Isn’t this pretty? It’s the selection of cheeses that Raymond and I served when we gathered with his children (and their significant others, and of course Raymond’s grandson Henry) to ring in the New Year.
Now don’t get me wrong: I very much appreciate the wonderful cheddar cheese that is produced in the Manse’s neck of the woods – at the Maple Dale, Ivanhoe and Black River cheese factories, and of course the Empire Cheese factory, home of some delicious (I know because I’ve tasted them) award-winners from the Royal Winter Fair. I also appreciate the importance good cheddar has long had for people in this traditionally dairy-farming area, and I have written before (here, for instance) about how today, just as back in my childhood here, no social gathering in Queensborough is complete without a platter of slices of local extra-old cheddar.
But of course there are many kinds of cheese in the world besides cheddar – you’ve probably heard that old saw about General (later President) de Gaulle saying of France, “How can you govern a country that has 246 varieties of cheese?” – and sometimes I miss the ready access I once had to the wonderful selection – cheeses from France, Spain, Italy, England, and of course Quebec – of Yannick Fromagerie, the cheesemonger that was just up the street from our Montreal home. (There are also wonderful fromageries – Hamel and Atwater respectively) at the Jean Talon and Atwater public markets.)
While about 99.9% of the time I never miss being in the city, when it comes to food possibilities I sometimes do. Good bakery bread is available here, but I have yet to find an acceptable (i.e. France- or Montreal-quality) baguette anywhere in Ontario. And as for bagels – well, what they call “bagels” in Ontario simply aren’t. You haven’t had a bagel till you’ve tried the Montreal-style ones at St. Viateur or Fairmount. (Montealers can almost come to blows over which of the two is superior. Raymond and I were fortunate enough to live about six blocks from them both.)
But my point (and I do have one) is this: I am discovering that if one looks a bit (and is lucky enough to get steered in the right direction by friends), there are some food options here beyond “ROC food.” (“ROC” being what Quebecers – all Quebecers, anglophone and francophone, federalist and sovereignist – call the “rest of Canada.”)
Our notable discoveries to date include:
- Quinte Global Foods, a nondescript-looking shop in a sort of industrial-park area of northeastern Belleville (117 Mineral Rd., to be exact) that carries foodstuffs from countries all over the world – and best of all (for us, since we love dim sum) has a good selection of frozen Chinese dumplings, including my favourite, har gow (the shrimp ones). Yum!
- Maritime Lobster Express, a shop at Sidney and Moira Streets in Belleville that carries fish and seafood (including lobster and Digby scallops) flown in several times a week from the east coast. We like to visit Maine and enjoy fried clams and fresh lobster and all that good stuff fresh from the Atlantic Ocean, so this place is a total find for us. And we have our Elzevir Township friend Pauline to thank for letting us know about it.
- Toro Sushi, a small and simple (one could again, as with Quinte Global Foods, say nondescript) restaurant at 338 Pinnacle St. in downtown Belleville. The sushi is excellent, and we adore sushi. At lunch you can have a big plate of sushi and maki for about $10, and that includes miso soup and a little salad and a nicely cut up sweet orange for dessert. That price is right, especially when you’re used to eating sushi in Montreal restaurants. For this one we have our friend the acclaimed mystery writer Hilary MacLeod to thank. And thank her we do!
- And finally, in Peterborough – which, like Belleville, is a small and pleasant not-too-far-away city (though it’s west as opposed to due south, which Belleville is), there is a fantastic Indian restaurant called Shafiq’s Taste of India at 301 George St. S. (near the Market Plaza, a name that might bring back memories if you, like me, go back a long way with Peterborough). Shafiq’s serves what’s among the best Indian food we have ever eaten. In Peterborough! Who knew?
So yeah, one has to drive a bit to get to these places, and most days we don’t need to because there’s a completely good selection of most things at our supermarkets, butcher shop, bakeries and restaurants in nearby Madoc and Tweed.
But sometimes one just needs a tiny bit of the exotic. Thank goodness it’s within reach.