Interview with The Canadian Cheese Guru

Like any sane individual, I love cheese.  Unfortunately, my cheese vocabulary is quite limited (Yummm is all I got).  I also have no idea where to start when standing at Sam & Son International Cheese deli counter in the Hamilton Farmer’s Market; mouth watering, staring at the copious array of cheeses from around the world.  So I thought I would enlist some help to begin to understand and fully appreciate the wonderful world of cheese. And I enlisted the best!  Canada’s Cheese Guru, Gurth Pretty, was kind enough to answer some of my cheese queries.  Not only did Gurth’s answers prove to be helpful, but his passion for cheese, especially Canadian Cheese, shone through his answers. Detailed, knowledge packed & humorous answers, Gurth certainly knows his “cheese stuff”. My chat with Gurth got me excited and more confident for my next trip to Sam & Sons & I can’t wait to try his tips on the best gooey grilled cheese!  Check out his books Canadian Artisanal Cheese & The Definitive Canadian Wine & Cheese Cookbook for more in depth info. Bon Santé!

Gurth Pretty, The Canadian Cheese Guru

Gurth Pretty, The Canadian Cheese Guru

1) FWG: What is your absolute favourite cheese…the one(s) you just can’t live without and why?

GP: The perfect cheese basket includes: Riopelle de l’Isle – an amazing triple-cream brie from Quebec (oozy and wow!), Dragon’s Breath – a so different blue from Nova Scotia (I love salty and tangy blues), Figaro – a soft cheese which has a slight goat flavour, but surprise, it is made of cow’s milk (my cousin makes it), Old Grizzly from Alberta – a two year-old Gouda (outstanding flavour with a touch of caramel taste), Roast Garlic Chèvre from B.C. – I love the texture of the cheese, its aroma with the bonus of roasted garlic – kaching!

2) FWG: What it your favourite item to pair with cheese & why?

GP: [Epicurean Expeditions] I am a purist. I want to taste the cheese on its own and discover its hidden secrets.

3) FWG: What is your favourite type of drink to have with cheese & why?

GP: [Epicurean Expeditions] Beer! It has so many different flavours, which can match very well with cheese.

4) FWG: You have been all over the world and have had the opportunity to taste a plethora of different & fantastic cheeses.  In your opinion, what makes Canadian Cheese so unique?

Gurth Pretty's book, The Definitive Guide to Canadian Artisanal and Fine Cheese

Gurth Pretty's book, The Definitive Guide to Canadian Artisanal and Fine Cheese

GP: Epicurean Expeditions Cheeses of Canada are world-class! Cheese made of cow, goat, sheep and water buffalo milk is produced in our country. What makes Canadian cheese unique is that our cheesemakers learned of different styles of cheese from so many different countries (France, Switzerland, England, Colombia, India, Italy, Holland, Syria, Greece, Portugal, Mexico, …). The cheese of the world are now being made right here. Our cheesemakers are experimenting and creating uniquely Canadian-themed cheese.

Bergerie aux 4 Vents cheeses

Bergerie aux 4 Vents cheeses

5) FWG: Where would you recommend people from the Hamilton-Halton area go to find great quality cheeses?

GP: [Epicurean Expeditions] Visit the cheesemakers of the region and experience their cheese – Upper Canada Cheese (Jordan Station), Salerno (Hamilton), Paron Cheese (Hannon/Elfrida) and Jensen Cheese (Simcoe). Go to your favourite local cheesemonger and ask for Canadian artisanal cheese (ie. Denninger’s, Cheese Shoppe on Locke, Micky MacGuire’s, Picone’s, Sam & Sons, … )

6) FWG: If a person were just beginning to experience the world of cheese, what type of cheese(s) would you recommend they start with?

GP: [Epicurean Expeditions] Start with a soft brie or Camembert, a milder cheese.

7) FWG: What are the top 3 things new cheese lovers look for when selecting a quality cheese?

Learn delicious parings & recipres from the Wine & Cheese Cookbook

Learn delicious pairngs & recipes from the Wine & Cheese Cookbook

GP: [Epicurean Expeditions] 1) a knowledgeable cheesemonger to guide them on their journey of OMG experiences, 2) What are they in the mood for? something soft, firm, sweet, nutty, salty?, 3) To nibble or to cook with?

8)FWG: Is there a new cheese or cheese trend on the block that you just can’t stop raving about?

GP: [Epicurean Expeditions] Canadian cheese! It is so fracking delicious!

9) FWG: What’s your secret for making the perfect gooey grilled cheese sandwich?  (What type of cheese, bread do you use, cooking recommendations and do you serve anything with it?)

GP: [Epicurean Expeditions] Listen to me little grasshopper, pay heed to the master of the grilled cheese. For a gooey grilled cheese sandwich, choose your cheese wisely, one that will melt with ease. An OKA, Niagara Gold, American mozzarella, Jalapeño Jack, and Horseradish Cheddar come to my mind. White bread will not hide the flavour of the cheese. Remember, it is about the cheese. Spread unsalted butter onto the outside of the slices to give a touch more WOW to the experience. The bread will appreciate it by showing its golden colour to you. If you follow my advice little grasshopper, this yummy creation for the gods needs no side or freak shows to distract your tastebuds. Enjoy it in its purest form. It will be a zen moment for your soul and tummy.

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