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Tour a Montreal cheese shop — one of the oldest and biggest in Canada — in this episode of Monger

Plus, the two ingredients this expert says should NEVER go on cheese board.

Plus, the two ingredients this expert says should NEVER go on cheese board.

Have you ever wanted to tour the world without actually leaving home? La Fromagerie Hamel, one of the oldest and biggest cheese shops in North America, offers exactly that experience through its unmatched selection of this treasured ingredient. In fact, Alex Porras, the Big Cheese (sorry, we had to) over at Hamel's Jean-Talon Market location in Montreal, assures us that the shop carries over 500 different cheeses to choose from. If that seems a little intimidating, we feel you. But luckily, Porras let us in on some secrets that will make the selection process a whole lot easier. Check out the video below for a peek inside La Fromagerie Hamel, and scroll down for Porras' top tips on how to select the best from your local market or grocery store.

Tour a Montreal cheese shop — one of the oldest and biggest in Canada — in this episode of Monger

5 years ago
Duration 3:03
Plus, the two ingredients this expert says should NEVER go on cheese board.

Here are a few of Porras' rules for navigating the world of cheese:

Know what you're using the cheese for

Why are you shopping for cheese? Is it an appetizer, a part of the meal or the dessert? The answers to these questions will help determine where you should start on your cheese mission.

Also, depending on your cheese needs, your local monger should be able to suggest the perfect beer and wine pairings. If someone is drinking beer, a great option would be a hearty Stilton, on the other hand a rich and fully aged Brie to goes well with a nice Bordeaux.

Fungi is your friend

You don't have to be scared of fungus when it comes to cheese — it's an integral part of the ageing process and the final flavour. For example, fungi make the bloomy rind on Brie and Camembert, and they are also responsible for the blue lines inside your blue cheese. All those microbes interacting with each other are what create the amazing flavours, aromas and textures. Fungus means that all of those tiny microbes are working together in a happy state, and enhancing the product for our culinary pleasure.

Let it breathe

When you shop at your local cheesemonger's or at your deli counter, cheese should come wrapped in micro-perforated paper. This isn't by accident! Cheese wants to breathe. Packaging cheese in plastic changes the flavour profile and it will not last. If you have cheese left over after your party, save the micro-perforated paper that your cheesemonger gave you (if you purchased the cheese from a grocer, wrap leftovers in wax paper). This allows the cheese to breathe, which will continue the aging process, and stop it from growing foreign (bad) mold.

Leave these two things off your cheese board...

Blue cheese tends to be a staple when creating a beautiful board full of cheese, but Porras says to actually leave this one out. With most blue cheese, the taste is so strong that it competes too much with the other products on the board. If you do want to include it in your spread, display your blue cheese on a separate plate, away from the rest of your cheese.

Similarly, while grapes might seem like a perfect match for any wheel, Porras says to steer clear, as they tend to be too acidic and flavour profile is all wrong. Use dried fruits instead. Figs are always a great choice, dry or fresh. If using fresh ones, drizzle honey or balsamic vinegar on them to bring out the sweetness.

… and make sure to have a mix of these in your spread

  1. Texture: Opt for a variety of soft, semi firm, firm and washed-rind cheeses.
  2. Milks: Think about including different ones, like goat, sheep, cow, and water buffalo.
  3. Colour: Play with different hues to make it exciting for the eye.

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