Nutty, earthy, buttery, barnyardy, sweet, funky, ripe, creamy, yeasty, rustic, robust, rich, sharp, smoky…
There are dozens of words used to describe cheese, but no matter which ones you prefer, one I use a lot is “love.”
I know I’m not alone in my love affair of all things cheese, so I decided to create a “cheese trail,” which includes some favourite dairies, creameries and shops between Vancouver and Harrison Hot Springs.
I created the trail in such a way that cheese lovers can choose the road trip that best suits their schedule, whether that’s a couple of hours, a day or a weekend. This was our first road trip since COVID-19 and it was such a relief to travel again, though we followed Dr. Bonnie Henry's advice and safety protocals along the way.
There are already popular Circle Farm tours offered across Langley, Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Agassiz and Harrison Hot Springs, but their focus includes everything from produce to cheese and coffee to berries.
This self-guided tour narrows that focus down to mostly cheese, with the odd glass of wine thrown in. Keep in mind that due to COVID, some hours of operation and the way these owners conduct business may have changed, so make sure to check out their websites or give them a call before heading out.
You can do this self-guided cheese tour of Vancouver in an afternoon.
(Many Vancouver cheese shops are also offering delivery and curb-side pickup during this time.)
1689 Johnston St., Granville Island
This family owned cheese shop was created by brothers who made the transition from engineers to cheesemongers in 2007.
Benton Brothers Fine Cheese offers an ever-changing selection of artisanal, small production and farmhouse cheeses with no artificial flavours, cut-to-order and fresh off the wheel.
1752 West Second Ave.
843 East Hastings St.
Also family owned and operated, these specialty cheese stores offer a carefully curated selection of local and imported cheeses, charcuterie and accompaniments.
Founded in 1985, les amis du FROMAGE has been voted “Best Cheese Shop” by readers of the Courier, Georgia Straight and Westender — and has been awarded Vancouver Magazine’s Restaurant Award for Top Food Supplier to Vancouver’s best restaurants and hotels.
2408 Main St.
Got milk? Actually, no they don’t.
Chef Karen McAthy wants to redefine the definition of what exactly makes up “cheese.”
Instead of using dairy, McAthy and her team at Blue Heron culture fats and proteins from nut milks, including coconut, walnuts, almonds and cashews.
The results are delicious, vegan, plant-based cheeses you’d be proud to include on any charcuterie platter.
1791 Commercial Dr.
Probably most famous for their sandwiches, this Commercial Drive institution is also popular for its charcuterie offerings, including a vast choice of domestic and international cheeses.
1465 Kootenay St.
562 Victoria Drive
With more than 400 varieties of both domestic and international cheeses, Bosa Foods is the place to search out traditional hard, aged cheeses such as Parmigiano Reggiano (the king of Italian cheese), Grana Padano, Pecorino Romano, Provolone, Asiago, Piave, and Montasio.
Overnight or weekend road trip from Vancouver
Yes, you’ll have to cross a bridge or take a tunnel to get out of the city, but once you try some of the decadent cheeses you’ll find across Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley, you’ll thank me.
7865 Venture St., Burnaby
Scardillo Cheese embraces the spirit of the “100 Mile Diet” and uses Canadian milk from local producers.
Open since 1959, Scardillo is the largest independent cheese producer in B.C.
12823 Crescent Rd., Surrey
Did you know that Windsor Meats started a deli specializing in charcuterie?
But, in 2017 Windsor Meats purchased Beast and Brine in South Surrey as a way to compliment the meats sold at their butcher shops and to take charcuterie to a whole other level.
Beast and Brine can also provide cheese trays for parties and events up to 20 people.
21479 Smith Crescent, Langley
The farmhouse cheese made at Milner Valley Cheese or, as I like to call it, goat cheese heaven on earth, offers all natural and handcrafted products made from the long-eared Nubian and Alpines goats, both known for their rich milk quality, and the pure white Saanen, the Holstein of the herd.
The herd is fed by rotational grazing of the adjacent fields, quality grain and hay and no artificial preservatives or additives are used.
Go for the cheese, stay to pet the goats.
30854 Olund Rd., Abbotsford
I’ve had the opportunity to try several cheeses created by Jason Dykstra of Mt. Lehman Cheese and I’d be hard pressed to choose a favourite, though the Blue Capri goat’s cheese ranks right at the top.
Jason gained a passion and knowledge that goes into making quality goat milk from growing up in the industry, which is where his cheese starts.
The goat milk is sourced from Mystery Meadows Farm in Agassiz, while the water buffalo milk comes from a small herd in Langley.
5782 Mount Lehman Rd., Abbotsford
OK, not exactly a creamery, but they do sell local cheese, including products from Mt. Lehman Cheese Co. and Smits and Co. from Chilliwack.
Plus, wine! Their vineyard and tasting room are located on a 67-acre operating farm, just 45-minutes from Vancouver.
