Tuesday, May 8, 2012
Reminiscing The Great Canadian Cheese Festival Year One
The hardest part about planning a trip to Prince Edward County for a weekend is figuring out what to do. And not because choices are limited, but because there are too many. As the Great Canadian Cheese Festival approaches its second year, memories of our 2011 visit are stirring.
We chose to stay at the Hayes Inn, a short drive from Picton's downtown, in the hamlet of Waupoos. The idyllic country setting was a quiet getaway from the busy crowds of a very successful event. We enjoyed more than ample breakfasts and restful sleeps in a well appointed suite.
There were a number of festival events throughout the weekend, we participated in the cheese tour and the gala.
The Cheese Tour was held from 10 am to 4:00 pm on the Friday. The two well-known cheese dairies included on the tour were:
The Black River Cheese Company, who also celebrated their 110th anniversary that weekend.
Fifth Town Artisan Cheese Co. The LEED certified factory had just been open for a little more than 3 years at that time.
In fact, the two cheese companies shared a joint venture. Cheddar cheese made at Black River with goat cheese supplied from Fifth Town.
[Although Fifth Town has currently halted production and is undergoing financial restructuring, they will still remain on this year's tour as long as their retail store remains open.]
We enjoyed our mid-tour box lunch on the grounds at Vicki's Veggies. Vicki Emlaw is well known for her heirloom tomato seedlings and also her bountiful produce sold to local chefs and into the markets in Toronto. Our box lunch was provided by East and Main Bistro in Wellington. I did manage a sit-in visit at the bistro a few months later.
A cheese tour isn't complete without a look at where it all starts. Maypul Layn Farms, owned by Martin and Angela Miller, provides their milk to Black River Cheese Company from their 60+ milking cows. Imagine my delight to find out their hired hand is the son of a friend from my high school days!
Also on the tour was the County Cider Company. Besides sampling their award-winning products, their property affords you a breathtaking view of Lake Ontario from their hilltop setting.
The Saturday evening was the 'main event'. The Cooks & Curds Cheese Gala showcased the talents of 8 of the country's top chefs, well known in their regions. Each of the dishes featured a Canadian Cheese Grand Prix Winner. We were feeling the hometown pride when Chef Michael Blackie of Ottawa's National Art Centre took home the People's Choice Award. Read more about our wine-matched moveable feast.
Here is a peek at the chef line-up for this year's gala.
Despite the many food attractions at the festival itself, we still took in a few of the local eateries.
Blumen Garden Bistro on the edge of town, Picton.
Pulled braised rabbit over house-made gnocchi with leeks, mushrooms, lardons and Parmesan cheese
Angeline's in Bloomfield.
John's Rabbit with Roasted Loin and Rack, Sage Flower Spaetzle and Mustard Sauce
Buddha Dog in Picton.
We even found room for a lick of ice cream at Slickers in Bloomfield.
It is hard to visit the County without visiting a winery or two. We made our way to three but touring the wineries could easily be a whole separate trip.
Before we left town, we headed back to see Vicki Emlaw to pick up a few young tomato plants. Although her May long weekend seedling sale wiped out the best selection, I was still happy with my choices, as the summer's harvest revealed month's later. [I just want to give a shout out to Yellow Perfection.]
Are you contemplating the 2nd annual Great Canadian Cheese Festival? If the first annual is any indication, you are bound to have a fabulous time. It was extremely well organized and had a strong contingent of dedicated volunteers. A hat tip to Georgs Kolesnikovs and his team.
The Great Canadian Cheese Festival is taking place June 1 - 3 at the Crystal Place in Picton, Ontario, Prince Edward County. Check out their website for program details and to purchase your tickets. In addition to the Cheese Tour and the Gala, they also have a Cooking Class, Tutored Tastings and an Artisan Cheese and Fine Food Fair. Some events are already sold out. As well, don't be shy to explore the County beyond Picton. Being a wee island, everything is within easy driving distance.