A royal welcome for Grey Owl cheese

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Photo: Lise Lafond

Ginette Bégin and Mario Quirion, the owners of La Fromagerie Le Détour, pose in front of the counter (note the prizes and awards on the counter and the artisanal cheese factory in the background).

Make a special trip to Témiscouata-sur-le-Lac this summer just to taste the Grey Owl goat’s milk cheese. It is really worth le détour to try this delicious cheese that melts in your mouth. 
Mario Quirion and Ginette Bégin, of La Fromagerie Le Détour, had the surprise of their lives in May when David Wilby, owner and chef of the Windsor Grill, contacted them to order some of their prized Grey Owl cheese.  
At first they thought the Windsor Grill was a restaurant in Ontario, since their goat’s milk cheese is very popular there. When they realized that it was for a special supper to celebrate the royal wedding, they were astonished to learn that the Windsor Grill in Windsor, England wanted their Grey Owl cheese on the menu. The chef explained that it was one of Meghan Markle (now the Duchess of Sussex)’s favourite cheeses. What a coincidence that the cheese is named after a notable British personality, conservationist Archie Belaney (1888-1938), alias Grey Owl!    
Great care is taken to create Grey Owl cheese, as Qurion and Bégin explain. It is made from goat’s milk from a herd of Swiss Saanen goats, the largest and most productive of the dairy breeds; the females can produce up to 3.8 litres of milk daily. The owner takes special care of the diet of these goats, to ensure they give high-quality milk. Another important factor that surely helps create this unique cheese is that it takes only 30 minutes for the milk to get from the farm to the cheese factory, where it is immediately processed. 
Vegetable ash is sprayed on the cheese on the seventh day of the 14-day ripening process, creating a stunning grey ash rind, contrasting with the pure white cheese. No wonder this cheese won first prize at the American Cheese Society Competition in 2011 and Quebec’s Caseus award in 2015 and 2016, and still continues to win awards. 
Quebecers had to wait a while to taste this goat cheese. It was first made in 2007 to fill a special order for an American client; then the province of Ontario discovered it, buying the complete production. This must be when the future duchess, who was living in Toronto, discovered her now favourite cheese. Grey Owl cheese only began to be sold in Quebec in early 2010.
Bégin explained that when Quirion, the master cheesemaker and co-owner of La Fromagerie Le Détour, asked her if she would like to open a cheese factory, she was thrilled. In all they have created more than 20 different cheeses at La Fromagerie le Détour. 
When the QCT arrived at the cheese factory, there was not a wheel or wedge of Grey Owl in sight. Production had doubled since the recent publicity surrounding the famous goat cheese, and the demand has become far greater than the supply. Bégin said, “There is a real impact from this; when people stop by now, they ask ... to taste the duchess’s favourite cheese.’”
Fortunately, we had bought some Grey Owl a few days earlier. Quirion and Bégin’s wish to make people discover how good goat cheese really is is coming true. We now know that it’s one of our favourites!
For more information, visit fromagerieledetour.ca/en. 
Grey Owl cheese is really worth the detour. 

(Photo by Lise Lafond)