In 2013, the jury’s choice for the Canadian Cheese Grandprix winner sent shockwaves through the awards gala room and, let’s face it, created such dissatisfaction that a few disgruntled cheesemakers left the room in a hurry. That a fresh ricotta, however exquisite but needing only 6 hours to produce, could beat to the punch “fine” cheeses —aged and coddled sometimes for years— bordered on heresy for many. I remember how chef Danny St Pierre, called upon to justify the jury’s selection, had to explain how the ricotta Bella Casara from Ontario’s Quality Cheeses had proven too seductive, especially in cooking. I’m told however that the deliberations were quite arduous and the vote far from unanimous.
By contrast, the 2015 Grand Prize winner, the Laliberté from Fromagerie du Presbytère, rallied both the jury and the Montreal media present at the unveiling at Pastaga Restaurant, hosted by executive chef and jury member Martin Juneau.
The triple crème with bloomy rind from the Sainte-Élizabeth-de-Warwick cheese maker, was named in honour of sculptor Alfred Laliberté born in the same village, and required one and a half year to develop. Without contest, it reigned supreme above the excellent cheeses of the 2015 round of champions. In all, a record number of 268 cheeses were submitted. Remember that only cow milk cheeses may enter the Grand Prix, so it’s normal if you don’t find your favourite goat cheese in the lot…
A great big tip of the hat then to Fromagerie du Presbytère, which also “placed” two more cheeses in top categories, namely the Bleu d’Élizabeth and the Louis d’Or, the overall 2011 Grand Prix winner. I learned during the Montreal unveiling that the cheese maker has bought a copper vat — after multiple administrative back-and-forths with the government-powers-that-be famously reluctant to approve artisan practices — and even purchased the church attached to the celebrated rectory, in David swallowing Goliath fashion.
The 2015 Edition also featured new categories devoted to Gouda cheeses, a family of cheeses gaining in popularity mostly in the Prairies with their history of Dutch immigration. That said, I wasn’t duly impressed with the offering. A 48-month Gouda imported from the Netherlands, which I bought during a recent razzia at Yannick Fromagerie in Saint-Jérôme, outshined all the ones tasted during the official Montreal presentation. Let’s call it a work in progress.
Here are in quick succession my personal favourites, beyond the cheeses from Fromagerie du Presbytère and La Station which I buy year round. A full list of 2015 winners follows. Congratulations to all the cheese makers and special kudos to Quebec for walking away once again with the lion’s share of 13 out of 27 awards. Quite a bounty that honours our inspired—and inspiring—local cheese makers.
Here they are, the 2015 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix winners. Discoveries ahead!
For more information about each winning cheese, you can also visit the official website here.
Fresh Cheese: Ricotta Bella Casara, Quality Cheese Inc., ON
Fresh Pasta Filata: Cherry Bocconcini, Natural Pastures Cheese Company, BC
Fresh Cheese with Grilling Properties: Le Paillasson de l’isle d’Orléans, Les Fromages de l’isle d’Orléans, QC
Soft Cheese with Bloomy Rind: Comox Brie, Natural Pastures Cheese Company, BC
Cream-Enriched Soft Cheese with Bloomy Rind: Laliberté, Fromagerie du Presbytère, QC
Semi-Soft Cheese: Fleur de Weedon, Fromagerie P’tit Plaisir, QC
Washed- or Mixed-Rind Soft Cheese: L’Origine de Charlevoix, Laiterie Charlevoix Inc., QC
Washed- or Mixed-Rind Semi-Soft Cheese: Raclette, Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser Inc., QC
Washed- or Mixed-Rind Firm Cheese: Alfred Le Fermier 18 months, Fromagerie La Station, QC
Firm Cheese (except Cheddar and Gouda): Heidi, The Farm House Natural Cheeses, BC
Swiss-Type Cheese: Louis d’Or, Fromagerie du Presbytère, QC
Mozzarella (Ball, Brick or Cylinder) or Pasta Filata: Oaxaca, Local Dairy Products, ON
Brine-Ripened Cheese: Feta Cheese, Tiras Dairies Inc., AB
Gouda (Aged 1 to 6 months): Gouda Medium, Sylvan Star Cheese Ltd., AB
Aged Gouda: Gouda Aged, Sylvan Star Cheese Ltd., AB
Extra Aged Gouda: Mountainoak Farmstead Premium Dutch Gold, Mountainoak Cheese Ltd., ON
Blue Cheese: Le Bleu d’Élizabeth, Fromagerie du Presbytère, QC
Flavoured Cheese with Added Non-Particulate Flavouring (except smoked cheese): Griffon Raclette, Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser Inc., QC
Smoked Cheese: Gouda Smoked Natural Cheese, Sylvan Star Cheese Ltd., AB
Flavoured Cheese with Added Particulate Solids and Flavouring: Pepper Raclette, Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser Inc., QC
Mild Cheddar (Aged 3 Months): L’Ancêtre Organic Mild Cheddar, Fromagerie L’Ancêtre Inc., QC
Medium Cheddar (Aged 4 to 9 Months): L’Ancêtre Organic Medium Cheddar, Fromagerie L’Ancêtre Inc., QC
Old Cheddar (Aged from 9 Months to a Year): Traditional Clothbound Cheddar (9 to 12 months), The Farm House Natural Cheeses, BC
Aged Cheddar (1 to 3 Years): Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar, Cows Creamery, PE
Aged Cheddar (More than 3 Years): Extra OLD CHEDDAR 5 YEARS, St-Albert Cheese Cooperative Inc., ON
Farmhouse Cheese: Handeck, Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese Ltd., ON
Organic Cheese: Alfred Le Fermier 18 months, Fromagerie La Station, QC