Singletree is owned and operated by the Etsell family, who has deep roots in the farmlands of Fraser Valley.
Where to stay: night one
2379 Chardonnay Lane, Abbotsford
This award-winning hotel was recently named Top Small Hotel and Most Romantic Hotel in Canada by TripAdvisor travellers.
Inspired by romantic movies, each themed suite is decorated to capture the film’s essence and comes complete with a copy of that movie in your room for viewing.
We stayed in the Midnight in Paris suite, located on the top floor of the three-storey Tudor-style inn, and our room came with a large deck that overlooked a vineyard on one side.
Besides Midnight in Paris, other suites available are inspired by Under the Tuscan Sun, The Secret Garden, A Good Year in the Vineyard, Thomas Crown Affair and Roman Holiday.
Even the dining room has a theme and is inspired by the classic film Breakfast at Tiffany's. Speaking of breakfast, topped with fresh berries ours was almost too gorgeous to eat. We chose to enjoy our breakfast outside on our deck instead of the dining room to enjoy the sunny morning and view.
Where to eat in Abbotsford
2281 West Railway St., Abbotsford
You have got to check out Field House Brewing, set in an industrial area of Abbotsford.
With vintage-style lawn chairs spread across their greenspace, the possibility for Instagram-worthy photos are endless.
The Field House menu showcases the best of the Fraser Valley and while the menu isn’t overly complicated, its simplicity works because it highlights local, farm-fresh ingredients. I swear this is the first time my husband has ever ordered a salad at a brew pub — and he loved it.
The beer menu is interesting and options include their Kiwi & Tequila Golden Sour, New World Hazy Double IPA and Syrah Wild Farmhouse Ale, among others.
For a cheese-lover’s weekend, I recommend splitting up your visits over a couple of days with stops of your choice from the entire list ending in Harrison Mills and saving some locations for the return trip.
1154 Fadden Rd., Abbotsford
Birchwood Dairy Farm is a combination dairy farm, processing plant, country store and ice cream parlor.
The day we visited the sun was shining and folks of all ages were eating ice cream and relaxing in the shade of several large trees spread across the farm’s lawn.
The farm has 220 acres of land where they milk approximately 120 cows and have almost 140 young stock. Enough hay and silage are grown on the farm to feed their happy cows all year long, so it truly is local.
Among the many cheese sold at the farm store, you’ll want to try the cheddar, marble, Monterey jack, feta and cheddar curd.
5787 Lickman Rd., Chilliwack
This charming little shop is located on a small family farm less than 10-minutes off the highway.
Smits sells both cow and goat cheese and their method of production is outlined step-by-step on their website, so you know exactly what you're getting..
5634 McCallum Rd., Agassiz
Established in 2003, Farm House Natural Cheeses produces handmade, artisan cheeses and specialties from the rich, fresh whole milk of the farm’s own dairy cows and goats.
In their on-farm cheese shop you can sample and purchase all kinds of cheese, as well as bottled cow and goat milk.
We had to buy a chunk of their Heidi cheese to try because it’s a limited edition made only from the fresh milk produced on their summer pasture giving it a flavour similar to a gruyere.
Where to eat in Harrison
328 Esplanade Ave., Harrison Hot Springs
Located directly across the street from Harrison Lake beach, we enjoyed a casual lunch on the patio of Muddy Waters and took in the view and people watching as we devoured really good ground-rib steak burgers.
Surrounded by the lush farmlands of Aggasiz and Harrison, Muddy Waters takes advantage of the local offerings and they’ve taken casual dining to a whole new farm-to-table level.
We managed to save room for dessert so stopped in at Rocky Mountain Chocolate, directly next door, for some ice cream. We also couldn’t resist picking up some Grizzly Paws for the road.
22270 128th Ave., Maple Ridge
Depending on your route back to the city, Golden Ears Cheese Crafters is a must-stop.
The farm-made, artisan cheeses are unique in the fact they’re made by two young sisters, Emma and Jenna Davison, who have managed to catch the attention of some pretty high-end establishments.
Their cheeses are served everywhere from Fairmont Hotel Vancouver to Araxis Restaurant to the Rosewood Hotel Georgia.
Where to stay: night two
14282 Morris Valley Rd., Harrison Mills
The drive out to Harrison Mills was such a breath of fresh air after suffering from COVID claustrophobia in the city for months and after reaching Rowena’s I could feel the stress immediately fall away.
The resort has a colourful history starting from the early 1900s when the Pretty family purchased the 160-acre property.
Today, Rowena’s is home to a spectacular, water-front golf course, the inn, rustic and luxury cabins, and a campground.
Rowen’s is also a popular location for eagle watching in November, when the world’s largest gathering of bald eagles converges on sasquatch country.
We enjoyed lunch, dinner and breakfast at the Club House at Rowena's Inn on the River.
We wanted to swim so badly while visiting Rowena's, but the resort is taking covid safety protcals very seriously so it was closed during our stay.