I miss the cheese platter – but there are culinary compensations

Monteal cheese platter

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 fromageriesHamel 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

(Photo: Happy Cow)

  • 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

  • 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, Belleville

I told you it was nondescript! (Photo: Google Street View)

  • 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!
Shafiq's Taste of India, Peterborough

(Photo: Trip Advisor)

  • 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.

16 thoughts on “I miss the cheese platter – but there are culinary compensations

  1. What beautiful china. My good friend, Glen, has that pattern — Villeroy & Boch’s “Sienna”. Have you tried making your own baguettes? Julia Child said that one of her greatest accomplishments was learning how to make bread. I’ve followed her recipe for baguettes, and I was very impressed. Here is a link to her recipe (and only four ingredients!) —

    http://www.pbs.org/food/recipes/french-baguette/

    Or, have you been to L’Auberge de France, on Front Street (near Victoria Avenue) in Belleville?

    http://www.aubergedefrance.ca

    And thanks for the links to the other local businesses.

    • Wow, Sash, I’m impressed that you recognized our Sienna V&B china! I quite love it. Unfortunately it is long out of production, so new pieces are no longer acquirable. Okay, as for Julia and making baguettes – as you well know, I am a total Julia fan, and have ready pretty much everything by and about her. I’ve read all about how she finally (after many attempts and many misses) learned how to make proper baguettes and – I’m not buying it. I just do not believe that I could ever possibly turn out a proper baguette in my own oven. Maybe Julia could, but I could not.

      I’ve heard good things about L’Auberge de France but haven’t yet been able to check it out. I promise I will!

      • Do you have a lot in that pattern? My friend has some serving pieces in addition to the main settings, and they are all lovely. If you get more pieces, you might want to take one of your own small plates with you, for comparison. We’ve found that some of the pieces have a variation in the shading. Some items were not as vivid as others, so since they didn’t match exactly, they were not purchased. My friend has stemware with the stems of the glasses that are of a colour that compliments the colour of the china.

        Now, as for the baguettes, the only way you’ll know if you can make them as well as Julia is if you try it. I had success with mine the first time, and so can you. I’ve made lots of bread over the years, so this was just another attempt. I think you’ll be very pleased with the result. With only four ingredients, it’s not a huge loss if something goes amiss (which won’t happen.) I can’t remember if Julia’s method specifically says to spritz water in the oven, but she does mention it on the TV shows. That helps to get a nice crust, if a bit of water is spritzed in a hot oven. I’ll bet you’ll have the neighbours all ringing up and asking if you’ll take orders!

      • Katherine Sedgwick, the baguette-maker of Queensborough. It could be a whole new career!

        As for the Sienna china, yes, I have quite a few pieces, serving stuff as well as plates etc. My favourites are the chargers that go underneath the dinner plates. It really is too bad the pattern is no longer produced; we chipped a bowl a while ago and Raymond was kind enough to find a replacement for it online, but it was really expensive.

      • Hi Katherine, Here is a new video (Sept 7, 2015) from French chef Bruno Albouze, regarding the making of baguettes with a starter. It isn’t difficult, and I’ve used this process in the past. Even without the use of his fancy machine (or a KitchenAid mixer with dough hook), this is not difficult to make, just a few steps for the kneading process. Thought you might be interested, although I know nobody is interested in making bread in this 30+ heat we’re having. His other videos are all interesting, too; worth checking out. Take care.

      • WOW, Sash! I finally sat down and watched this video and am blown away – thank you! Firstly of course I am blown away by Bruno’s rather extreme French accent, which is kind of amusing (I think he’s working at it); but mainly I am thrilled because this looks doable. And if you’ve already tried the method successfully, then I know it’s doable – though I have a feeling you’re probably more skilled on the bread-making front than I am. (I am wildly out of practice, for one thing.) One does wish one had the fancy mixer, I have to say; but then again, I used to find, in my bread-making days, that kneading was good for the soul. One of these times I will give it a try! Thank you again!

  2. Thanks for the suggestions of places I knew nothing about, in spite of having a couple of years more than you in this area. And get yourself to CafeE on Front Street in Belleville for a bagel.

  3. How very cool that there’s a Yannick Fromagerie! We’ll have to seek it out so our Yannick can find some souvenirs!

    • It is a wonderful place, Nancy. I just love the smell when one enters. The cheeses are all in a cabinet behind the counter, and there is always a consultation with Stéphane (the owner) or one of his staff before purchasing anything. Almost always with taste tests. I think your Yannick would love it!

  4. Nancy, Yannick will be overwhelmed! It’s a magnificent cheese shop. Best in Montreal (which might translate to best in Canada). And like two blocks from the Outremont condo! We have been blessed.

  5. ah la baguette et le fromage !!! il faut que tu viennes nous rendre visite chère Katherine, et tu pourras en déguster ! Promis, ma prochaine bouchée de camembert sera accompagnée d’une pensée pour mon amie canadienne !

  6. Wow, I’m so happy to hear about the Maritime Express. Been here 23 years and never knew about it. The little out of the way place on Mineral Street sounds good. The ROC knows nothing about bagels — including, often, the correct pronunciation. My daughter, in England now, used to have them shipped to her in exile in Edmonton, four dozen at a time, from Fairmount.

    • That is a good tip, Hilary – I hadn’t really thought of getting the Montreal bagels shipped here, but it might be worth a try. Of course as you well know it could never be the same as getting them in Montreal while they’re still warm from the oven, but one takes what one can get, right?

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