The Cheese Shoppe
The Cheese Shoppe on Locke is one of our favorite places in the city. "A food Narnia", as co-owner Catherine sees it. Spend just five minutes with her, and you'll be overwhelmed with inspiration. Her enthusiasm and love for what she does is the essence of the shop's success. "In my mind, I visioned a store that embraced the old world feel and yet almost had a secretive element to it," said Catherine, "You have to enter to experience truly what it is about." Truth be told, we have been saving this place to share with everyone. The shop offers an experience unlike any other because they offer so much more than just cheese. From Paul Benton on the piano on Saturdays to the personable staff, the shop is very inviting. Owners Catherine and Torsten completely renovated the space, with the intent of making it look as though it had been there forever. Formerly an antique shop, they gutted the space, giving it new walls, floors and the works. Catherine, a self-taught interior designer sourced and hand picked many of the antiques in the store. "A lot of the pieces came from Niagara, however the old freezer door at the back still reads Hamilton 1955 on it, " said Catherine, "And the bar at the back that we put in is the original Cayuga store counter." We love the Stinson St. cash register, a gem found in Tornsten's basement filled with IOU's from 1977 (so cool..)
Catherine and Torsten are perfect shop partners; she is the visionary behind the store's concept and he is the food expert. The shop has carried over 400 varieties of cheese from all over the world. Many of the cheeses are from Ontario, Quebec, and PEI. "We try to focus mainly on Artisan style cheeses and old world methods," explained Catherine, "We also carry international cheeses and try to get things that are exclusive and unexpected. " You can actually purchase a cheese passport that allows you to map your way through the selections, marking your thoughts, textures, pairing ideas and more -- we love the idea. Plus you receive a complimentary gift upon completion of the book! You can expect to find local cheeses like Cheddars from Pine River, Organic Raw Milk Artisan 10 year old Cheddars from Quebec, and Fifth Town Cheeses from Prince Edward county. We're Cheddar girls ourselves, so our picks are the aged 11 year Cheddar or Raspberry Cheddar.
The shop also offers a wide selection of charcuterie meats, from bison and elk summer sausage to wild boar prosciutto. We love the wine cured salamis (below). And they have frozen meats too: bison burgers, venison steaks, and even caribou tenderloin.
There's an endless amount of gifts and gourmet food items, from crackers, bread dippers and spreads, to chutneys and jams. Stephanie loves the maple peach fruit sauce from White Meadows Farms and the pure maple sugar (below).
As you know were suckers for packaging, so we found these crackers from The Fine Cheese Co. especially charming. But they're really delicious too. Available in three styles, they are the perfect complement to your cheese. Plus they come in flavours that are a natural partner with the cheese. Did you know fig best pairs with sheep's milk cheese? Neither did we!
We cannot put into words just how incredible the food is. The chicken salad with brie and green apple was one of the best sandwiches we have ever had (and this is just half of it). While they are just building their menu, we can't rave about it enough, and we've already been back for lunch. "We want good, hearty bistro style foods, simple yet different, delicious and filling," explained Catherine, "We are going to expand into soups and salads. Cheesecakes, maybe smoothies and old fashion Milk Shakes." We suggest you try their vegetarian chili. It's incredible.
The Cheese Shoppe is constantly evolving. "We listen to what people want and we use that to better ourselves and the store," enthused Catherine. So stay stuned for great events she has lined up and in-store parties. And just give her a call if you have catering or party needs. She has endless creative ideas and their spreads are wonderful.
The Cheese Shoppe on Locke
190 Locke Street South
Hamilton, ON L8P 4B4