Last weekend, I visited friends in Toronto. Lucky for me, they live just next door to St. Lawrence Market, hailed by National Geographic as the number one food market in the world. So imagine my surprise when I found it left a lot to be desired when it came to cheese.
Except for one stand...I'm not sure if it was the market itself or whether the cheese stands were truly representative of Canadian cheese culture, but most storefronts selling cheese were stocked with mainstream varieties. So while the market boasted many cheese shops nearly bursting with varieties on offer, the selection of cheeses fell short: commodity bries and camemberts, block cheddars and so-called Swiss types, pre-packaged and mass-produced generic brands rather than small-production, and brands of cheeses just as readily available in the States.
I did stumble upon a bevy of raw milk cheeses that would be considered contraband back home (more on that in the near future), but what blew my mind most were some cheeses made by Monforte Dairy.
Have you heard of them? Not surprisingly, I hadn't, but they're worth knowing about.
I was wholly impressed with the quality of their cheeses. Each was better than the next. Cheese made from buffalo, cow, goat, and sheep milk, of totally differing styles, were each of the highest caliber. Nothing like a perfectly ripe bloomy-rinded cheese next to a unique cheddar style next to a washed rind sheep next to a goat gouda — all of equally delicious taste — to demonstrate supreme cheesemaking aptitude.
And that wasn't all: They had a deliciously creamy fresh pecorino, just days (if that) old, with marks from the cheese draining basket still freshly apparent. And especially great was an ash rinded water buffalo milk cheese. They had several triple cremes, too, some coated in herbs, smoked cheeses, heady and strong, smoked with a brand new smoker they've been playing around with. And lots of dairy products like yogurts and butter, as well.
Find Monforte Dairy at St. Lawrence Market on Saturdays, and be sure to check out the Monforte Dairy website for more information!
Nora Singley used to be a cheesemonger and the Director of Education at Murray's Cheese Shop in New York City. She is currently a TV Chef on The Martha Stewart Show.
Related: Sweet Breakfast Meat: Canadian Bacon
(Images: Nora Singley)