On the weekend of June 4 and 5, I had the opportunity to represent Bay of Quinte Tourism at The Great Canadian Cheese Festival in Picton, Ontario. I had never been to the event before, but was told that I would absolutely love it and boy did I ever! As usual, I dragged Jake with me and started our journey of all things cheese.
Saturday, June 4
We started off the weekend by heading to the Crystal Palace to set up our booth, and then headed over to the Picton Harbour Inn for breakfast in the Lighthouse Restaurant. Jake ordered the basic breakfast special with eggs, bacon and toast, whereas I caught my eye on their weekend special of bacon pancakes… Needless to say, they were delicious.
After breakfast was finished, the show had began! As the Bay of Quinte Tourism intern, I was in charge of the social media for our accounts while at the show, as well as keeping all of the promotional material at our booth stocked and occasionally standing at the booth to answer any questions.
In order to post photos and tweets all day, I had to experience the show myself. So most of the day was spent enjoying the many samples of cheese, wine, beer and cider available. But while at our booth, Empire Cider was right beside us and the friendly people kept offering Jake and I samples of their cider all day long, not a position to be in I’d say.
For lunch, Jake and I wondered over to the Ontario Water Buffalo stand to get a sandwich with shaved water buffalo, asiago cheese, onions and parsley. It was delicious and even better, we enjoyed our lunch while sitting in the Prince Edward County tent that featured live jazz music and beautifully set up tables. An after lunch necessity is always ice cream, so I decided to “scoop” out Reid’s Dairy’s competition and try London Dairy‘s Moose Tracks ice cream. I feel guilty to say it was fantastic.
In the afternoon, I finally made my first booth purchase of Muskoka Lakes Winery wine. I had tried their Cranberry Blueberry wine earlier in the day and fell in love. As a big sangria lover, finding a wine that is just the right combination of fruity and bitter is a dream come true. For only $15, I purchased the bottle and have been loving it ever since.
Sunday, June 5
Back again on Sunday, Jake and I did not have to arrive so early to set up, so it was nice to be able to sleep in and slowly make our way to The County for an 11a.m. start.
The Sunday was the day that involved Bay of Quinte Tourism the most, because we were acting as host sponsors for The Road to the Royal competition. Three top County chefs, Chef Matthew DeMille of Drake Devonshire Inn, Chef Amanda Nichol, Chef/Owner of Black Sheep Cannery, and Chef Elliot Reynolds of Angeline’s Inn & The Hubb Eatery + Lounge were to go head to head in two rounds of 30 minutes to create both an entrée and dessert using “secret ingredients” provided to them at the beginning of the competition. The winner of the competition was to go on to compete at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair.
Although this day was filled with rain, the excitement was still obvious. There was an electricity in the air leading up to the competition. For the morning portion, Jake and I interacted with people at the booth, and then went to go purchase some cheese before it was too late. I had tried a cheese the day before that I had loved and found it once again. From the large Quebec area booth, I purchased a La Mascotte cheese that is a mix of cow and goats milk.
Finally, the competition had arrived and it was a very cool experience watching three chefs cook in front of us. It felt like I was at a live Food Network cooking show! The secret ingredients were 401 Brewery Cider, Black River Maple Cheese and Eggs. The entrée’s were created and judged, and then the desserts. I think the hardest part of the competition was the fact that we could not eat the delicious smelling foods.
Chef Amanda Nichol, Chef/Owner of Black Sheep Cannery was crowned the winner, and her celebratory photos after really showed her sarcastic, hilarious personality.
And so ended our amazing weekend filled with cheese. We had a blast talking with the community, eating our weight in cheese and drinking sample after sample. Now that we have experienced one year of cheese fest, I think we may be hooked from here on out.
Happy cheesing, my friends.
Until next time,