The Date and Time: Wednesday July 5, 2017 9:30 AM to 4PM
The Event: Boxcars & beers: the Cheese Train (Stouffville-Uxbridge return)
The Venue: The York-Durham Heritage Railway "Cheese Train", Second Wedge Brewing Company, The Passionate Cook's Essentials (all Uxbridge).
The Target Audience: food writers and bloggers – more than a dozen.
The Availability/Catalogue: Second Wedge Brewing Company is only a year and a half old, it is not yet at the LCBO for wider distribution [https://thesecondwedge.ca/about-us/],
The Passionate Cook's Essentials [http://thepassionatecook.ca/about-us/], Cheese by Cecilia [http://cheesebycecilia.com/], and the York-Durham Heritage Railway [http://ydhr.ca/train] are all partners in this endeavour.
The Quote/Background: Boxcars and Beers: "The Cheese Train" is a 90 minute "Taste of Ontario" with professional fromager Cecilia Smith and brewery owner/certified beer judge Joanne Richter. It's a series of five beer and cheese pairings of Southern Ontario cheeses and Uxbridge's own The Second Wedge craft brewery. Cheeses range from mild to strong, and include such notables as Monforte's Providence and Glengarry's Celtic Blue. There is even an Uxbridge firm cheese from Carpe Diem Farm ("Durham") made from sheep's milk. Cecilia takes the lead in describing the origins of Ontario cheese farms, how to taste cheese and then how to taste the first cheese. Joanne follows with how to taste beer and then taste the first beer, and Cecilia then returns to examine the pairing of the first cheese with the first beer, and what to look out for. And plenty of time for a Q. and A. at any point. The pattern repeats for the other four cheeses. Servings of cheeses were generous, and beers were five ounce pours. Meanwhile, the train is moving from Stouffville to Uxbridge at a leisurely pace, with plenty of rustic views. At the end of the first trip, there is a take-home tasting glass and tasting notebook. On the layover, there is a pause to enjoy the brewery for further tastings, leading to their beer garden. All three trips are on Sundays (July 16, July 30, and August 27) so there is an opportunity to visit the Uxbridge Farmers' Market and/or downtown historic Uxbridge with The Passionate Cook's Essentials which also houses the cheeses for sale. Many more details and ticket purchases are at http://ydhr.ca/train/boxcars-beer-the-cheese-train/
The Beers and Wines:
**** BEST -- Four Stars (91+ in Quality/Price Rating terms):
-Chateau des Charmes Rose Cuvee d'Andree 2015 VQA
-Chateau des Charmes Chardonnay Estate 2013 Paul Bosc Vineyards VQA
-The Second Wedge Brewing Company 3 Rocks India Pale Ale 6%ABV, 52IBU
-The Second Wedge Brewing Company Monday Night Piper Scottish Ale 4.8%ABV, 27IBU
***1/2 BETTER -- Three and a Half Stars (88 – 90 in Quality/Price Rating terms):
-Second Wedge Brewing Company Portage and Main (heather oat ale) 4.5%ABV, 20IBU [seasonal]
-The Second Wedge Brewing Company Elgin Blonde Ale 4.3%ABV, 30IBU
-The Second Wedge Brewing Company Day Tripper Pale Ale 4.2%ABV, 21IBU [seasonal]
-The Second Wedge Brewing Company Rain Maker Porter 4.8%ABV, 27IBU
*** GOOD -- Three Stars (85 – 87 in Quality/Price Rating terms):
-Bachelder "Parfum" Pinot Noir 2014 VQA
The Food: It came from a variety of sources – cheeses included Albert's Leap Bella Marie Brie from Quality Cheese in Vaughan (paired with Elgin Blonde), Oxford Harvest from Gunn's Hill in Woodstock (paired with Day Tripper), Providence [my fave here] from Monforte Dairy in Stratford (paired with 3 Rocks), Durham from Carpe Diem Farm in Uxbridge (paired with Monday Night Piper), and Celtic Blue [also my fave here] from Glengarry Fine Cheese in Lancaster (paired with Rain Maker). I found the pairings to be spot on, especially the first three. The last two beers could have accompanied either of the last two cheeses. In general, I like tasting food against alcohol, although I usually prefer to cross-taste which leads to lots of comparison (and takes time, also with much palate rinsing). We needed to use our water bottles. I am sure water will be on the train for the paying customers. On the cheese plate there were slices of organic apricots and a piece of Uxbridge's Desbarres bean to bar chocolate [https://www.desbarreschocolate.com], which was appreciated with the Porter. For a media lunch at the brewery, we were treated to three items from Urban Pantry Restaurant [http://urbanpantry.ca] in Uxbridge: bison sliders and goat cheese on brioche buns, pulled pork and red onion jam on brioche bread, and wilted organic greens on boursin crostini. All delicious and terrific with beer made by brew master Doug Warren who took us on the tour of the beermaking process. After that, it was off to another media treat at Lisa Hutchinson and Chef Erin Monaghan's The Passionate Cook's Essentials. Lisa and Erin did a demo of one of her most popular seminars: making pizza. They made six different pizzas in a matter of minutes, and we media had samples accompanied by wine (see above for the wines). Her store has cooking classes, cooking tools, jars and cans of food, frozen foods cooked in-house for home use, and a cheese counter.
The Downside: It was such a calm day in Toronto traffic that I arrived super-early for the bus trip to Stouffville, and we arrived in Stouffville super-early before boarding the train. I had a lot of time to kill, totaling well-over an hour. But I had lots to read about our media jaunt.
The Upside: a really good chance to explore a heritage train. Visit the website to find all of its glorious history, including restoration schemes. We had a dynamic trip in a train with five coaches on the original track laid to provide Gooderham & Worts in the new Distillery District with grain and lumber (July 1871, as the Toronto and Nipissing Railway). Of course, the return trip in those days was full of distilled spirits. The York-Durham Heritage Railway partners in quite a few tourist excursions.
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The Event's Marketing Effectiveness and Execution (numerical grade): 93.