Skip to content

Armstrong’s best grilled cheese chosen by the people

The Big Cheese Festival wraps up 10th year with some finger-lickin’ good creations
Left to right: Carol Holl-Lonergan of the Armstrong Spallumcheen Chamber of Commerce poses with the winner of the People’s Choice award in the Professional Grilled Cheese Challenge Elizabeth Reimer, owner of the Wild Oak Café, along with Canadian Cheese Ambassador David Beaudoin. The Big Cheese Festival wrapped up Saturday, April 15, 2023. (PratoPhoto)

There was plenty of cheesy goodness on offer at Armstrong’s 2023 The Big Cheese festival, which wrapped up Saturday, April 15.

A signature part of the festivities was the Professional Grilled Cheese Competition, which saw eight restaurants and organizations in Armstrong craft a delectable grilled cheese sandwich for the chance to be crowned champion.

The people have spoken: the winner of the Professional Grilled Cheese Competition People’s Choice award was the Wild Oak Café, which offered a sandwich called The Mulberry, featuring fig jam, black pepper bacon, brie, Gouda and mozzarella cheese on rye sourdough.

It’s not the first time Wild Oak has won; the café also took home the title in 2016 and 2022.

The Wild Oak Café was followed closely by Country Manor Kitchen and PV Blvd Coffee.

“Comments on the voting cards showed that everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves tasting all these amazing concoctions that showed lots of creativity,” said Carol Hill-Lonergan, with the Armstrong Spallumcheen Chamber of Commerce.

The media’s choice for Best Professional Grilled Cheese was Farmstrong Cider Co. The Wild Oak was the media’s second choice.

“Thank you to everyone who entered and thank you to everyone who went out and tasted the restaurants’ entries — they appreciate you taking the time to do that,” said Hill-Lonergan, “Everyone is looking forward to next year’s competition.”

The amateur grilled cheese contest was again won by crowd favourite Bridget Kirkland, who won the judges over with tasty ingredients and perfectly melted cheese.

“The Triple Cheese Grilled Cheese by Bridget was filled with cheddar, Gruyere and parmesan cheese plus caramelized onions and apples,” said Patti Ferguson, long time event volunteer. “Then the flavored butter on the outside put it over the edge.”

Cheeseball judges also had a tough time deciding a winner, but in the end they awarded the top prize to Rhonda Keating who offered up a savoury cranberry pistachio cheese log, and Hill-Lonergan with a sweet cake batter cheeseball surprise.

This year, the Food and Buyer Expo — an industry-only event for vendors to mingle with buyers — was again held on Friday evening, April 14, through the generous support of BC Dairy, BDO and Land to Table Network, in partnership with Design Farm Inc. and Mandi Lunan Food Business Coach. The event featured a one-on-one networking opportunity with seven industry professionals, as well as food and beverages.

Highlights of the evening were presentations by Calista Drury of Milky Way 4H with her Communication Challenge speech, and the Reimersma family who introduced their new venture, Udderly Ice Cream.

With over 40 slow food producers including cheese producers, cheese pairing workshops hosted by David Beaudoin with Dairy Farmers of Canada, live music and lots of tasting opportunities, more than 1,600 people enjoyed the daytime event at Hassen Arena Saturday, April 15.

This was followed by a sold-out Ambassador Dinner Saturday evening where guests were served seven courses, each pairing a delicious cheese, slow food and spirits.

“We were overwhelmed by the support we received that allowed us to present two days of events,” said Patti Noonan, executive director of the Armstrong Spallumcheen Chamber of Commerce. “Thank you to all our sponsors as well as David Beaudoin, Jessica Walkden, Miles Kroeker for all their efforts in putting together the seminars and dinner.

“And of course, none of this would have been possible without our many volunteers, some who have been part of the event for a number of years – their efforts truly make this event the success it is and have allowed us to continue to celebrate our local producers and processors for 10 years!”

For more information on the Wild Oak Café, visit their website.

READ MORE: Farmstrong sandwich the media’s top choice in Armstrong grilled cheese competition

READ MORE: New name, same cheesy goodness at North Okanagan festival

Brendan Shykora
Follow us: Facebook | Twitter

Be Among The First To Know

Sign up for a free account today, and receive top headlines in your inbox Monday to Saturday.

Sign Up with google Sign Up with facebook

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Reset your password

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

A link has been emailed to you - check your inbox.

Don't have an account? Click here to sign up

Brendan Shykora

About the Author: Brendan Shykora

I started as a carrier at the age of 8. In 2019 graduated from the Master of Journalism program at Carleton University.
Read more