By Noelle Munaretto for the Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance, a ‘Certified Good Food Fighter

This past weekend the Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance got its curd on at the first-ever Great Canadian Cheese Festival in Picton, Ontario. Here’s the second in a three part series by OCTA’s Agatha Podgorski and Noelle Munaretto

Part 2: The Cooks & Curds Gala

When the stormy rain clouds cleared on Saturday evening, gorgeous sun rays flooded through the glass windows of the Historic Crystal Palace in Picton, Ontario illuminating chef tables, wine, beer and cheese stations for the Cooks and Curds Gala at the 2011 Great Canadian Cheese Festival.

Top Canadian chefs Craig Flinn, Jamie Kennedy, Michael Blackie, Michael Howell, Anthony Rose, Lisa Ahier, and Jeremy Charles manned tasting tables highlighting various cheese from across the country. Paired with each offering was a pouring of wine from some of PEC’s most famous vineyards. There were even brewers from Mill Street and Beau’s on hand for those looking to match some bubbly brews with their dishes. Centering the experience was a trifecta of tables featuring Grand Prix 2011 Cheese Winners, as well as artisan preserves, crackers and other cheese favourites.

After working their way through the stations, guests could vote on their favourite dish before heading to the outdoor dessert tent. Inside there were incredible sweet bites from various bakeries, cafes and chocolate shops across the province. There were cheesecakes, apple-cheese fritters bathed in caramel sauce, mini double chocolate cupcakes, miniature s’more bites and goat cheese laced dark chocolate truffles.

Guests left the Crystal Palace filled to the brim with curdy goodness and a greater appreciation for the artisan dairy production anchoring Ontario’s culinary and agricultural communities.

The Pictures: