Food Musings

A Winnipeg blog about the joy of preparing food for loved ones and the shared joy that travel & dining brings to life.

2015 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix



Recently, I was honoured to once again be the food-stylist for the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix media tour, having done so two years ago with Chef Michael Howell. This year the country was divided into east and west with Chef Howell touring the east and Chef Julian Bond, the west. I was fascinated by the cheese knowledge and passion of Chef Howell and equally so of Chef Bond. In particular Chef Bond offered me some personal cheese tasting tips.


A gentleman who studied in Switzerland produced this Swiss mountain-style cheese (think Heidi and her Grandfather) from Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese. I do not typically consume cheese rinds but when I saw that this was a washed-rind cheese style, I included the attached rind with my nibble and greatly enjoyed it.”Handek” is aged 16 months and I thought I could detect a nutty aroma. Its complex flavours were enhanced by a dried apricot and pecan.


To the west, two Alberta cheeses were given the nod: a Gouda from Sylvan Star Cheese


and a Feta from Tiras Dairies. The latter was a particular favourite because it sliced so easily without crumbling.  I imagined it between wedges of watermelon for a summer time salad.


Further west, British Columbia had four cheese in the top eleven, tying with the province of Quebec. Farm House Natural Cheeses produced a traditional clothbound cheddar. As a part of the process, lard was smeared over the cloth to protect the cheese and also produced deep earthy flavours.


One of two cheese makers with winners in the top eleven, The Farm House Natural Cheeses also furnished a winning “Firm Cheese”.  I could detect grassy notes with this taste and then read that the cheese makers only use “summer” milk when the cows graze in green pastures.


I was foolishly trying to detect “cherriness” in the Cherry Bocconcini from BC’s Natural Pastures Cheese Company which won in the Fresh Pasta Filata category. Research indicated that it is so called because of its cherry “shape”.  I would definitely recommend this unripened cheese the next time you decide to make a Caprese salad.

I love buttery cheeses like the Comox Brie (from the same cheesemaker as the bocconcini) which took the “Soft Cheese with Bloomy Rind” top spot. I would love to serve it at an upcoming dinner party when I would bake it with some maple syrup, pecans and dried blueberries.

I was not surprised that Quebec held a prominent role in the ribbon taking. Chef Bond explained that Quebec is a popular destination for immigrants from Europe who brought their cheese-making skills with them from their native countries and that cheese artistry is ingrained in the French heritage.


When I was in my early twenties and just discovering diverse food pairings, I was served a semi-soft cheese with raspberries and cracked peppercorns. I will never forget that taste and peppery cheese paired with fruit or a fine Riesling has always been a fav of mine. The Pepper Raclette from Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser that won out in the “Flavoured Cheese with Added Particulate Solid” brought that old memory, vividly back to me. Raclettes are typically served melted but for my enjoyment, it was absolutely perfect at room temperature.


Typically shying away from blue cheese, Chef Bond suggested that I try a smear of the winning Le Bleu d’Elizabeth (which I am quite sure won in this category two years ago), with a drizzle of honey. Sure enough, the sweetness offset the salty pungency and I declare: “I am a blue cheese lover!”


Fromagerie La Station, also from Quebec, produced the winner for “Washed or Mixed Rind Firm Cheese”. Aged a full 18 months on wooden boards, the Alfred Le Fermier cheese retains a nutty flavour and woodsy aroma from the wood itself, I would guess.


Now for the Grand Champion, drum roll please……Laliberte from Fomagerie du Presbytere, the same cheese makers as my newly loved blue cheese! I went back again and again to smear the triple cream cheese on a piece of baguette, pita, a cracker, anything I could get my hands on! Tasting like a thick and creamy mushroom soup, I could absolutely see why it took top prize.

The same day as accompanying The Canadian Cheese Grand Prix winners and Chef Julian Bond on the Winnipeg Media Tour, I joined 20 farm-lovin foodies from various places across Canada for Canola Connect City Camp 2015!   On our last evening together, after eating the most exquisite food all weekend long, I had D drop off my special cache of cheese provided by the client. Spread out on the dining room table of the hospitality suite, no one was willing to sit on the comfortable couches of the living room. Everyone was clustered around that table, taking cheese nibbles, comparing and contrasting tastes and impressions. Consistent with the distinguished judging panel, the campers agreed with unbounded enthusiasm that the Laliberte was indeed the crowd favourite. In particular, the co-host of Winnipeg’s most popular morning show 103.1 Virgin Radio’s  Chrissy Troy and Toronto’s TV & radio host Pay Chen, oohed and aahed, tasted a scoop, oohed and aahed again before taking another taste. My observation was that they were in cheese heaven!

Unfortunately, the award winning cheese makers at Manitoba’s own Bothwell Cheese, finalized but did not win a cheese category this year.

Kath’s quote: “I like cheese instead of dessert-maybe with a little candy at the very end. I love cheese and fruit. Or cheese and salad. Or cheese by itself with a few nuts and dried fruits. But I really like cheese.” –Alice Waters


Live simply, laugh often, love deeply.




Noodles in Grand Forks, ND


Duh-I learned the difference between noodles and pasta this weekend. Noodles are cut and pasta is extruded. I saw both demonstrated at the CIGI (the Canadian International Grains Institute).

