I was almost alarmed the first time I laid eyes on Nancy's Cheese, squinting through a snowstorm from the other side of the street. "Is that a cheese shop?!" I asked Alyssa, jarred by the potential of one of those in my own neighbourhood (and right beside the liquor store nonetheless). I couldn't believe my luck, didn't know how badly I wanted a cheese shop around until I had one.
Most (most!) good cheese shops in the city, despite best intentions, are either completely chaotic or quiet and...judgmental. Fine, good cheese is worth it. But sometimes I'm tired, you know? Sometimes I want some quality aged cheddar without the theatrics. Nancy's Cheese is an oasis in this desert of dairy hysteria.
It is so peaceful and quiet inside the little shop. Local products line the walls: Jam and Salsa by From These Roots, soup from Alba Lisa (enthusiastically recommended), flat breads by Pasquales and Thorbors baguette (from Wed-Sun). The "cheese fridge" has a small but impressive selection of cow's, goat's and sheep's milk cheeses, both raw and pasteurized.
The shop's owner and namesake, Nancy Peppler, is welcoming and enthusiastic (she loves the cheese). She lets Alyssa and me sample her favourite cheese in the shop; Peau Rouge from Quebec ($72.99/kg) and hands me a hand-cut slip of paper with all that cheese's info, including beverage recommendations (Beer - Innis and Gunn). In fact, both of the cheeses I ended up purchasing, Île-Aux-Grues two-year-old Cheddar (Quebec) and Beemster Extra Old (Holland, $53.99/kg), come with info slips. This pushes me over the edge. I'm in love with the place. I've never felt so positive about a cheese shop (about anything?).
Nancy started thinking about opening her own shop while teaching in Japan, a country of "great French cheese". Upon her return to Canada, she opened a cheese... corner inside Harbord Bakery, where she remained for two years, building up a solid customer base. She finally settled into her own shop a few months ago at Dupont and Spadina, a developing area with a "welcoming" strip of businesses: Frangipane, Ezra's Pound, and Dish, among others.
A graduate of the Cheese Education Guild, Nancy is overflowing with information (Gruyere peaks in winter months, for example, and the taste of raw milk cheese lingers) and hopes to impart what she can at her "cheese chat" sessions, held in store from time to time.
Photos by Alyssa Bistonath