We don't know who created this wonderful piece of graffiti, but it certainly sums up the sentiments of many Montrealers. We recently returned from three weeks in the city researching a new book, the Food Lovers' Guide to Montreal (spring 2011, Globe Pequot Press). Even as we sampled poutine and pâté chinois, croissants and macarons, we couldn't help but be staggered by the explosion in artisanal cheese-making in Quebec. La Belle Province is beginning to rival La France when it comes to great fromage.
''Everyone's getting crazy with cheese here in Quebec,'' says Pierre Gariepy, co-owner of La Maison du Cheddar (1311 avenue Van Horne; 514-904-0011), a specialty cheese store in Outremont that stocks only Quebec cheeses. The store's namesake raw milk cheddar from Saint-Guillaume just outside Montreal is served in grilled cheese sandwiches, or as little cubes to dunk into cups of piping hot espresso, a tradition in Brittany, according to co-owner Dominique Cormier. The pair also offers a special grilled cheese sandwich of the week to introduce customers to new cheeses.
Many of Quebec's best cheeses are made from raw milk, but thanks to NAFTA, all Quebec cheeses are allowed into the United States, although similar cheeses from France might be banned. A couple of Gariepy's favorites are Pied de Vent, a soft cheese made on the Magdalen Islands by one of Cormier's cousins, and Riopelle de l’Île, a soft cheese somewhere between a brie and a Camembert. It's named for the painter Jean-Paul Riopelle who often vacationed on L’Île aux Grues where the cheese is made.
Gilles Jourdenais, owner of La Fromagerie Atwater located in the yuppie-gourmet Marché Atwater (134 avenue Atwater; 514-932-4653), estimates that about 400 cheeses are made in Quebec. His inventory of 850 cheeses includes about 175 from Quebec that hold their own against some of the best cheeses in the world. A couple of Jourdenais' favorites are Le bleu d'Elizabeth, a creamy and not overly salty blue, made by Jean Morin of Fromagerie du Presbytère in Sainte-Elizabeth de Warwick. He's also a big fan of Le Cendrillon, an ash-covered soft goat’s milk cheese made by La Maison Alexis de Portneuf. Its name translates as ''Cinderella.''
A word of warning: wrap the cheeses well if you plan to pack them in your suitcase.
Patricia Harris and David Lyon also write the food and travel blog Hungry Travelers.
Photos by David Lyon for the Boston Globe.