The Great Canadian Cheese Festival takes over the Crystal Palace Fair grounds in Picton in the Prince Edward Country region once a year and pretty much everyone who is in town becomes a cheese head. You can't help but not too with all the great cheeses at the Festival and at other surrounding Wineries, cheese producers, restaurants and other off shoots. The event is just wrapping up as I write this blog post. It was held June 4-5, 2016 this year. I was able to go and spend the day in Picton on the Saturday with a couple of friends. It's about a 2 hour drive from Toronto and in between Kingston and Belleville. If you want to stay in a hotel then you have to stay in Kingston or Belleville because Picton isn't big enough for a hotel.
I certainly picked the right day to go because it was the most perfect weather, although a wee bit hot in the afternoon and not great for melting cheese but a great day to attend a festival. This was my second year going to the festival. Last year we got distracted by the big apple on the way but this year I was determined to see more vendors. Some were returning, a few not there and a few new ones so you never know what you will see.
It is a massive event that brings together cheese producers and other vendors from across Canada and many of them from the area and from Quebec. We have some of the finest cheese producers in Canada and we don't support our own enough.
You either have to go the 2 days of the festival to try all the cheese samples or you have to have a competition size appetite. Sadly I don't even think I tried half of the samples at the festival but we gave it a good try anyway. It's really hard to pick favourites when you try so many great cheeses.
I would say that about 75% of the festival is cheese so those of you with dairy issues you have to hunt for those lactose free items and there are a few.
Other vendors included Ottawa's Seed to Sausage who had a very popular booth.
I can't name all of the cheeses I tried and you have to trust me when I tell you there were a lot of all kinds of cheese, soft brie's, cheddars, smoked cheeses, beer washed rinds, aged, goat cheese, one was torched, some were mixed with things like jalapeno and salsa and a whole lot of other things like cheese curds and I am sure a bunch I missed.
There were a few preserves and pickles and this new product THE SPREAD which is a savoury spread with Sesame seeds and other things in it that would pair well with cheese and probably add flavour to a grilled cheese sandwich.
We shared a wood oven pizza from Via Pizzeria which happens to be one of my friends names who was there with me. We also had cheese that was grilled with garlic powder and plain. I liked the garlic one.
It's hard not to bring home all kinds of cheese and other goodies that you can't find at your local market. I had to have some restraint and picked these among some of my favourite things. The cheeses were prices pretty reasonably too. I think all of my cheese choices are from the Ottawa/Quebec area and the nuts are from Ontario.
Even after all that cheese and diary we stopped into an Ice cream shop called Slickers Ice Cream, one of the Cheese Festival volunteers recommended. She warned us that there would be a lineup since it's a tiny place. When we got there the lineup had about 8 people in it and to us folks from Toronto who stand in lines for everything and waste most of our lives in line, this was a small price to pay for some amazing ice cream. I got the Jack Daniels Chocolate and the Campfire flavours in a waffle cone. It was delicious and really hit the spot on a hot June day after wondering around a festival all afternoon.
I would go back for that ice cream even if there was no festival happening in Picton but it was all a bonus to a great day.
We did things a little backwards though and had the ice cream and then decided to head over to the Drake Devonshire Inn and were able to get a table without a reservation for dinner. That's something I desperately wanted to do last year but wasn't able to so this time we had my friends unlimited data plan and her Google GPS ready to get efficiently from one destination to the next in quick time so that we could do as much as we could while we were there. We really didn't want to leave the Drakes amazing waterfront space but we had to head back to Toronto begrudgingly but we will be back and hopefully before next year's festival.
If you want to plan a visit for next year's festival check out there website to get more information: