The sixth annual event is Canada’s largest celebration of all things cheese – and everything it pairs with – with more than 130 vendors and exhibitors offering sheep, goat and water buffalo milk cheeses, wine, cider, beer, sauces, honey, ice cream, ferments, sausages, shortbreads, preserves and more.
Award-winners from the Canadian Cheese Awards, held earlier this year in Montreal, were also at the show including Cows Creamery from Prince Edward Island.
Cheesemaker Armand Bernard had to hide away some of his Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar – voted Canada’s Cheese of 2016 – to have enough for Sunday’s visitors to sample.
“Yesterday we sold out, so we sent an SOS to our dealer in Toronto who had some stock so he brought it in, and we sold out again. We kept a few pieces aside for people to sample today,” said Bernard. “So, the trip has been an overwhelming success. We’re thrilled with the acceptance and the hospitality from people, the volunteers and organizers who put this together. It’s all been fantastic.”
The cheese has been available through distributors, at previous events, but this was the company’s first attendace, Bernard said, partly due to its awards this year – also winning the 2016 Canadian Cheese Award for Canada’s Best Aged Cheddar.
Another first-time visitor was Kim Peters, of Thornloe Cheese, in northern Ontario.
“It was a six hour drive to get here, but it’s been a real hit,” said Peters, serving up cheese curd cones topped with fresh strawberries.
Cindy Whitelock, of Waupoos Estates Winery, says she’s never seen the event so busy over the five years she has attended and noted she had been meeting people from all over – including vacationers from Pennsylvania who are making plans to return.
Alan Fox and Kathy Lynch arrived on a charter bus from Toronto and although it’s their first trip to the Cheese Festival, it was a return to the County for Kathy, who vacationed here some 40 years ago.
“I always wanted to come back and now I want to come for a weekend. This has been an awesome event and we will definitely be back next year. I have a store of cheese so far. I love wine and cheese. I tasted one wine and I was licking the glass at the end.”
Eighty-pounds of artisan cheese was good to the last melted drop as two professional chefs and two home cooks raced against the clock to grill 250 artisan cheese sandwiches for 1,000 visitors who lined up for a free treat.
Last year’s winner Chef Lili Sullivan prepared a special gluten-free sandwich for a guest, then proceeded to beat her time from last year, but Chef Derek MacGregor of Seed to Sausage was the eventual winner clocking 29 minutes and 48 seconds to cook 250 sandwiches. Home cooks were Art Hewer of the Wellington and District Lions Club and Rob Leek, of Picton Rotary.
Meanwhile, the floor of the arena was the scene of the Road to the Royal Chef Challenge where three County chefs worked in two rounds of 30 minutes to create an entree and dessert using secret ingredients provided to them at the beginning of the competition.
The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, Egg Farmers of Ontario selected The Great Canadian Cheese Festival to host its first in series of competitions to be held across Ontario.
Chef Amanda Nichol’s cheddar dauphinois, grilled asparagus, seared ribs with a farm fresh egg; followed by a baked apple tart with cheddar, ice cream and cider citurs glaze won the judges over. She will be invited to a semi final at The Royal winter fair in November.
Chef Elliot Reynolds presented a duck confit with poached egg, asparagus, gnudi dumpling with cheddar followed by a chocolate cheddar sponge cake with brown butter crumb and stewed cider rhubarb.
Chef Matthew DeMille served up a surf and turf tenderloin and lake trout with pea and asparagus maple hollandaise followed by a lemon cookie on a bed of honey and cheddar ricotta with cider poached pears.
Erin Potvin and Julie Hamel came in from Kingston to enjoy the festival.
“We love wine and we love cheese. They’re a good match so this is perfect for us.”
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