Very last minute, like most things in my life, we decided to visit the Great Canadian Cheese Festival in Picton, ON (http://cheesefestival.ca/). Completely worth it!
The entrance is $35 in advance, which gets you into the grounds and a cooler bag with lots of bits and pieces inside including a souvenir sampling glass and ten sampling tickets. These tickets came in very handy later in the day. More on that later.
After the drive out to Picton (about 2 1/2hrs) we finally figured out where to park and went through the gates to find a moderately sized festival. To some it may have been a little disappointing, but to us it was perfect. Each day is limited to 1200 visitors which helps keep things less crowded and you’re able to get to the different exhibitors without feeling like you’re lined up for a roller coaster in the middle of summer. A volunteer informed us of a cheese tasting seminar about to start. I wanted to just write an “imminent cheese seminar”, but I thought that was too dramatic.
We lucked out and got seats without having to wait. The seminar focused on Canadian cheddars which was perfect for us. Each guest was given a plate of different cheddars ranging in age from a few hours (the curds were made that morning) to years old. After giving a little history on each dairy and explaining each cheese we smelled, felt and tasted each piece. By the end we were feeling quite stuffed. I’d estimate we were given about a 1/4 lb of cheese on the plate.
At the end of the seminar it was announced there was a prize for whoever answered the trivia question correctly. My Long Suffering Wife told me I had to win. Pressure’s on. Question: How many dairies are there in Canada? I remembered the host mentioning the number at the beginning of the seminar and somehow it had stuck. Hand up, they pick the man in front of me. He gets it wrong. Hand up, they pick me! 12,965! We won a really nice cheese board from the Dairy Farmers of Canada.
After consuming all of the aged cheddar, we were suffering from severe cotton-mouth. We visited a winery booth to sample their vintages. Three tickets later and we were given about an inch of wine in the bottom of our glasses. As 1 ticket = $1, we thought it was a bit of a con. Turns out that the vineyard, that will remain nameless, was the only one gouging so deeply. Over to Creemore Springs, and one ticket was redeemable for a full glass of beer! Sandbanks Winery was the same with their portions. Feeling a little tipsy, we did what any one would in a similar situation; we visited the dairy animal exhibit.
Speaking of water buffalo, there were some meat vendors in attendance today. After sampling some jerky from one of the above’s family, we had to buy some to bring home. We also purchased some duck prosciutto after a sample. Probably the most amazing tasting fat I’ve ever had, and I hate eating fat!
I don’t mean to come across as some carnivore who is only interested in eating animals. I love animals and I love them alive, but then again I’m eating leftover veal as I write this.
Another score today was picking up my order of cheesemaking supplies from Glengarry Cheesmaking Supplies (http://glengarrycheesemaking.on.ca/). I managed to get an order in for cheese wax and lactic starters just as Margaret, the owner, was leaving. Can’t wait to put some Thermophilic B to the test!
We weren’t really sure what to expect from this festival, but we both agreed at the end of the day that the drive was completely worth it and I’d recommend the trip out to anyone. Just one word of advice, before you commit your sampler tickets to a vendor, watch the portion they pour.