It’s velvety, rich and silky, but the one thing you may be most grateful for when you buy C’est Bon chèvre is that you don’t have to liberate it from that horrible, messy, plastic tube that most fresh goat cheese seems to be destined for. Owner and cheesemaker George Taylor at C’est Bon packages his chèvre in resealable containers and says the idea was one of his lightbulb moments – a characteristic that has become associated with his product as much as its consistently outstanding quality.
If you’re already a chèvre lover (and more so if you’re not), you may just get hooked on this farmstead, small-batch, hand-made cheese from St. Marys, Ont., (about 20 kilometres southwest of Stratford). The tang you expect is balanced with a luxurious richness but it is the texture that you won’t forget; smooth from first bite to last. I happily eat this on a bagel in the morning rather than the usual cream cheese – and if I can get my hands on some pickled onions, I’m in heaven.
Which is what Taylor wants: He does not sell any “flavoured” versions of his chèvre – it is left to his customers to add honey, condiments or just a few crisp slices of cucumber. His goal was to create an exceptional product that stood on its own merits and whose price point would keep it a weekly purchase.
The C’est Bon commitment to quality is one of the reasons the company remains a micro-business. Demand is there but expanding would mean Taylor could not make all the cheese himself. “In the last 15 years, every batch that has left C’est Bon has had my hands on it,” he says.
He has tweaked his chèvre-making process with a few proprietary techniques (his cheese-making takes four days versus a more typical two) – but he emphasizes that the main objective is to have the best milk. This means feeding his goats the best diet so there are no off-notes in the milk.
He breeds his goats (a mix of Lamancha, Boer and Toggenburg) for quality – not quantity – of output, and looks for a specific combination of protein and other solids plus a higher level of butterfat in the milk.
What began as a retirement project – which he hoped would be able to sustain its own costs – has become a successful business that was turning a profit by its second year. But Taylor also likes to enjoy his work. “We make cheese when the mood suits us – we keep it fun – there’s no rush to meet a balance sheet,” he says. Words to eat chèvre by.
C’est Bon chevre is available in Ontario at Whole Foods (Toronto), All the Best Fine Foods (Toronto), Summerhill Market (Toronto), Ouderkirk & Taylor (Guelph) and Agrarian (Bloomfield).