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North Okanagan businesses battle it out in the Great Grilled Cheese Restaurant Challenge

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Five Armstrong businesses have just added an extra item to their menus in the hope of outdoing each other in the battle to win the Great Grilled Cheese Restaurant Challenge.

The Brown Derby Café, the Wild Oak Café, Country Bakery, Fairways Bistro and the Station Diner introduced their extra-special grilled cheese Oct. 4, allowing members of the public to purchase and then vote for their favourite sandwich before the winner is announced at the Cheese...It's a Natural! festival being held in Armstrong Nov. 2.

"Who doesn't want to bite into a grilled cheese and watch the cheese drip out?" Armstrong Spallumcheen Chamber of Commerce executive director Patti Noonan said.

The event is the only artisan cheese festival in B.C., Noonan said. While other places may have cheese and wine festivals, the Armstrong event is just dedicated to B.C. cheese.

The festival will feature cheesemakers from all over the province and allow people to sample and purchase a wide variety of products often not seen in stores. The festival will also hold a seminar from cheesemaker and expert David Beaudoin - who calls himself a "cheese poet."

The winner in the Great Grilled Cheese Restaurant Challenge will also be crowned "The Big Cheese," giving the business bragging rights until they do it all again next year.

The festival is also holding an amateur cheese ball and grilled cheese competition, giving members of the public a chance to show off their culinary prowess when it comes to cheese.

The cheese festival was supposed to be a one-off event to celebrate Armstrong's 100th birthday, but public demand saw it become an annual event now in its seventh year.

But why not call it the Armstrong cheese festival?

It comes down to copyright Noonan says.

While Armstrong Cheese can be found in stores across the country, it hasn't been produced in the town for well over a decade, said Noonan, but the name is copyrighted.

Noonan said while the town's connection to the cheese has left, she doesn't resent it, as the product is great free advertising for Armstrong and the cheesemakers and dairy farmers that call it home.

Cheese...It's a Natural! takes place at the Hassen Memorial Arena, Armstrong, Nov. 2. For more information go here.

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