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Cheesemongers in TO . . . any hidden gems?

Just back from a fruitless 32-km tour of cheese shops in Toronto in search of Vacherin Mont D'Or . . . and reminded in the process of my growing despair at the inconsistent quality of cheese provisoning (also some truly insulting pricing!) in the city. Advice, anyone please?

Have always been a fan of Scheffler's in SLM for everyday purchases: selection is generally pretty good and I like the fact that they tell you not to buy a cheese that is not yet ripe (though would be better that they didn't display it in the first place). Prices are mostly within reason. And there is no beating Cheese Boutique for speciality items at perfect readiness if you have taken that second mortgage on your house or it's a really special occasion.

But is there a great cheesemonger in Toronto that offers a diverse selection of local and imported cheeses at a reasonable mark-up who really knows how to keep cheese properly and sell it at the proper ripeness?

Am off Whole Foods since the $24.00-Rochetta went mouldy within 48 hours and the "ready-to-eat" Epoisse was like plasticine. Leslieville Cheese market is okay for what it is, but selection is too small for an interesting cheese tray, and supply inconsistent. Alex Farm Shops are off my list--up and down and all over the place: supply erratic and unreliable, delicate cheese kept under the counter in airtight plastic wrap . . . and so on.

Please share your great cheese provisioner tips!

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  1. Hey,

    I am a cheese addict and my two fave spots are About Cheese on Church St. (you can see their selection on aboutcheese.ca ). IMHO they have the best selection of Canadian Artisanal Cheese in Toronto.

    My other go to spot is Nancy's Cheese at Dupont & Spadina (nancyscheese.ca). The shop has a smaller selection but Nancy is super nice and only carries products that she is passionate about. I enjoy supporting smaller shops, like hers, in which customer service is number one.

    9 Replies
    1. re: Hmm

      I second both of the recommendations. Nancy's really is small but she cares A LOT about cheese! I had a 20 min conversation with her about Roaring 40's (one of my fav blue cheeses) and she was lovely lovely lovely and knows her cheese.

      1. re: JennaBean

        Yup-Nancy is awesome. I remember when she started out at Harbord Bakery. She is passionate, knowledgable, and clearly cares about selling cheese at its proper "peak" so to speak.

        SWS

      2. re: Hmm

        Another vote for Nancy! As mentioned by Hmm, she carries a smaller selection, but they're all well chosen. I remember going in a while ago as a cheese she had been aging was selling out - so that is definitely something she pays attention to!

        The nice thing about going in is feeling like a kid in a candy store, and so many delicacies to try. Because it is a smaller place, when it's your turn to order, you have Nancy's full attention and no sense of being rushed, even if it gets busy while you're trying different cheeses. It has a nice neighbourhood vibe that way. And if you're on the lookout for interesting cheeses, it's the kind of thing you can ask about (what might be coming in, etc) without feeling uncomfortable.

        I've been to some of the other cheese shops in TO and enjoyed their wares just as much. Certainly there are many places with wider selections! But it's still worthwhile to check out Nancy's for a chat and some guaranteed good picks. It's the kind of place you can easily come to think of as "your place."

        1. re: c.cow

          Glad to hear all the rec's for Nancy's. I'm so close when I go to Ezra's Pound but I've yet to go in. I will definitely put it on the "to do" list. How do prices compare to the other cheese shops around town?

          I'm a big fan of About Cheese. It's not the largest selection but it's well edited and I find the staff to be quite friendly and passionate about their product. And whil I'm not there often, I love Thin Blue Line as well. Alex Farm, Whole Foods and All the Best are in semi-regular rotation as well but I prefer the smaller shops. I was at Fiesta Farms a couple of weeks ago and I wasn't overly wowed by their cheese organization or selection - on the more basic products, I found the pricing to be quite good but on the higher end cheeses, I found the prices to be right up there. Plus the Grey Owl I bought went pretty funky pretty fast.

