A few weeks ago I was in British Columbia for a couple of book signing events at the Vancouver Farmers Market. While crossing the international border means enduring a litany of things, including drug sniffing dogs and gruff border guards, once I'm across I swear I can see a whole new world of great regional cheeses opening up before me. And when I'm visiting BC I always try as many local cheeses as I can, because it's rare to find these cheeses for sale south of the US/Canada border due to complex import/export rules. Here are a couple of great cheeses I tried on this most recent trip.
Poplar Grove Tiger Blue
Located in the Okanagan region of British Columbia, Poplar Grove Cheeses was once part of Poplar Grove Winery. Though the two are now separately owned, Poplar Grove Cheeses is still making great cheese in a stunning vineyard setting along the Naramata Bench overlooking Penticton. Tiger Blue is a very spicy cow's milk blue that's as intense as Valdeon or Cabrales, and thus not for the uninitiated, but all the better for that spark and complexity. Cheesemaker Gitta Sutherland told me that rather than piercing this blue (the traditional way cheesemakers introduce air into blue cheeses to stimulate mold growth), she crumbles the cheese curd by hand after it has been pressed, creating microscopic air pockets which enable the signature marble textured mold pattern of this cheese to take shape.
The Farm House Natural Cheeses Brie
One of British Columbia's most outstanding cheesemakers, Debra Amrein-Boyes is making a spectacular array of cheeses at The Farm House Natural Cheeses in Agassiz, in BC's fertile Fraser Valley. If you look at the above photo, one thing that stands out right away is the gorgeous straw yellow color of this cow's milk cheese - that's pasture talking to you right there. Especially during this time of year, cheeses made from grass-fed milk will take on this gorgeous tint, the result of beta carotene in the milk of pasture grazing cows. This brie is everything you want a brie to be - gorgeously butter-rich, with earthy and mushroomy flavors that melt on your tongue. My feeling is, why buy the French stuff when you can get something as good as this, and support a local farmer in the process?