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We asked three Vancouver chef's to find B.C.’s Big Cheese. Literally.
The average Canadian eats more than 23 pounds of cheese every year. It’s that good. And B.C.’s artisan cheese makers are determined to move us away from our orange-cheddar ways, as evidenced by the incredible offerings from these eight local competitors.
“The texture is perfect, the rind is nice, everything about it is good,” noted one judge. Further described as having a delightfully balanced “farm-fresh” and “vegetal” flavour profile, this washed-rind cheese produced on the Naramata Bench was the clear favourite among our judges (and among VanMag staffers lucky enough to sneak a taste). 1060 Poplar Grove Rd., Penticton, poplargrovecheese.ca
This semi-soft cheese wasn’t able to snag the number-one spot, but the creamy consistency and subtle smoky flavour impressed all of our judges. “This would be great on a burger,” one exclaimed before timidly questioning whether the comment might be considered insulting. (Editor’s note: it’s not.) 635 McPhee Ave., Courtenay, naturalpastures.com
The earthy flavour profile and runny interior of this surface-ripened cheese convinced two of our judges that it was more Camembert than brie, but while the same two liked its gooey consistency, our third judge was reaching for the support of a cracker. 22270 128th Ave., Maple Ridge, cheesecrafters.ca
This Gruyère-style cheese, made only from milk produced in the summer, has a smooth finish and rich golden hue that, according to Viani, pairs well with sweet jellies, candied nuts and a glass of red wine. 5634 McCallum Rd., Agassiz, farmhousecheeses.com
This was the top choice for Bettili, who compared the taste of this English peasant cheese to France’s buttery Tomme varieties. Though our other judges also enjoyed this mild, lightly aged cheese, they couldn’t get past the “weird” crumbly texture. 1306 Beddis Rd., Salt Spring Island, moonstruckcheese.com
Our judges were surprised to hear this “rubbery” brie came from the much-adored Vancouver Island cheese shop, but despite its less-than-ideal texture, one taste tester was quick to point out that it’s a creamy, uncomplicated staple for any cheese board. 403 Lowrys Rd., Parksville, cheeseworks.ca
The only goat cheese submitted for tasting did not disappoint. It is creamy, tangy, spread-it-on-a-cracker good. Or, as one judge succinctly put it: “Garlic-and chive-flavoured chèvre—what’s not to like?” 285 Reynolds Rd., Salt Spring Island, saltspringcheese.com
This sharp, cave-aged cheese has a nutty profile and a complex finish that leaves a “slight zing on your tongue,” said Heather. It’s firm enough to be enjoyed on its own, but perhaps more impressive to our judges was the distance it travelled to our Vancouver office. 3071 16th St., Creston, kootenayalpinecheese.com
Sean Heather is the pioneer behind Gastown’s the Irish Heather and Shebeen. He loves cheese so much that he built a genre-changing restaurant—Salt Tasting Room—using it as a pillar.
Maxime Bettili is the co-owner of Au Comptoir. He hails from France’s Loire Valley, a goat-cheese hot spot where residents take their fromage very seriously, and eats cheese at least three times a week.
Rhonda Viani is a Vancouver native and the pastry chef at West restaurant. Like a true connoisseur, she believes cheese need only be paired with a glass of wine.