Let’s Talk Cheese | The London Free Press

January 17th, 2015

Tenth annual London Wine and Food Show opens Thursday

By Joe Belanger, The London Free Press

Shep Ysselstein is the owner of Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese in Woodstock, which will be offering samples of its award-winning Five Brothers cheese during the London Wine and Food Show Thursday through Sunday at the Western Fair Agriplex. (HEATHER RIVERS/QMI Agency)

Shep Ysselstein is the owner of Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese in Woodstock, which will be offering samples of its award-winning Five Brothers cheese during the London Wine and Food Show Thursday through Sunday at the Western Fair Agriplex. (HEATHER RIVERS/QMI Agency)

Hard, soft, stinky and sweaty.

We’re talkin’ cheese and lots of it at the 10th annual London Wine and Food Show Thursday through Saturday.

The show opens Thursday — for the first time in the newly renovated Agriplex — with a firefighter fashion show as the highlight event.

It continues Friday with television and radio stars the Wine Ladies with sisters Georgia and Susanne leading a wine and chocolate pairing demonstration, followed on Saturday with a demonstration by celebrity chef Rose Reisman, author and media personality, caterer and restaurateur.

Those are the highlights (for more information, visit the website londonwineandfoodshow.com), but the one constant presence throughout will be Lisa McAlpine.

McAlpine doesn’t have the media profile of the other stars, but her expertise is as critical to wine as cream is to coffee, as bees are to honey. It’s cheese.

During the three days, McAlpine, an expert representing the Dairy Farmers of Canada, will host 12 seminars on cheese, guiding the audience through a “sensing” of six cheese varieties (there are many more to be tasted and discussed) talking about how they are made and how they obtain their flavour.

“These cheeses I’ll be talking about are all made with Canadian milk and the quality of our milk is exceptional, so are the cheeses,” said McAlpine.

The featured cheeses will come from across the country, such as the award winning Avonlea cloth-bound Cheddar from Prince Edward Island, Le Bleu d’Élizabeth from Sainte-Élizabeth de Warwick, Que., and Woodstock’s rising star, Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese, which won the 2013 Dairy Farmers of Canada Canadian Cheese Grand Prix firm cheese category for its Five Brothers cheese.

Founder and owner Shep Ysselstein will be at the London show to meet customers, talk cheese and tantalize taste buds.

“It’s a great opportunity to have our products sampled by a lot of different people,” said Ysselstein. “London is a really good market for us. We sell a lot of cheese there.”

Among the other cheese makers in the area whose products McAlpine will be sampling at the show are Pine River Cheese from Kincardine, Mountain Oak from New Hamburg and Bright Cheese from Shakespeare.

McAlpine describes cheese makers as “magicians” who take the basics of milk, salt, starter cultures and the enzyme rennet to make their curds.

“Where the magic comes in is what they do with the curd,” said McAlpine.

Through a variety of processes, including aging, heating, washing and soaking, the cheeses take on their unique characteristics in texture and flavour.

For instance, blue cheese gets its characteristic blue veins when the base cheese is pierced with tiny holes to allow air into the mixture.

Meanwhile, some cheeses are flavoured by washing the outer rind with wine, cider or other substance.

The flavour is also impacted by the milk, depending on the season, the feed the cows consume and surrounding landscape, or terroir.

McAlpine said cheese can be paired not just with wine but cider or beer.

Take brie, for example.

“Put that cheese on the roof of your mouth and take a sip of a sparkling wine, or beer and there’s something that happens between the cheese and any fizzy libation,” said McAlpine.

“But the palate is such a personal thing. You can’t always get the exact right pairing for everybody because everybody is unique.”

Western Fair District’s Heather Blackwell said the success of the show is rooted in its ability to draw people from all walks of life.

“It’s a great blend of social pleasures and all that interests foodies, wine, beer and spirit lovers,” said Blackwell.

While wine is a major part of the three days, it’s grown to include educational seminars, such as McAlpine’s on cheese and others on grape growing, ice wine harvest and food pairings, whiskey production, mushroom blending, healthy eating and more.

“It’s a great introduction to products and restaurants you might not be aware of and a fun way to learn what’s new in the wine, beer, spirit and food industry,” said Blackwell.

“Plus, it’s a unique opportunity to talk with experts, participate in tasting seminars, sit-in on a cooking demonstration and sample everything that tempts you.”

joe.belanger@sunmedia.ca

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IF YOU GO

What: The London Wine and Food Show

Where: Western Fair District’s Agriplex, 845 Florence St.

When: Thursday and Friday, 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.; Saturday, 12 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Tickets: $15 available at the door. Sample coupons $10 for 10. Visit the website for more information about the show and package deals.

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