Montréal is one of those fairy cities, the type of city that I could imagine as something charmingly different from than the New York City hustle, a place with a Utopian feel that balances both French and English with an unforgettable Canadian kindness. So when I arrived in Québec, with its fair spring weather, I was strangely spot on with my assumptions: it fit my imagined stereotype in the best way.
Jean Talon Market
On our first day, my boyfriend and I ventured across the city to the Jean Talon Market in Little Italy. The Jean Talon market is the largest outdoor food market in North America, so we couldn't miss it. Not only is the open air market around 6 large aisles of fresh produce, cheeses, meats, and breads, the market is also surrounded by amazing butcher shops, cheese shops, and bakeries. There is no way one can leave empty-handed.
At the first entry into the market, my eyes lit up. Here I found La Chèvrerie du Buckland, a farmstead goat cheese operation with all the dreamy raw milk styles of cheese unattainable in the States. Here is a place where I could go off on a tangent about the case for fresh raw milk cheese and why we can't get our hands on it in America, but I'll let you read this article on that when you're ready.
There were two stars of the show that day from La Chèvrerie du Buckland: La Faiselle and Le Camembert au Lait Chèvre. I'm highlighting these two cheeses because they are styles not as commonly found in the United States, and I want to pique your curiosity.
La Faisselle au Lait Chèvre (Fresh Goat Milk Curd)
Imagine this: fresh, raw goat milk curd ladled into a form called a "Faisselle" in French. The curd sits in its own fresh whey in the faisselle form until a lucky buyer takes it home. Its sweet, clean, melt-in-your-mouth texture is like the most delicate of yogurts, and its flavor is subtle and rich all at once. The freshness screams from the packaging container. In this circumstance it was begging me to make a baguette sandwich on the spot with pâté de foie, sweet mustard and a pickle from Marché Des Saveurs, a baguette from Boulangerie Première Moisson, and fresh cocktail tomatoes from Québec. After walking all day, we felt fantastic eating these sandwiches.
Le Camembert au Lait Chèvre
This Camembert looks absolutely nothing like a traditional Camembert from France, but its flavor and texture actually blossomed after sitting in my backpack for multiple hours. It softened, it ripened, it opened up into an aromatic, salty, lactic, floral, and white button mushroom experience that is just hard to capture in the United States. The US market seeks cheeses with a long shelf-life and the most aggressive and bold of its kind, so the delicacy and nuance of this raw milk Camembert may just be lost on the average American cheese consumer. There is a distinct flavor, aroma, and experience from purchasing a cheese directly from a farm that produces it: the middle man, or the grocery store, does not interfere with its intended beauty. The freshness, even in aged styles, is something you can taste, smell, touch, but is very difficult to explain. I sum it up to a certain je ne sais quoi of small batch, handmade cheese.
One other cheese shop recommendation in the Jean Talon Market: Les Fromages qui Lait Cru !?!. Stop in here for all of your raw milk cheese needs.
We stayed in a neighborhood called Le Plateu Mont Royal, at a charming small apartment with a three minute walk to one of the city's best cheese shops, Fromagerie Hamel. There is also one located on the perimeter of the Jean Talon Market. The shops have been family owned for over 50 years.
If you're looking to try a vast selection of raw milk cheese from Québec, they can bring you on a tasting tour of what Québec has to offer. We settled on two delicious cheeses that made our day after a long bike ride.
Alfred Le Fermier
This raw cow milk cheese is texturally suspended between semi-soft and semi-hard, in a firmness that can only be described as supple. It won Gold and Bronze at the World Cheese Awards in 2017. With its smooth, washed rind, it is savory, herbaceous, floral, and fruity. Notes of blueberries wafted to the surface, as well as malt, bread, and hazelnuts. All in all, this farmstead raw milk cheese from Compton, Québec was eaten eagerly and steadfastly. Layers upon layers of the cheese was sandwiched into my hand-torn baguette.
This wash-rind raw cheese is distinctly made from both sheep and goat milk, making it immediately stand out from its cow milk cheese counter-parts. Fromagerie Ruban Bleu ages this cheese for at least 30 days before it is sold. Its funk would pair beautifully with a wheat ale and sweet and spicy mustard.
Only a Taste of Montréal
This is only a taste of what Montréal's cheese scene has to offer. With the city only an hour from NYC by plane, I can justify a day or two trip to enjoy all the dairy wonders we cannot find here in the States. More than half of Canada's cheese production hails from Québec, and you can start to taste this terroir, one cheese at a time..