Monday, 3 November 2014

Cheese ... Cheese ... Cheese ... at The Cheese Boutique in Swansea

The Cheese Boutique in Swansea is not particularly easy to get to. For our MPC Culinary Arts students it meant either a train ride out to Runnymeade and a bus trip south, or a streetcar ride out along The Queensway to South Kingsway and a walk up. Either way, the destination is just SO worth the effort!

Afrim Pristine, like his Dad before him, is a member of the Cheese Knights: Order of the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Taste Fromage de France. This may sound utterly weird and foreign to most people in north america ... but keep reading and learn. You, too, may choose to learn and learn enough to be welcomed into this particular Honourable Order. For details, read more here. Afrim is an 'affineur' of cheese ... a keeper, ager, ripener and cheese guide. He is a 'Cheese Sommelier'. The Cheese Boutique offers over 1,100 kinds of cheese for sale, along with a huge range of other products, from the mundane-but-necessary to the wildly-exotic.

Afrim and the Cheese Boutique staff welcomed us at about 09h30, and each student received a scavenger hunt sheet, and was given 30 minutes to go and explore, observe, ask questions and learn. The staff were fore-warned, and made our students very welcome indeed! Everyone was offered a morning tea and croissant, just to welcome them into the atmosphere of one of Toronto's most sophisticated food shops. Throughout the course our students will be introduced to several of these destinations, and offered the chance to try and develop a palate of exceptional quality, discernment and refinement (which does NOT have to cost a large amount!).

After discovering the warmer parts of the store, our MPC Culinary Arts students were welcomed into one of the three cheese caves of the Boutique, and with Afrim as our guide were introduced to the work of the affineur.
There is nothing else like what Afrim does, anywhere. He spends about 1/3 of his working day making sure the caves are working correctly, and ripening, ageing and preparing his cheeses for final presentation to clients, or looking after cheese which has already been sold to clients and is being held for them under ideal conditions. We saw an enormous cheese, one of the largest in the world, owned by MLSE, which is being held for the company (they have already bought it) until they have something decent to celebrate (like make it past the quarter-finals of the play-offs).

Finally, our students had a chance to step up and buy a bit of cheese for themselves, and Chef bought some for a tasting which will take place on Tuesday in class, with fresh baguettes.

The cheeses we will be enjoying during our formal, guided tasting are: Vento D'Estate, Comfort Cream, Picobello, Chevre Noir, Gruyere, Valencay, Taleggio, Niagara Gold, Morbier, Epoisses, Blue Juliette and Tiger Blue.
These have all been personally selected and cut for us by Afrim and his staff of cheese specialists.

And ... one extra, EXTRA-special treat ...

Just before leaving, Afrim took a whole small triple-cream Brie and split it sideways (into two thin wheels). Then, after explaining what a truffle is, he shaved two whole white truffles into the open top of the split cheese. The top was then repositioned, making a 'truffle sandwich' of the Brie. This beauty is sealed and locked up in Chef's frig, and we will enjoy it tomorrow at the end of our class.

For anyone in Toronto who does not know The Cheese Boutique, please find their website here.

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