Last summer was my first ever visit to the Canadian National Exhibition. I arrived on a hot sunny Saturday around the lunch hour which was one of the most chaotic food experiences of my life. Screaming children, deep fried everything…the room was spinning around me and I left overwhelmed.
This summer I was invited to return to the CNE on a Wednesday afternoon for the 2012 Grate Canadian Grilled Cheese Cookoff hosted by the Dairy Farmers of Canada. The CNE took on a totally different light this time around. I would be watching some of Canada’s top chef’s as they fondled their favorite cheeses with much love and affection. Not to mention, the CNE is far less chaotic in the middle of a work day! I was first introduced to the Dairy Farmers by PR pro Beatrice who sent me samples of the winning cheeses from the 2011 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix. As a huge fan of Canadian cheese I was delighted to tap into their passion for promoting the good stuff.
I arrived at the Direct Energy Centre and grabbed a seat in the front row where many of Toronto’s top food media sat with bulging eyes transfixed on the chef’s on stage. Over the course of the next hour cheese loving audience members were treated to fun Canadian cheese facts (with ab fab prizes) and had the chance to watch four of the countries top chef’s battle for a Master of the Melt designation. Competitors included Michael Howell from Nova Scotia, Liana Robberecht from Calgary, Jason Bangerter who runs Canteen and Luma in Toronto as well as Ned Bell from Vancouver.
Kudos to Chef Jason Bangerter who was declared the winner by this years judge panel for his Niagara Gold Crunch, “a crispy and creamy sandwich that delivers simple, authentic Niagara-region flavor. Niagara Gold cheese brings nutty and earthy overtones to playfully pressed and pickled grapes, salty prosciutto and peppery arugula.”