A French-Canadian Cheese Plate Showcasing the Fine Cheeses of Quebec

January 14, 2011

This past August (2010) The Lady, The Man and I took our well-documented road trip to Seattle for the 2010 American Cheese Society Conference held at the Downtown Seattle “No Pets” Sheraton.

While The Lady attended the festivities, The Man and I hung out at our Cheese Bunker located somewhere in the suburbs where pets were welcome. Unfortunately, we chose a motel in the same neighborhood where a dog show was also being staged. In addition to being banned from attending the ACS because of the Sheraton “No Pets” rule, your humble Feline Foodie was forced to endure the cacophony of hundreds of dogs who all had inflated egos… after all… they were “Show Dogs”… This may seem minor to humankinds, but dogs smell, well, like dogs and to the felines of the world, that smell signals trouble with a capital T which rhymes with C and stands for Canines…

My first clue that travail was afoot came when the room next to us became occupied…yep… with dogs… and I mean lots of dogs… I was napping when I heard a burst of activity next door. Then I heard sniffing at the communal door between the two rooms… at first I ignored the sniffing, but it became louder as more and more dogs joined the chorus… no doubt, they had caught my scent and were clearly curious. Finally I could stand it no longer and wandered over to the door and took a whiff myself… the scent almost knocked me over… there is nothing sadder than dogs who have been pampered with sprays and powders to make them smell like a bunch of doggie pussies…

To make matters worse, when I decided to lay up against the door, to annoy the yappers their scent took on fear as well as peaches and wet, doggie fur… sheesh… isn’t it a requirement that “show” dogs still have their balls??? As I would later discover there were eight of them next door and yet, they were afraid of one little feline lying by “their” door…

But I digress… seriously digress and I extend my most sincere apologies to the cheesemakers and the cheeses we are about to review…

On Friday of the conference, the Foods of Quebec sponsored the last luncheon. The 2011 ACS will be held in Montreal and it was a chance for the French Canadians to showcases the foods and cheeses of Quebec. As I was not able to attend, the following reviews are those of The Lady.

The menu was developed by Chef Paul Little of the Westin Hotel Montreal. (Although the Montreal Ritz-Carlton claims he has been their Executive Chef since 2000.)

The luncheon began with Smoked Trout and Salmon Tartar with Dill Crème Fraiche. This was served with freshly baked artisan breads and Sweet Cream Butter. The entrée was seared Lake Brome Duck with apple/cranberry chutney. The duck was served with a mulled port wine reduction on couscous and mini market-fresh vegetables. The Lady said the duck was divine… had I been consulted by Chef Little, I would have suggested that the duck be part of a Quebec Mixed Grill to also include Coccothraustes vespertinus and Rangifer tarandus.

After the entrée, the Quebec Cheese plate was served, accompanied by Neige Apple Ice Wine, a dessert wine that The Lady loved. She will review it at a later date.

From Fromagerie Tournevant, the first cheese on the plate was Chevre Noir, award-winning goat cheddar that derives its name from the black wax that protects the starkly-white cheese. This sharp and slightly herbal cheese was a terrific start for the plate.

Next on the plate was a Sheeps’ Milk Blue Cheese from Fromagerie La Moutonniere located in Ste-Helene de Chester, Quebec. The rind is craggy and definitely rustic and the cheese inside is buttery and mellow. Not only a gorgeous cheese, but one that delights the palate. The cheese has an earthy pungency; the paste is slightly yellow and the veining is more green than blue. The flavor is big, bold but not sharp. It’s more complex than over-powering. Another terrific cheese from Quebec. This cheese took home a 1st Place in its Class at the 2010 American Cheese Society Awards.

The third cheese on the plate was a Swiss-style cheese, Frere Jacques from Abbaye St. Benoit du Lac. This cheese has large eyes, is a mature, hard cheese that is halfway between Jarlsberg and Emmenthaler in taste intensity. The Lady liked this cheese and called it “Kid-Friendly”. This cheese took home 2nd Place in Class at the 2010 American Cheese Awards.

The fourth cheese was Le Guillaume Tell, Brie from Fromagerie de Domaine Feodal. This cheese is washed with ice cider and tastes like cream and fermented apples. The aroma is a combination of mushrooms and apples. It melted on The Lady’s palate; she was in heaven. This cheese took home a 3rd Place Award in its Class at the 2010 American Cheese Society Awards.

The last cheese on the Quebec Cheese Plate was from Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser, Tomme du Haut Richelieu, a goats’ milk cheese that was created out of necessity. The cheesemaker had more goat milk than needed to make its Chevrochon and opted to make a longer-shelf life cheese. Tomme du Haut Richelieu has a thin washed-rind in shades of pale orange, covered with a thin white mould. The paste is beige at the rind and fades into a creamy white at the center. It smells like wet earth and grass after a spring rain. The rind has a mineral taste and the paste has a nice, tangy goat taste without that bucky-aftertaste that sometimes comes with aged goat cheese (such as that dreadful English hard goat cheddar that I soooo dislike…)

But that was not the end of the cheese course… in the center of the table was the 2009 Best Cheese in the World as declared at the 2009 World Cheese Awards: Le Cendrillon produced in Quebec by La Maison Alexis de Portneuf. This is a goats’ milk cheese covered in vegetable ash and surface-ripened with a slightly sour taste, again with just a nudge of goat tang. The cheese comes in a small log shape and the table shared this treasure.

The Lady gives the French-Canadian Cheese Plate 4 Paws out of 4 Paws (cause that’s all I’ve got to share with her).

After the cheese plate, a pear and maple tart was served with Sortilege English Cream. You can never go wrong with pear and maple…

The Lady hopes to attend the 2011 American Cheese Society Conference so that she can taste and enjoy more Flavors of Quebec…

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