The main reason we were heading to PEC was to attend the Great Canadian Cheese Festival held every June. We first heard about this festival in late 2014, so we saved the date and started planning for this weekend in early 2015. The festival, now in its fifth year at the Picton Fairgrounds is a showcase for more than 125 artisan cheeses from outstanding cheese-makers from all across Canada. The festival is also a crowd pleaser offering cheese-related artisan food and drinks such as breads and condiments, wine, cider and craft beer as well as shortbread cookies, and other yummy treats! This year’s festival brought over 5000 people to the area during the two-day festival. This is part two of our Weekend Road Trip to PEC and our experience at the Great Canadian Cheese festival.
We arrived at the Fairgrounds early on Saturday morning to find a line up of eager cheese lovers for the official opening of the festival. The festival itself took over two buildings and an outside area full of vendors and lots to sample, see, and discover. As we walked in, we were each given a reusable bag for our purchases, an information sheet, and a tasting glass. Tastings were not included in the admission fee for the festival; it was $1.00 per ticket and the amount of tickets varied from vendor to vendor. As a special treat, the first 1000 people to the festival on Saturday also received a free bag of St. Albert Cheese Curds.
Let the sampling begin! We first tried some really wonderful fresh shaved parmesan from Ivanhoe. Then we tried some smooth cottage cheese dip from Cottage Country Dip. I don’t typically like cottage cheese but I enjoyed this dip. The texture was smooth and spreadable unlike traditional cottage cheese. The original has garlic, green onion, lemon and spices. I could definitely see myself buying this product as an alternative to something like cream cheese dip or a change from hummus for veggies. By 11am, the festival was in full swing with lots of people enjoying the wares.
Although this was a cheese festival, we did see many other vendors onsite and to our surprise a bunch of our hometown pals from Ottawa like:
We also got samplings of honey (Nude Bee Honey Co.), elderberry syrup (Wellington Made), goat’s milk truffles (Haute Goat), olive oil (Kingston Olive Oil Company), and artisan granola (Urban Hippie Granola).
One of the highlights was meeting the founder and director Cheese-Head-in-Chief, Georgs Kolesnikovs. He has his own cheese blog and also launched the independent Canadian cheese judging and competition in 2014, known as the Canadian Cheese Awards. He is working on bringing the festival west to British Columbia and a new food and drink event to Toronto.
A big treat that day was a lobster and langoustine grilled cheese by East & Main (a bistro located in nearby Wellington). The sample that we devoured had a ton of lobster in it and the buffalo cheddar was perfectly gooey making for a delightfully tasty snack!
Although the Festival showcased many craft breweries and wineries, one of our favourite drinks was found at the the tasty Walter Caesar mix booth. Walters is an all-nature mix made in small batches from vine-ripened tomatoes, grated horseradish, worchestershire and hot sauce, select spices, and real clam juice. The mix can be found at places like Metro if you want to try your hand at mixing up a Caesar. If you want something already done, I’d recommend visiting The Albion Rooms in Ottawa and ordering up the “The Marcus Brutus”.
After getting our fill of cheese for the day, we headed back to our cottage rental with bags full of goodies. I was on a mission to make a spectacular cheese and charcuterie platter. We had six different cheeses: Comox Brie from Natural Pastures, Extra Sharp Old Cheddar from biobio, St. Albert Cheese Curds, Avonlea Clothbound cheddar, Cheddar with Cumin, and an smoked extra old cheddar. We also bought some chorizo and a jalapeno sausage from Seed to Sausage and some smoked duck from a new place called Meat Pressed that will soon be opening up in Ottawa. To complete our platter we also had an assortment of pickled vegetables from the County Cider Company we’d picked up the day before.
The entire group really enjoyed the cheese festival and all that it had to offer. The cheese of selection was almost a little overwhelming at times with so many varieties. But the benefit of that was that we were able to try cheeses that we wouldn’t normally try and best of all got introduced to some new ones that we will inevitably land in our grocery baskets. We also got to meet many wonderful cheesemakers and vendors from all over Ontarion. I would definitely put this Festival on the must-see and do if you are planning a trip to the county! To see more pictures from our day at the Great Canadian Cheese Festival, head over to our Facebook page here.