Over the past five years, I’ve called Calgary home twice. First for six months, then again for three. It wasn’t a terribly long time, but long enough to make some wicked friends, and squeeze my way into the city’s burgeoning food scene.
It all started at Janice Beaton Fine Cheese (JBFC). I’d moved to the city simply because my aunt said there were jobs (and there were! This was four months before the recession hit). As soon as I saw a cheese shop was hiring, I was determined. Determined to surround myself with kilos of preserved milk and master the art of the cheese wire. I applied, interviewed, and within a few days I was in! I was a real, live CHEESEMONGER!
I started with little more knowledge than ‘white cheddar is better than orange cheddar,” and at first was rather intimidated. After awhile, however, I began to feel more comfortable with the cheese case, at home amongst the bloomy rinds. I developed real opinions on gouda, had a big crush on Neal’s Yard Dairy, and started forming some fairly intelligent cheese puns ("That sheep's milk cheese is Ossau lovely").
Cheesemongering in Calgary was one of the best jobs I’ve ever had, not only because I learned a great deal about cheese, but also because I had the most spectacular co-workers, all of whom are now scattered around, doing terribly impressive things.
Dana and I went in to say hello and check out the latest selection, and as luck would have it, Janice Beaton herself was there! We caught up on all that’s happened over the past few years, and left with some Sylvan Star Grizzly Gouda (a locally-made cheese with a taste as hefty as its name), and an amazing blue cheese from Cape Breton, called Dragon’s Breath.
Encased in black wax and looking rather volcano-esque, it’s striking in appearance and taste - it’s a mild, creamy, salty blue that tastes like the Atlantic. Or at least, it’s how I imagine the Atlantic tastes. I’ll soon find out.
We also took away one of my favourite snacks: oatcakes. Janice is from Cape Breton, and since she first opened JBFC, her mom has been making traditional oatcakes and mailing them from Nova Scotia to be sold in the shop. I wish I had a more steady supply of them in my life because they are comfort food at its finest.
Here are just some of the best Canadian cheeses/cheesemakers, a wishlist of those I hope we can visit in the next few months.
Cheese nerds, unite!