Good cheese hunting: Day 13, pilgrimage in Montreal

On our final full day in Montreal, we make a pilgrimage to the oldest cheesemonger in Quebec. As true pilgrims, we trudge on foot, some two hours, between Marché Jean-Talon and our downtown hotel on Boulevard René Lévesque.

Marché Jean-Talon, the largest year-round farmer’s market in Montreal, is where one finds the head office and main retail store of La fromagerie Hamel—in the cheese business since 1961.

There are some 700 varieties of cheese on display at La fromagerie Hamel in Marché Jean-Talon in Montreal.

La fromagerie Hamel now has five locations in Montreal including the flagship store at Jean-Talon. The name comes from its founder, Fernand Hamel, who owned the business until 1988 when it was purchased by Marc Picard who runs the business today with his wife, Murielle Chaput, and his son, Ian Picard, who has been the master fromager affineur for the past decade.

Camille, one of the friendly, bilingual experts in cheese who looks after customers, introduced us to three new-to-us Quebec cheeses that we will report on in due course:

  • Alfred fermier, a farmstead organic raw cow’s milk cheese from
    Eastern Townships
  • Kenogami fermier, a farmstead thermalized cow’s milk cheese from Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean
  • Mamirolle, a pasteurized cow’s milk cheese from Central Quebec aged in the cave at La fromagerie Hamel.

La fromagerie Hamel is the oldest cheese retailer in Quebec and, as far as we can make out, the second oldest in Canada. Olympic Cheese Mart at St. Lawrence Market in Toronto started cheesemongering in 1958. The high-profile Cheese Boutique in Toronto opened its doors in 1977.

Non-cheese footnotes on eating our way around Montreal for a week:

—Georgs Kolesnikovs

Georgs Kolesnikovs, Cheese-Head-in-Chief at CheeseLover.ca, departs Montreal tomorrow with his Significant Other for Le Festival des Fromages de Warwick.

Cheese Boutique hosts Festival of Chefs

Henriot Champagne flows at Cheese Boutique during the launch party for this year's Festival of Chefs.

Chefs from Toronto’s leading restaurants will strut their stuff when the seventh annual Festival of Chefs unfolds at Cheese Boutique over the five weekends of May.

The concept is simple: Let the chefs create dishes with ingredients available at Cheese Boutique. Invite the public to interact with the chefs and—for a donation to Toronto Zoo’s conservation program—let them sample the cuisine paired with a glass of wine.

Here’s the schedule for the cooking demonstrations every Saturday and Sunday in May, from 12 noon to 4 p.m.:

May 1 – Anthony Walsh of Canoe
May 2 – Anne Yarymowich of Frank (AGO)
May 8 – Jason Bangerter of Auberge du Pommier
May 9 – Alida Solomon of Tutti Matti
May 15 – Mike Steh of reds bistro
May 16 – Anthony Rose of Drake Hotel
May 22 – Chris McDonald of CAVA
May 23 – John Higgins of George Brown College
May 29 – Keith Froggett of Scaramouche
May 30 – Jonathan Gushue of Langdon Hall.

Of course, there was plenty of cheese to sample at the launch party.

Five wineries are participating:

  • Tawse Winery
  • 13th Street Winery
  • Cave Spring Cellars
  • Norman Hardie
  • Cattail Creek Estate Winery

Afrim Pristine, co-owner of Cheese Boutique, describes the annual promotion as “a celebration of culinary excellence, of passion, fine ingredients and sharing knowledge.”

Cheese Boutique is located at 45 Ripley Avenue in Toronto’s west end. The photos were taken at the festival launch party last week.

Charcuterie and other taste treats were sampled by guests at the festival launch party.