‘Cheese Island’ Brings a Piece of Europe to Calgary

September 24, 2015

It’s an impressive 32 running feet of some of the most unique, delicious and pungent cheese in the world. I recently was given an exclusive look into Calgary Co-op’s ‘Cheese Island’, which offers over 150 varieties of international and domestic cheese.

“We’re seeing extremely positive growth in all 10 of the locations where we have a Cheese Island,” says Deli Operations Director, Ken Chalmers.

In Europe, cheese making is a true art form, a craft that takes patience and skill. I gained a new appreciation for cheese after visiting my sister, Stephanie, who was living in Paris working as an Au Pair for a French family. Food is a way of living in France and an important part of their culture. Everyday the Mother would give her 50 Euros to go to the market and buy fresh produce, bread and cheese. She soon became to love French cheese, specifically one called Mimolette; a bright orange, hard cheese that’s produce near Lille, France.

To my surprise, you can actually buy Mimolette at Calgary Co-op, it’s the first time I’ve ever seen it in Calgary.

“I truly believe we have one of the best selections in the city,” Ken says as he tours me around the large and impressive display. I immediately noticed his passion for cheese and abundance of knowledge about each type that they sell.

“When it is first produced young Stilton is creamy white and very mild,” Ken says. To make it into a famous Blue Stilton, “producers take the drums of cheese and pierce them; then they are sprayed with penicillin bacteria that leaches into the cheese, causing it to age. This creates the blue mold that gives it that unique look and flavor.”

Ken says there are many different components to cheese making; the type of milk that is used, which can be cows, sheep’s or goats milk. Then there’s the cultures that coagulate together to make the cheese curd, and lastly you have the bacteria on moulds used in the ripening process like the bloomy rind on a Brie. Ken says an absolute must when it comes to eating cheese is to make sure you serve it a room temperature.

The first sample that Ken gives me to try is called Beemster Graskaas. It’s a mild and creamy cheese from Holland that is produced only in the spring. Right away I decide it’s my new favorite…that’s until I try a piece of the Beaufort from the French Alps. The nutty taste and smooth texture was absolutely stunning! This will definitely be on my shopping list the next time I host a dinner party. Next up was an extra mature cheddar called the ‘Black Bomber’ from the Snowdonia Cheese Company in North Wales, U.K. The vintage cheddar taste packs a serious a punch with its deep, rich flavour.

I was thoroughly impressed with Cheese Island; be sure to check it out the next time you want to treat yourself or your guests to a true taste of Europe!

- Leanne Clark

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