When I moved to Toronto about five years ago, one of the first things I noticed about the city was its self-contained neighbourhoods. In Ottawa, where I grew up, there is a central downtown complete with food markets and boutiques; and a few other areas, like the Glebe, where you can find almost anything you need among a medley of shops located within a ten block radius. Unless you live in one of these centralized pockets, however, every time you need to get groceries or go shopping for any item, you’re forced to get into your car and drive through the expansive greyness of urban sprawl known as the Nation’s Capital, only to arrive at a low-lying super store where some normally-vibrant sixteen year old making six bucks an hour listlessly shovels your food into plastic bags. No wonder my mother hates grocery shopping.
Central Toronto, on the other hand, is a student’s Shangri-La. Spread throughout the city are a medley of independent neighbourhoods, filled with both residential and commercial properties. Here, most neighbourhoods offer most of the amenities you need, so that you can walk to local stores, get what you need, and walk home again- all in the space of half an hour. What’s more, many of the shops in central Toronto are owned by actual individuals and their families, who frequently specialize in the commodity that they’re selling. Such is the case with the butcher shop, the health food store, the fish market, and, my personal favourite, the fromagerie.
Hence my delight when walking home along Harbord two weeks ago: as I trudged along in biting wind and salted boots, I looked up to notice a queer little sign reading the word “Chabichou.” Peering through the reflections of the shop’s windows I saw inside rosemary drying on wooden shelves, an assortment of small white-wrapped packages behinda wide glass counter, and a a fridge filled glass bottles of organic milk. Having very little self-constraint when it comes to food, I went immediately inside.
Chabichou: a soft unpasteurized French goat cheese aged between 10 and 20 days.
Oh no. I love goat cheese. On pizza, in sandwiches, rolled into the bellies of sweet or savory crepes, or crumbled onto my salads along with roasted almonds: I can’t eat enough goat cheese. And so I knew I was doomed, Chabichou being a cheese store.
That first time I entered Chabichou, I bought was 100 grams of Riopelle, my all-time favourite triple cream cheese, made in small Quebec farms and named after the famous Quebecois painter.
The second time I entered Chabichou (the very next day, my cheese having being devoured the night before) I bought small lamb sausages prepared in Berber style. For $7 I bought six sausages, grilled them at home for dinner and spent the rest of the evening fantasizing about Chabichou’s grilled cheese sandwiches.
Chabichou is just down the street from U of T, at Harbord and Borden St, between Bathurst and Spadina on the south side. They’ve not only got an assortment of Quebecois, Canadian, and European cheeses; but also a motley of crackers, baguettes, freshly baked loaves, French pastries, chocolates, jams, preserves, mustards, chutneys, organic milk, and specialty meats.
For me, the big challenge now lies in not spending my rent cheques on brie.