Last September, when Margaret Peters of Lancaster, Ontario, was called to the stage to collect the top prize at the Global Cheese Awards in Somerset, England, the room went quiet. Peters, figuring her chances of winning were minuscule, had decided not to attend the event. A decade ago, it would have been impossible to fathom her buttery, gouda-style Lankaaster cheese sweeping the competition against Euro stalwarts like Shropshire blue and parmigiano-reggiano. Ontario has been making nice cheese for some time, says Afrim Pristine, co-owner of the excellent Cheese Boutique off the South Kingsway, but it’s only in recent years that he’s seen such consistently transcendent quality from our local producers. They in turn have had the stones to stand up and say, what we do here is worth paying attention to. It helps that the public’s obsession with local, artisanal, handmade, pre-industrial, prettily packaged anything dovetails with the boutique cheese industry. The ruddy-cheeked farmers and cheesemakers creating small-batch, stinky works of art in the pastoral Ontario countryside nail that romantic checklist. Plus, our palates have matured far beyond marble cheddar and Babybel. We take pride in curating platters of hyper-local product: bloomy, camembert-style sheep’s milk rounds from Best Baa; grassy, sweet clothbound goat cheddar from Lindsay’s Mariposa Dairy; buttery, versatile Niagara Gold from Upper Canada Cheese Company; delicate, fresh ricotta from Quality Cheese; creamy water buffalo mozza from Bella Casara; and tangy, pungent Celtic Blue and that lush Lankaaster from Margaret Peters’ Glengarry Fine Cheese. We’re spoiled for choice—and Peters is currently expanding her aging cave to hold another 6,500 kilograms of cheese to keep us flush.
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