A few days ago, I was lucky enough to snag an invite to an exclusive event at a store that I have wanted to visit for years – Cheese Boutique in the west end of Toronto.
Yup…that’s right…Toronto’s most luxurious cheese shop (and cheese is just a small sampling of what they sell) and I had never been. I’m not sure what took me so long, but now I’m wishing I lived closer!
For those of you that may not know, The Cheese Boutique opened in 1970 as a humble Mom and Pop corner store on Bloor Street. Having grown into a gourmet staple and bursting at the seams, in the year 2000, they moved to their current home on Ripley Avenue, an industrial strip off the South Kingsway. The epicurean emporium contains the cumulative knowledge of three generations, which has contributed to an augmentation in the variety and quality of their offerings. At this magnificent store, there is much more than cheese: prosciutto hangs from the ceiling, truffles are available in season, foie gras is a staple, beef is dry aged a minimum 40 days, olive oils are available from 80 different terroirs, jams are made with green walnuts, pastries are baked in-house and chocolate truffles are flavoured with chipotle and bacon. But above all one must visit to experience the astounding selection of cheeses from around the globe, for which “best before” dates do not apply.
Transforming something good into something great is their philosophy. Aging and curing everything from cheese to beef to Meyer lemons is done with the expert knowledge that comes only with years of experience. They offer a 10, 000 sq. ft. food museum, where one is allowed to both take the art home to enjoy later or nibble on it en route. It truly is an amazing store!
But, on Thursday night, I was invited to celebrate their new Executive Chef Basilio Pesce. With the help of a few friends (Rocco Agostina from Libretto Pizza, Nick Auf Der Mauer from Prochetta and Co., Amanda Ray from Biff’s Bistro, Brandon Olsen from CXBO, Michele Forgone from Impasto and the guys at Southbrook Vineyards and Samuel Adams) alongside owner Afrim Pristine, we enjoyed incredible eats and an all around wonderful evening!
Come along on the journey to see what the fuss was all about!!
As we entered, we were handed a map of the store along with a menu of all the goodies we were going to enjoy!
The most incredible “nibble” we had when we entered was this small dish of Blue Elizabeth cheese with crushed Marcona almonds on an abate pear and topped with shaved maple (honestly, a deal breaker when it comes to finishing a dish)…paired with a toasted piece of ciabatta topped with an incredible piece of Majestic Henry cheese…
I couldn’t leave without buying a block of this incredible “solid maple” that was shaved onto the blue cheese dish…so excited to use this!!
As we walked around the store we were greeted with more and more delectables…this dish was made by Basilio himself …he told us that he made these Barese sausages with lamb and tomato paste (they were incredibly moist!!) and grilled them up, serving them on a bed of stewed Barlotti beans and charred ramps…luscious!!
We stopped by to have a slice of yummy pizza from Pizza Libretto! This beauty, made by Rocoo, was topped with all the Italian goodness you can think of and sprinkled with pieces of Nduja (Calabrian salami paste)…great spicy eats!
Next, Basilio also tantalized our taste buds with this artichoke ricotta and Mullett Bottarga salad…on point!
This lovely lady was finishing Michele Forgione’s pasta (gramigne pasta – paglia e fieno – with Tuscan sausage, fresh peas and Vento D’estate cheese) with a grating of fresh cheese. The creamiest pasta with no cream!!
When you share food with friends, conversation is always livelier!! Fina and Tara in deep discussion!!
Such an array of olives…the best reason to visit before your next dinner party!!
Lookie look…a table full of pork crackling!!
Getting the porchetta tacos ready for the crowds!!
Topping with the crispy pork skin, this was my highlight of the night!!
Porchetta prep in action!!
Taking pictures of taking pictures…it’s what we food people do!!
Amanda from Biff’s bistro made this sous vide fish served with a Manitoulin trout, lettuce and brown butter puree and drunken raisin chutney…so moist!
Did I tell you I had a weakness for sugar??
The bakery windows, full of cookies, biscotti and other treats, were so beautiful!!
Like, come on!!
Beautiful mango cups…
Simple cookies adorned with chocolate!!
And this tart? Stunning, right??
Brandon from CXBO served these delectable handmade chocolates and jellies…
Their 1,000 sq. ft. walk-in refrigerator is their most recent investment. An avant-garde approach to retail groceries, customers receive the freshest product with the least amount of handling from delivery to their baskets. In the cold locker they offer fresh fruits and vegetables as well as hand crafted butchery, game meats, and a variety of high quality seafood.
Tags are on blocks of cheese from discerning customers who call ahead to reserve their product. Ask about their blackout cheese…you probably won’t be able to get any (because it sells out so quickly!), but you need to hear the story!!
After all was said and done, and my belly was full, we all left with a smile on our face and a goodie bag to take home. I will definitely be back and I will definitely need a second mortgage to buy everything I remember seeing that I need…
Thanks so much Afrim for welcoming us into your world!!