Leslieville Cheese Market
This is a relatively new place that opened in my neighbourhood a few months ago. It's at Queen & Logan. It's a small place, but they offer classes in cheese appreciation (I guess it would be called that). Husband and I went to one the other day - topic was Better with Age. It cost $20 each for the hour long class, and we had a class of wine and sampled several cheeses. The woman who taught the class doesn't work for the store, but is a 'cheese specialist' who is brought in every month or so to teach the class. Definitely a fun experience!
Liked the Leslieville Cheese Market but enjoyed even more the Thin Blue Line on Roncesvailles. This is an alternative for West Enders - a tiny shop with a small selection and excellent service. The witty descriptions labelled on each cheese and generous samples help you with your selection.
We got one of their cheese platters for a party over the holidays and I was very happy with the selection/serving size of the cheeses (the St. Agur was outstanding) as well as the accessories/condiments provided. I'd definitely order a cheese platter from them again... agreed that some of the staff aren't always on the ball, but when I've dealt with the owner Michael its definitely been a pleasureable experience as his passion for the product is clearly evident.
I live near them and wanted to love this place, but I've now been disappointed three times.
The staff on each visit was neither efficient nor knowledgeable about the stock. The cheese selection seemed pretty good, but nothing was of top quality or (in the cases where it mattered) even close to being ready to eat. Some soft ripened cheeses and a goat cheese log never reached prime eating condition. While there is a nice selection of condiments, the prices are very high.
The only thing that impressed was the bread selection (sourced from Epi the last time I was in). I hope they've improved and will try it again based on these reports, but I'm still driving up to Alex Farms (though Leslieville is but a short walk away).
Not very well, though they are not directly comparable.
Alex Farm has a vast selection, with stuff at a variety of price/quality levels. Although I have occasionally gotten indifferent service, the service quality and staff expertise have usually been very good to excellent. I go to two different locations regularly (Danforth and Bayview) and have been happy at both. I think they are franchising, but the people working there seem very well informed. I can happily mull over samples for a long time without feeling pressured to buy anything and without causing a traffic jam.
Leslieville is a very small shop. My understanding is that the owners just decided one day (correctly) that there was a need for this type of place in the neighbourhood, and don't have a background in the business. I apparently haven't dealt with the owners, since I have encountered only female staff. The selection appears fairly well edited, especially at the Quebec cheese high end, but I got poor and uninformed service each time I was in and the cheeses themselves were not in peak condition.
On the whole, prices were high. For branded condiments and the like, I've seen the identical item for much less. (Example, one product I use was $7.99 vs about $5.00 at other stores.)
I ordered a cheese platter for a party before Christmas. I picked it up. They handed me a big brown paper bag with handles. Inside was:
5 cheese, wrapped and labelled
Flags for the cheeses
A note describing the orgin and taste of each cheese
A china bowl with green grapes
Pork and beef cured sausages slices
A big wooden serving board
It was fantastic. I would order from them again in a minute. And the selection in the store is great.
Sigh. I wish they'd give me free stuff for praising them.