There are many great cheeses, but not all of them are crowd-pleasers. The "life of the cheeseboard" can't be middle-of-the-road or boring, it should be nuanced, complex and full of flavour, but it must also play to the room. Quebec's 14 Arpents or is such a cheese. Made in square moulds, its pale-copper rind encloses a semi-soft, buttercup-yellow paste that smells of fresh milk. You will get a slight barny note and a not-unpleasant tinge of bitterness from the washed-rind, but on the palate this cheese is overwhelmingly smooth and creamy with hints of nuts, tang and salt.
Its rich texture and delicate flavours will appeal to timid palates and cheese aficionados alike. It's also a great stand-by in the cheese drawer; slice it up with a fresh baguette or a few grapes – be it for brunch or after dinner.
The cheese comes with a great backstory, perfect for bridging conversation lulls around the baguette basket. The history of Ferme Domaine De La Rivière (whose milk the cheese is made from) dates back to 1881 when the government was offering families with 12 children (or more!) the choice of 50 acres of land or $100 to settle in and develop the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region of Quebec. Elise Bouilane, widow of Eucher Côté, and her 12 offspring took advantage of the offer, and her son Médard led the family in cultivating the property. The family fromagerie, which opened in 2006, is named after him.
Current owners Normand Côté (a fifth-generation Côté ) and Madeleine Boivin have owned the farm since 1986. Fromagerie Médard is located in St. Gedeon, about two hours north of Quebec City. The cheese is named after a road that borders the dairy (Le Chemin 14 Arpents). Made from the pasteurized whole milk of the family's herd of Brown Swiss cows, 14 Arpents is considered a farmstead cheese (it's made from the farms's own milk).
You can find 14 Arpents in Ontario at Whole Foods (Yorkville), Olympic Cheese (St.Lawrence Market) and All The Best Fine Foods (Toronto), Vincenzo's ( Kitchener – Waterloo ), Smith Cheese ( London ), Chasing the Cheese (Peterborough) and in BC at Les Amis du Fromage (Vancouver).