The weekend prior, D had been a real trouper as I had spent the morning shopping at my favourite store : Gordman’s in Grand Forks, ND. I thought it only fair that he choose where we would go for lunch before we headed north on I29 and home to Winnipeg. I expected another place where the emphasis was on the libations served not necessarily the food. This is because he had not brought his glasses or an extra pair of contacts with us and he couldn’t drive. To be able to indulge in a couple of brewskies on a Saturday afternoon and not worry about the highway drive was an unexpected opportunity for him. He decided instead to go for the food and let the craft beer sampling await another time away.

He had hoped that NOODLES & Company was not a chain. He hadn’t remembered that we had visited Noodles in the Mall of America with the family, whilst in Minneapolis.  Indeed, we had pretty low expectations when we pulled up. Turns out, we were absolutely delighted by our bowls full of noodles.


D decided upon the Japanese Pan Noodles with a grilled chicken breast. I also chose a chicken breast, but mine was the Indonesian Peanut Sauté. His bowl was full of caramelized udon noodles in a sweet soy sauce. Mine was a rice noodle stir fry in a spicy peanut sauce. Both had broccoli, carrots, Asian sprouts and cilantro.


Mine came with more crushed peanuts and a wedge of lime.

Technically from what I learned at CIGI, “Noodles” should be called “Not Just Noodles” since it serves a wide variety of pasta as well.

Lunch turned out to be a refreshing change from typically fast food. Now, if only we could get Noodles to come to Winnipeg….

Noodles & Company on Urbanspoon

Kath’s (random) quote: “Mr. Jesmond made a peculiar noise rather like a hen who has decided to lay an egg and then thought better of it.”-Agatha Christie


Live simply, laugh often, love deeply.

JL Beers, Grand Forks, North Dakota


There was a time when D and I would anticipate going away for a weekend and I would have done all my research on the best restaurants that we would try out. Those times have changed, now that D’s mission whenever we are away, is to find the best selection of craft beer in our destinations. D had been dreaming about a burger from JL Beers on the two and a half hour drive from Winnipeg. He and J1 had visited a number of years ago in Fargo and he remembered every single detail of the food menu.



It was impossible for him to remember the beer menu as there were over 40 taps and shelves and shelves of bottled selections.


In order to entice me to join him, D promised that there would also be wine on hand. When we plunked at a couple of the bar stools and asked the bar keep, this was not the case. Instead, he recommended a cider and a Faro from Belgium. He also provided me with tastes of both. Without hesitation I choose the Faro and then read this from their menu as I had my first sips: “A version of Belgium’s “wild fermented” wheat beer, which is the result of blending Lambic of “one summer” with an old Lambic and finished with candy sugar.” Huh? The bevvie by Lindeman’s was refreshing and delicious and was served up in a skinny version of a pilsner glass.


But to the food! I chose the Monumental Burger which was a teriyaki burger with sautéed mushrooms and melted Swiss cheese. It was accompanied by fresh cut fries. The bun had been butter-brushed before it was placed on the grill. How did I know? The entire cooking line takes place behind the bar so that you can see you beer being pulled from the tap at the same time that you can see your burger being formed and fries being cut from a big fresh potato. I was amazed at how quickly the process was completed. This was a speedy supper so I guess that it was technically “fast food” but it tasted like anything but. The burger was soft and tender and packed with flavour. The fries although a little bit too salty for my palette, were greaseless and piping hot.


D selected the Humpty Dumpty Burger, so dubbed because of the fried egg perched on top of the burger. He also decided on the addition of thick cut bacon, so it was like eating a combination of a burger and a breakfast sandwich all at the same time.  He opted for the chips and then agreed to let me have a taste, knowing that they would have been my preference. Lightly salted, folded and browned, they were irresistible.


In the meanwhile D enjoyed his “Hunny Do” and a “Best of the Midwest” beer flight which he very much enjoyed. D loved his burger so much that he ordered a Columbia Burger to go!

JL Beers on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “Why beer is better than wine: “….human feet are conspicuously absent from beer making.”-Steve Mirsky

beer heart.jpg

Live simply, laugh often, love deeply.


A Cottage by the Sea, Part Three


The previous time I visited Nance at her cottage by the sea, she had two living rooms. Since then she has converted one of them into her dining room and it is my favourite room in her house.




This is THE room! The antique dining room furniture is exquisite in this setting with all the natural light from windows and a skylight.


Looking back to the kitchen and through to the living room.



The details of the house are what speak to me, like the mantle and the piano windows.



the sideboard,


the corner hutch,



and a cozy chair by the fireplace to read on a rainy afternoon.

The stunning room is accented in red during the fall and winter months and turquoise in the spring and summer ones. Nance suggests that I house sit in Crescent Beach next winter where I would get to spend more time with her and get a further glimpse into her lovely life.

Kath’s quote: It is good people who make good places.”  Anna Sewell, Black Beauty


Live simply, laugh often, love deeply.



A Cottage by the Sea, Part Two




From the moment you walk into the little vestibule at Nance’s home, you know that you are in a special place.






On this morning, I was awake early and loved spending some cozy time alone in her living room.


Her attention to detail is exacting and exquisite at the same time.




The living room opens right up to the kitchen and by this time, D was up and making coffee.



Even the bathroom was themed and inviting.


From the outside looking in, as well.


Nance gave up her bedroom for D and I and slept here in her guest cottage.

I have skipped over one room entirely, saving the pictorial tour of my favourite room for another day.

Kath’s quote: Her life was a scattering of small moments, bits of meaningful conversations, and bright dashes of beauty where least expected.” 
 Robin Jones Gunn, Cottage by the Sea


Live simply, laugh often, love deeply.

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