Chabichou (College St.)
Chabichou has opened a second location in Little Italy to appease the palates of cheese lovers and lunch goers. This location opened just after their original Harbord store closed for renovations after a fire . Lucky for everyone, both locations are now open for business.
I visit Chabichou on a Saturday morning and enjoy watching the hustle and bustle in the shop - the store keepers preparing their products and cheese samples, the chef rushing in and making a cappuccino before heading back to the kitchen to start filling orders. It's a busy spot, even though there aren't any customers yet.
The shop itself has a comfortable neighbourhood feel, and the products on the shelves are unique. There's a great selection of French imports including olive oil, biscuits, tea, salt, spices, and some select gifts like maple cutting boards.
The counter is filled with French pastries including pain au chocolat, croissants and macaroons. The space has four tables at the front to settle in, browse Facebook, grab a latte, and have a light lunch or snack.
The chalkboard menu includes a variety of homemade, traditional French comfort foods such as beef bourguignon ($9), shepherd's pie ($7.50), mac & cheese ($6), quiche lorraine ($4.80) and quiche vegetarian (4.80). They also have select sides ($2.50/each), french onion soup ($6.95) and a soup of the day ($4.25).
What I am most drawn to on the menu, however, is their charcuterie boards, which are served with bread, pear and fruit jam. You can get a small platter with three charcuterie or cheese items for $15.25, or a large platter with five items for $25.30. I later find out their boards are available for custom order for offices or parties, delivered by part owner, Laurent Brion himself.
There's an impressive amount of charcuterie options available, including Bayonne, Serrano, and Madrange Ham from the Basque Region of France, delicious Prosciutto from Niagara, and some Mennonite beef summer sausage - all of which are nitrate free.
Chabichou, known primarily for its extensive 60+ flavours of cheese, is named after a popular French cheese that head chef, Laurent Brion, used to make in Poitou in a previous life. A farmer and entrepreneur at heart, Brion started the company with Whitney Brown while he was part owner at Tati Bistro on Harbord.
The shop follows the same model as their seven-year strong Borden Street location, and after chatting with Brion, seems like there may soon be a third. I ask Brion, a busy, bustling man with a thick French accent, who is sipping his cappuccino while organizing his kitchen, if he ever sleeps and he immediately says no. His contagious, hearty laugh follows.
What I love most about Chabichou is the simplicity. The staff is friendly and informative. The decor is nice but not overpowering, as is the case with some newer trendy Toronto lunch spots. Come here if you're looking for homemade comfort foods, a great cappuccino, some select pastries, and of course, cheese and charcuterie.
Photos by Hector Vasquez.