Cheesed Off at McEwan
On the cheese at McEwan:
I paid a visit to McEwan for the first time, having heard the buzz, naysayers and McEwanites alike, and wanted to judge for myself.
Suitably impressed with the cheese selection, though notably, the focus is on Ontario artisanal cheeses. Having visited several of the dairies earlier this summer, I was aware of the increase in price-points (a 8.99 round of soft goats cheese from 5th town marked up to 11.99; Thunder Oak ordered online at prices of $21.00/kg marked up to a whopping $69.99 a kg)....
The real let-down was the abysmal cheese counter service.
A rather disinterested looking man handing out samples completely neglected to offer me anything, despite my standing there (preferentially serving two patrons before I managed to request one...). Having visually identified a few of my favorite cheeses in the glass case, I was rather curious to learn about the selection offered at a place like McEwan's.
Completely ignoring my question about the source of the soft-rind cheese that he was holding out, he patronizingly said, "its like Brie." The cheese was under-ripe, with a bitter aftertaste...I then spotted a wax-rind cheese, one that appeared nice and aged, with a wax rind. I asked to sample it. After turning away from me to hand out another sample, he grudgingly cut two microscopic shards--so small that I couldn't pull them off the knife without unhygenically scraping them off, then continued offering samples to others milling about. Unable to place the cheese, I asked if it was a Gouda. Now, having spent a considerable amount of time in the Netherlands, I used the dutch pronunciation as well as the anglicized one (glottal as in "Bach" not "g" as in Gorilla...). He basically stared at me and squinted for a good 30 seconds while I kept repeating myself. Wanting to shorten the already taxing interaction, I asked for a piece the size of the one that he was carving to take home. He continued to look puzzled and pointed at various cheeses until I nodded my head vigourously. I am not invisible, nor do I have a particularly difficult to hear speaking voice...but he basically treated me like I was not speaking english! Finally figuring out which cheese I was indicating, he attempted to saw off half of the same block he had been handling the whole time (despite the fact that I had requested an entire portion, not half a wedge. Shouldn't it be above McEwan to wrap up portions that have been likely used for the morning in store samplings ?) Reaching into the pre-cut, pre-wrapped cheeses, he handed me a piece far larger than the one I had indicated, glaring as he passed it to me....then rudely turned to continue handing out cheese samples despite the fact that I wanted to purchase several more cheeses for a party that evening. I had to flag down another person at the deli counter in order to finish my order. This salesperson was kind enough, though when I requested a Prestige de Bourgogne, a soft-rind, high-fat cheese that I had purchased on occasion, he said that no such cheese existed, and that the "Chateau de Bourgogne" was the cheese that I was looking for. Again, the patronizing attitude of certainty that I could possibly not know what I was actually trying to purchase!
I will not trouble the arrogant, inattentive cheese counter staff at McEwan ever again. I sure hope that McEwan is able to keep a wide clientele base of affluent non-foodies satisfying their curiosity for a pretty food shop, 'cause the prices and absolutely daft service are not sufficient to serve people who know their product and seek actual informative, helpful responses to their inquiries.