The graffito above pretty much says it all. Montrealers love their cheese. We’ve been in Montreal for most of the last month doing the research for Food Lovers’ Guide to Montreal, to be published next spring from Globe Pequot Press. (See our first volume in the series, Food Lovers’ Guide to Massachusetts, under the tab ”Some Books.”) We have to admit that we are staggered by the explosion in artisanal cheese-making in Quebec. La Belle Province is beginning to rival La France when it comes to great fromage.
Many of Quebec’s best cheeses are made from raw milk, but thanks to NAFTA, all Quebec cheeses are allowed into the United States, even though similar cheeses from France might be banned.
Gilles Jourdenais, owner of La Fromagerie Atwater, the wonderful cheese shop in the equally wonderful Marché Atwater (138 avenue Atwater, www.fromagerieatwater.ca/en/), told us that there are about 400 Quebec cheeses now – and that about half of them are very good. Of the 850 cheeses in his shop, about 175 are from Quebec. Jourdenais is particularly high on:
1608, a semi-soft cheese from milk of a 17th century heritage breed of Canadienne cattle.
L’Hércule du Charlevoix, an Alpine-style cheese made from milk from Jersey cows.
Le Fleurmier, a brie style also made from Jersey milk.
Grey Owl, an ash-covered goat’s milk cheese from Fromagerie Le Détour in Notre-Dame-du-Lac.
14 Arpents, a farm cheese similar to a Pont l’Evesque
Sauvagine, a washed rind cheese from St-Raymond de Pontneuf, that was crowned grand champion of Canadian cheeses in 2006
Out in Outremont, La Maison du Cheddar (alas, now closed) focuses entirely on Quebec cheeses and carries about 300 examples. Co-owner Jean-Pierre Gariepy can talk for hours just about the cheddars, and he uses three-, four- and five-year-old cheddars from St-Guillaume for tastings in the shop. He tends to second Jourdenais’s choices, but he is also a big fan of some other Quebec cheeses:
Chèvre Noir, a goat cheddar that Gariepy calls “a masterpiece” from Fromagerie Tournevent in Chesterville.
Riopelle de l’Île, named after the painter who often vacationed on L’Île aux Grues, where the cheese is made. It’s somewhere between a brie and a Camembert.
Pied-de-Vent, a raw cow’s milk cheese from Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine.
Victor et Berthold, one of the pioneer cheeses of the Quebec artisanal cheese movement that got started about 15 years ago.
Le Cendrillon, an ash-covered soft goat’s milk cheese whose name translates as “Cinderella.” Made by La Maison Alexis de Portneuf, it was chosen as the best cheese in the world in an international competition held on the Canary Islands in 2009.
Le Douanier (“the customs officer”) made by Fritz Kaiser, in the village of Noyan near the Vermont and New York border.
When we visited, Gariepy was using Le Douanier, a slightly tart semi-soft cheese made in the style of a French Morbier, along with a confit of onions, apple, cinnamon, and white wine, in his ”grilled cheese sandwich of the week.”