Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Monforte Hootenanny

On Sunday we drove down to Stratford for a significant milestone in the progress of Monforte Dairy. This was the long-awaited hootenanny to celebrate the completion of the factory and the recommencement of cheesemaking. As you can see, the celebration is still a little in advance of events. But only a little. May 17th is the day they plan to start receiving milk, and it looks like they will make it.

Ruth Klahsen (and others) gave guided tours of the facility in the early afternoon. Right now, it's a warren of blank, white rooms but notes on the walls and Ruth's excited descriptions of what will be happening there brought it all to life.

Ruth explained a lot about many of the details of construction. For example the slopes of the floors had to be very precise, and different in different rooms, as well as being sealed with different sealers, depending on what was to happen in each. She mentioned several times that the drains alone were $2000 each, which didn't impress me too much at the time but it has since occurred to me that our cheese share paid for exactly half a drain, and presumably not the installation of it.

The metal-clad, foam walls that divided the old open warehouse space into a cheese-making space where the milk flows from room to room in a very precise and controlled manner were manufactured in Quebec and assembled on site "like Legos".

Pinned up plans showed the future use of the building; essentially, raw milk comes in one side of the back, swirls through the building from room to room, and exits the other side of the back as the finished cheese, etc. There are separate rooms for blue mold cheeses to cure, for white mold cheese, and for non-mold cheeses, as well as a little smoke room.

Sanitation is a huge issue in a cheese factory, and so there is considerable space allowed for workers to wash and change - things that must be done every time they go on or off the factory floor, or even between some of the rooms. It's just as well the factory wasn't up and running for the hootenanny, or no-one could have gone in.

Equipment is starting to arrive; some new, ordered from the U.S. (no-one makes such small cheese vats in Canada) and some used, thanks to the sad demise of the Forfar Dairy.

This front room will be a small shop selling Monforte products - naturally - as well as a variety of other local foods. Ruth is even hoping to have a small market outside on Sundays.

See those cameras up near the ceiling? You'll be able to watch the cheese being made on-line! How cool is that?

Old cheddar hoops from the Forfar Dairy, along with other equipment waits to be set up, arranged and put back to work.

Once the factory tours were over everyone headed over to the Festival Theatre lobby for a party.

A hobbit-worthy feast of good food and wine waited at the Festival Theatre. One side of the room had a long table bearing roast pork with an assortment of salads, pickles and breads. The other side of the room had a long table with roast lamb, with an assorment of salads and sauces.

The line-ups rapidly became quite long, but service was brisk and we never waited too long for our goodies.

A number of Toronto restaurants supplied the food, chefs and servers...

... and they put on a great spread.

There were, I think, five different wine-makers on hand with Ontario wine to wash down our meals.

This photo almost makes the place not look jammed to the rafters... which it was. Ruth mentioned the figure of 800 people... it would not surprise me at all.

Here's the lamb, rather late in the proceedings and looking well picked over. With good reason; it was fabulous lamb.

For dessert there was one more table of food, including the few remaining hard Monforte cheeses, "Buff-a-latto" ice cream, made from water buffalo and sheep's milk for Monforte by Mapletons.

And these beautiful (and delicious) little panna-cottas to finish up. I have to say, I feel like we've gotten good value for our CSA share already, and I have yet to exchange a voucher. I hope to head down to Stratford again in mid-summer and start raking in the cheesey dividends. I'm really looking forward to it!


da said...

OK, that's funny. One of your crowd pics has dan and myself sitting and eating in the corner of it. (the pic after the wines).

Thanks for the tour writeup; we missed that part!

Ferdzy said...

OMG, yes! There you are! We totally missed you. That's too bad - would have loved to have a chat.

larussegastronomique said...

Thanks for the info on the dairy tours. You explained it really well.

Ferdzy said...

Glad you like it, Maureen. Thanks for the links.