Best downtown-ish cheese shop?
I'm putting together a cheese plate for a party, and I'd like to know which cheese shops are best on:
C. Knowledge and helpfulness of staff
I've heard good things about Cheese Magic (listeria aside), but there's a few cheese shops in my neighbourhood (little italy) that seem nice as well.
Any small shop is pretty good as long as you avoid Alex Farm and Globo in Kensington. I'm a big fan of Cheese Magic because they carry my favourite cheese in the whole world. Aged Queso Manchego from Spain (and they seem to have found out how to store it well, as many places have not) You can also get a great one up at Pimenton on Mt. Pleasant along with a great Mahon cheese and some killer serrano ham.
I haven't been to La Fromagerie in quite some time, but I remember it being quite good. They had a really good extra old Mimolette that I remember liking.
A couple of my favourites are Chabichou on Harbord. How I miss this place since I moved! Wonderful selection of Euro and Quebec cheeses, especially unpasteurized. Very knowledgable and helpful staff who can certainly sort out a cheese plate for you. My new local is Leslieville Cheese on Queen West who are very nice, as well.
About Cheese is good, depending on who is there, more or less knowledgeable. Decent selection and conveniently located, not only downtown but near Cumbraes, great if you are doing a dinner party, between the two places its almost "one" stop shopping.
Still, you won't find any cheese place in the GTA that beats the Cheese Boutique. Admittedly, its a little off downtown-ish, but there is no better selection and certainly the service is second to none. It's worth the trip. Some of the cheeses are made in-house and therefore are not available anywhere else. I don't even bother to think about it myself anymore, I just go in, see Afrim, tell him what wine or other drink I am serving and/or what food I am trying to serve and let them work their magic.
Cheese aside the place also has a tremendous selection of other things: olives, chacuterie, pate, etc.
Another thumbs up for About Cheese. Samples galore, and their decadent gooey grilled cheese sandwich is a perfect cold weather snack (if shared - it really is very filling!)
Their mailing list is worth signing up for as well, they send out quite informative weekly emails with news and specials.
Nancy's is amazing! Definitely worth any effort to get there. (Though that's easy for me to say, since the effort for me is just crossing the street...)
I have only ever had good experiences with her cheeses, and since first shopping there, have recognized them on cheese boards like JKWB (when it was still JKWB). A couple times going overboard have resulted in higher-than-planned bills, but nothing out of line or astronomical. And if you give her price ranges, she is happy to work with those - she can show you how much you can get for $X, and suggest a similar but less-expensive cheese if it falls short of what you are looking for.
I like that she has you taste everything, too... helps with the no-shopping-on-an-empty-stomach rule! And each cheese comes with info including pairings (with wine and beer) so you could also ask for that kind of advice, had a great match with champagne once.
Highly, highly recommend. I have never been disappointed by Nancy's... except when I tried to pick up some Sauvagine for lunch once on a Monday (the day it is closed).