Monday, May 9, 2011

2011 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix Gala of Champions [VLOG]

I never knew a Canadian Grand Prix of Cheese existed until I was invited to one a few weeks ago. Not only did I feel honoured to be invited, I was also extremely excited. Why? Well y'all should know by now that I absolutely adore cheese; I'm no cheese connoisseur, not even close, but I do know that I love many types of cheeses. The last time I indulged in an insane amount of cheese was during Cheese School 101 at Schoolville where I got to taste a lot of different types of cheese, courtesy of The Village Cheesemonger. This time around, I was at a Grand Prix of Cheese, so just imagine how much cheese I had that night.

Sponsored and hosted by Dairy Farmers of Canada, which represents 12,965 dairy farmers, the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix is the most prestigious cheese competition in Canada. It celebrates the high quality and proud tradition of cheesemaking in Canada. The competition is held every two years and showcases the different outstanding variety, taste and versatility of Canadian cheese that are made from 100% Canadian cow's milk (no imported dairy ingredients are permitted).

This year, the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix was held on Thursday, April 20th, at Palaise Royale; it was a classy and beautiful venue, perfect for the Gala. There were over 250 guests that night, including Dairy Farmers of Canada representatives, the competition finalists, representatives from the retail, food service, food processing, agri-food and government sectors.

There was a record number of entries this year for the competition, a total of 203 from across 6 provinces. I cannot even begin to imagine being a judge for this competition; seven judges, all top cheese experts, had to select winning cheeses in 17 different categories in two days, tasting each cheese, valuating them according to specific criteria including colour (uniformity of the rind, uniformity of the body), general appearance, texture & body (elastic, uniform, firm, semi-firm, soft, pasty, flexible, smooth, breakable, etc), compactness, flavour (neutral, acid, hazelnut, cream, fruity, sharp), and salt content, and finally, choose a Grand Champion. Not an easy task!

The Gala was hosted by Ben Mulroney and Anne-Marie Withenshaw.

Me and my vlog buddy Nicki of View the Vibe. We were seated at a table with other fellow food bloggers.

As guests, we had the opportunity to taste the delicious winning cheeses from each of the 18 category winners along with a variety of sides. This is the first round of cheeses from the first five winners:

The second round of cheeses from the next six winners (mostly cheddar):

And finally, the third round of cheeses from the last five winners. My favourite of the night was the Le Blue d’Élizabeth from Fromagerie du Presbytère, Quebec.

The Grand Champion was announced at the end of night. Congratulations to Louis D'or from Fromagerie du Presbytère in Sainte-Élizabeth-de-Warwick, Quebec.

Louis D'or, a 40-kg wheel, not only swept the Grand Champion title, it was also the winning cheese in the Firm Cheese, the Farmhouse Cheese and the Organic Cheese category. Amazing!

Here's a great Eye on the Vibe Blog that recaps the events of the night. Enjoy! ^_^ 

(Note: you can tell how "cheese'd out" I was at the end of the video - I could only utter corny sentences like "Cheese is always good" and "The combination is good" *sigh*  how embarrassing O_o)

I'm gonna give a shout-out to all the Grand Prix Winners below.

2011 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix Winners

First Row
Fresh Cheese
All cheeses start out fresh, unripened and unfermented. The cheeses in this category are sometimes called “baby” cheeses because they have not had the time to age
WINNER: Mascarpone Tre Stelle (Arla Foods Inc., Ont.)

Soft Cheese with Bloomy Rind
Soft cheeses are cheeses that have been neither pressed nor cooked. Most are surface-ripened, which means the cheese is aged starting from the outside toward the centre.
WINNER: Island Bries (Little Qualicum Cheeseworks Ltd., B.C)

Semi-soft Cheese 
The semi-firm cheese category offers the greatest variety of cheeses and flavours, ranging from very mild to spicy. It is divided into three sub-categories according to the manufacturing method and aging process used: unripened (stretched curd cheese), interior-ripened, and surface-ripened (washed-rind). All cheeses in these categories are firmer and denser.
WINNER: Lankaaster Traditional Gouda (Glengarry Fine Cheese, Ont.)

Second Row
Washed-rind Cheese 
These cheeses are washed in a light brine to maintain the moisture level and elasticity of the cheese and its rind. This process also eliminates certain ferments.
WINNER: Le Mont-Jacob (Fromagerie Blackburn, Que.)

Swiss-type Cheese
Swiss-type cheeses also include Emmental and Gruyère cheeses. The addition of propionibacteria (carbon dioxide) leads to the formation of “eyes”. These openings sometimes ooze a bit of the cheese’s oils, which is a sure sign of freshness.
WINNER: Fromage Suisse Lemaire (Fromagerie Lemaire, Que.)

Mozzarella is a semi-firm, unripened cheese. The milk curds used to make the cheese are plunged into vats of hot water, cut, and stretched before being moulded or shaped. In fact, tearing cheese (‘’mozzare’’ in Italian) is what gives the most famous of the stretched curd cheeses its name, Mozzarella.
WINNER: Bocconcini Santa Lucia (International Cheese Co. Ltd, Ont.)

Blue Cheese (All veined cheese)
Long needles are used to inoculate these so-called marbled cheeses with mould spores such as Penecillium roqueforti or P. gorgonzola. These cheeses are neither cooked nor pressed.
WINNER: Le Blue d’Élizabeth (Fromagerie du Presbytère, Que.)

First Row
Flavoured Cheese with added non-particulate flavouring
These cheeses diversify the product range, offering flavoured versions of great classics, such as smoked Gouda.
WINNER: Naturally Smoked Boerenkaas (Natural Pastures Cheese Company, B.C.)

Flavoured Cheese with Added Particulate Solids and Flavouring
Garlic, onion, and fine herbs are now used in certain cheeses, creating a variety of flavours.
WINNER: Gouda Herbs and Garlic (Sylvan Star Cheese Ltd., Alta.)

Mild Cheddar (Aged 3 months)
Cheddar is without a doubt the most well-known firm cheese in Canada.  Mild Cheddar, the youngest member of the family, has a ripening period of three months.
WINNER: Mild Cheddar (The Black RIver Cheese Company Ltd., Ont.)

Second Row
Medium Cheddar (Aged 4 to 9 months)
To be classified as medium, this firm cheese is aged four to nine months.
WINNER: Cheddar moyen Biologique (Fromagerie L’Ancêtre Inc., Que.)

Old and Extra Old Cheddar (Aged 9 to 12 months)
To be classified as Old and Extra Old Cheddar, the cheese ripened anywhere from nine months to 12 months.
WINNER: Le Jersy du Fjord (Bergeries du Fjord, Que.)

Aged Cheddar (1 to 3 years)
WINNER: Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar (Cows Creamery, P.E.I.)

Aged Cheddar (4 years)
WINNER: Cheddar Doyen 4 ans (Fromagerie Perron, Que.)