          1. re: peppermint pate

            Nancy's is the only place I've been in the city that has properly ripened Brie. No overripe ammonia taste! She is not simply a cheese retailer, she is a cheese "ripener" ("affineur" in French), and that makes all the difference in the quality of her products.

            1. re: myriam5555

              Who doesn't claim to be an affineur these days? 'Caves' and 'affinage' seem to be the words of the day all over the city.

              1. re: kmacd

                Nancy doesn't claim to be at all. That's my label. She's the real deal.

        2. re: Hmm

          Alex at 2594 Yonge is good, though I wish their staff would have some notion of the French language - or at least what the cheese they sell are. Don't ask for advice. Pusatieri's on Yonge : their Cheese Dpt staff is very knowledgeable and helpful. I like La Salumeria: Good cheese selection; the owner is friendly and knowledgeable. A place to avoid (IMO): The Cheese Emporium (245 Eglinton East) : very limited selection; the staff knows next to nothing about cheese and there are hardly any customers in their store.
          Personnally I favor a store where people know what they are selling and can talk about it.

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          Salumeria
          2021 Yonge St, Toronto, ON M4S, CA

          1. re: lamaranthe

            Chabichou and La Fromagerie meet your criteria.

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            La Fromagerie
            868 College St, Toronto, ON M6H, CA

            Chabichou
            Toronto, Toronto, ON , CA

        3. You have to check out Gurth Pretty's booth at the Saturday Wychwood Green Barn Farmers' Market. That man knows cheese.

          1. We love Global Cheese in Kensington Market

            7 Replies
            1. re: Sadistick

              I loathe Global Cheese. They will slip you rotten goods, if they can.

              1. re: capiscum

                Amen. "Purveyors of stale crap to the unsuspecting" should be stenciled above the door. Among the few social benefits of Kensington's impending gentrification would be the demise of Global Cheese. Will never forget the decaying hunk of "aged havarti" they sold me once that would have gagged a maggot.

                1. re: Kagemusha

                  +1

                  Literally threw it away. Beware the special blues.

                2. re: capiscum

                  +1 to capiscum on Global.
                  We have had the ol' bait switch done to us more times than we would care to admit. "fool me once..." being the motto.

                  Ditto on Cheese Magic when the owner isn't around. I was handed a parcel of old Benedictin Bleu that was sopping wet in its paper wrapping. How very disappointing.

                3. re: Sadistick

                  I really like the thrill of Global. Sure, you can get some bad stuff if you are not vigilant. But you get to taste everything before you buy, so it is your fault. (Sometimes I buy a bag of "ends", random cheeses extra cheap, no tasting. A fun adventure.)

                  It's been my favourite cheese shop for 35 years. I am a cheapskate.

                  About Cheese had a shop really near my home. I couldn't bring myself to buy their expensive / fancy cheeses very often, so they closed and moved downtown. The very knowledgeable and friendly guy I talked to didn't even know what Esrom was. About Cheese seems to be the retail arm of a distributor of artisanal Quebec and Ontario cheeses. They seemed to supply the Loblaws a few doors away (Yonge & Yonge).

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                  About Cheese
                  3467 Yonge St, Toronto, ON M4N, CA

                  1. re: Hugh

                    "Sure you can get some bad stuff if you are not vigilant. But you get to taste everything before you buy, so it is your fault"

                    This is up there as one of the most ridiculous statements I have ever read on Chowhound.

                    I do not make a habit of patronizing businesses that do not understand proper inventory control or care for their customers. If you choose to sell rotten cheese, then clearly you don't give a shit about customer service. I too have had this experience with Global. I stopped going there a long time ago...

                    SWS

                  2. re: Sadistick

                    Are you all not tasting the cheeses prior to purchasing them?

                    While I agree and unfortunately, have also been the recipient of a 'We do not open this to taste special brie whole wheel' there are deals to be had. (note - this is not a planned destination in Kensington, simply a stop along the way, unlike say, El Trompo)

                    $9 for a wheel of the unpasteurized goat cheese from France, vs $14 elsewhere.

                    As well, I get their fresh churned salted butter - great stuff.

