massively important work being done by the food heroes at Eat By Date into a handy info-graphic… It’s good guide start to put things in your fridge to the ‘smell test’ and do your part to reduce your households food waste.
*Graphic Courtesy of Thrillist*
Now, this is not an open call for everyone to start dumpster diving and going full-bore Freegan. It is just a little nudge to think and sniff twice, and not only reduce your household waste, but also your grocery budget.
Over the past couple of weeks we have been hosting cheese focused seminars at LFBR HQ, the beginning of our larger series; Taste Talks. Our aim is to empower our customers with knowledge to pass on to theirs… and possibly eat a whole bunch of delicious cheese while we are at it!
We were extremely lucky to have two incredibly knowledgeable and passionate professionals from cheese importer Dependances lead our inaugural session. Maxime and Lucie took us under their proverbial wing and flew us all over Europe with some of the best cheeses we have ever tasted (Truffe de Champroy, we’re looking in YOUR direction).
Maxime and Lucie from Dependances taking on a grand European cheese adventure… with some layovers in California and New England…
Below are three amazing European cheeses, representing a variety of styles and milks. From the top down are: Challerhocker, a firm cow milk Swiss knockout; Corsu Vecchio, crumbling and piquant sheep milk tomme style from the island of Corisca; and finally, the aforementioned Truffe de Champroy. Words are not enough to begin to describe this cheese. Studded with brightly intense French truffles (think pepper, garlic & lemon notes, not the traditional mushroomy profile from Italian truffles), it is a large wheel of firm but yielding cow milk cheese. It may look like a simple gouda, but you have never had a cheese this complex, engaging and so thoroughly satisfying.
Encore une fois: Challerhocker, Corsu Vecchio, and Truffe de Champroy… everyone’s new cheese crush.
Another standout destination on the whirlwind tour Maxime and Lucie took us on was The Cellars at Jasper Hill, on of Americas’ premier cheese makers and affineurs. Just one of the beautiful cheeses they make is called Harbison, and you will be very pleased to meet it when you have the chance. Somewhat in the style of decadent Mont D’Or from France, Harbison is made from Ayrshire milk, wrapped in the inner cambium bark layer from Vermont spruce and is then aged for 6-8 weeks. It is creamy, supple and full of big, rich flavours… One of which reminded me of grainy dijon mustard… I don`t know how, but it sure works.
Spruce bark-wrapped Harbison…. and a camera, some pens & a smartphone…. Thisis a post-modern blog…
We continually feel extremely fortunate that we are able to work in an industry where events and experiences like this are relatively common. We are also very committed to try and bring these experiences to our equally dedicated customers and friends. Stay tuned for more updates on new Taste Talks in the pipeline, and a recap of this weeks Quebec artisan cheese session!
In closing, the below photo pretty accurately depicts our feelings after two sessions totaling four hours with Maxime and Lucie:
My unabashedly demolished European cheese plate (I actually managed to have two)
Many options are avail for your shelves and tables next week. Quail, partridge, Guinea fowl, and pheasants are an eclectic choice for small gatherings, while Cornish hen & capons can an easy & delicious substitute for a crowd tired of turkey.
Right at home in a pan.
Contact our head office at 647-352-8077 or your sales representative before Monday at 11am to get these beautiful birds in your hands before the holiday!