                  3. I really like Chabichou on Harbord. They have an interesting selection, and their baguettes are fantastic!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: eatravel

                      I second Chabichou - and obvs the superfantastic, but oddly located Cheese Boutique.

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                      Cheese Boutique
                      45 Ripley Ave, Toronto, ON M6S, CA

                      Chabichou
                      Toronto, Toronto, ON , CA

                    2. I think Cheese Boutique is still the best place for buying local cheeses, their selection can't be beat, and they make their own cheese as well. Their prices are reasonable. If you are buying expensive imported cheese their mark-up isn't the issue, its the cost of the cheese. Their local stuff costs no more than anywhere else in my experience.

                      That being said I also really like About Cheese and would highly recommend them. They have a great selection of cheeses from Ontario and Quebec. Helps that they are right by a Cumbraes, its convenient foodie shopping.

                      9 Replies
                      1. re: JPJ

                        Thin Blue Line on Roncesvalles is a good little neighbourhood spot. Not necessarily a destination boutique but if you live in the area it's a convenient gem with a decent selection of Quebec and international cheeses, good prices and an assortment of olives, breads, etc...Friendly helpful service too.

                        1. re: jamesm

                          My two go-to cheese shops are Thin Blue Line and the Cheese Boutique. I just LOVE these two spots! They always have exactly what I want.

                          -----
                          Cheese Boutique
                          45 Ripley Ave, Toronto, ON M6S, CA

                          Thin Blue Line Cheese
                          93 Roncesvalles Ave, Toronto, ON M6R 2K6, CA

                        2. re: JPJ

                          There are too many alternatives now(thankfully)to CB's extortionate pricing to excuse them on any grounds. Unless you've money to burn, they're no longer the go-to. They bank too much on their reputation and tend to treat customers like chumps. Who needs that?

                          1. re: Kagemusha

                            I agree kagemusha. Cheese Boutique is off my list. The last time I was there I could not believe how many items I noticed that were past due. If you shop there be very careful and check the dates. Many of those marinades, sauces, spreads should have been tossed months ago.

                            1. re: millygirl

                              Hey millygirl...It looks like Cheese Boutique hasn't changed much since they left Bloor Street about 10 years ago?

                              I complained to them -- then -- that sealed items (sauces, etc.) were stale-dated.

                              I also found tins of Mamade Marmalade makings that had "extreme" puffed-up bulging lids -- I was afraid to touch them, lest they explode in my hands. I warned the staff, and I guess that they (staff) survived.

                              CB is good, though, at putting stale-dated cheeses on sale, and I usually grab a few when I make my semi-annual visit.

                              1. re: Dean Tudor

                                They have so much stuff, I wondered how they keep it all fresh. It's sad to hear this.

                                Last time I bought epoisses they asked me if I was going to eat it right away, and I was intending to but as soon as I opened it (after getting home) it smelled very strong of ammonia. My SO did not enjoy it and so I ate it within the next two days and by the second day I was breathing ammonia.

                                Other than that and the prices I was able to find all the cheese I need there, and the shop is lovely. I do however want to find somewhere else where I can get stuff a little cheaper.

                                If anyone can recommend a place, feel free. Normally my favourites are Mimolette, Irish guiness cheddar, provolone picante, masterchoice beemster, Idiazabal, comte and the more stronger harder cheeses.

                                1. re: BamiaWruz

                                  For French or Quebec cheeses I strongly recommend La Fromargerie and Chabichou. These people know and love these cheeses.

                                  -----
                                  Chabichou
                                  Toronto, Toronto, ON , CA

                                  1. re: mrbozo

                                    I find the service at Fromagerie rather tepid. Even when I ask questions, I get the shortest responses. It's not like they don't have the time, it's never busy in there - wonder why?

                                  2. re: cakesy

                                    The new guy in Liberty Village has a nice selection and is a nice guy. In old Thuet spot - forgot the name - Village Cheesemonger perhaps? He needs to sell bread though.

                                    -----
                                    Thuet
                                    609 King St W, Toronto, ON M5V1M5, CA