On September 25, I posted a sad tale of being ripped off by a restaurant on Corfu. I had put it all behind me, as one must, but now learn that my friends on the island have been active in my stead. Thanks to my koubaros, Philip Parginos, the incident has come to the attention of the excellent Mrs. Pouzarelou of the Greek National Tourist Organisation in Athens. I am very grateful to her for taking this matter so seriously and I am confident that such crude fraud will soon be a thing of the past. I have eaten in innumerable restaurants in Greece in the last 26 years and never ran into this sort of thing before. Of course, anyone who is the least bit concerned can fall back on the simple and effective procedure of paying for lunch with cash.
In other news, I returned to Toronto on Thursday to find a shipment of rare and delectable cheeses called “The Taster” waiting for me. This spectacular argosy is the result of a collaboration between two established stars of the gourmet scene, Andy Shay, late of the lovely, now no-more Shay Gourmet store in Toronto, and Jean-Marc Ridel, owner of the great wholesale importer-supplier of delicious things, La Ferme. Together, they put together and deliver temperature-controlled, styrofoam-packed parcels of perfect, portioned European and Canadian cheeses. Foodies will know Andy from his many contributions to the Gremolata Web site (that invaluable and entertaining resource) but check out his own site to find out all about these Taster deals. My pack consisted of five different cheeses, all in their prime—Petit Sorcier: Quebec, washed rind, raw milk cheese with ash vein; Ste Maure Cendre: Quebec, natural rind, raw goat milk, ash rolled log; Le Rouet: a two-year-aged, raw milk, brilliant, sheep cheddar cheese; Idiazable: Spanish, smoked, raw milk, firm sheep cheese; Fourme d’Ambert: French, very rare raw milk version, cow milk, blue cheese. Plus two add-ons: a wicked little Munster that announced its presence with a sharp, pungent, house-filling, drive-the-cats-into-the-garden aroma, and a Coeur d’Alvignac, a heart-shaped form from the Pyrenean foothills that Shay describes as “closely related to Neufchatel… an exqusite soft ripened, bloomy rind goat cheese.”
The price was $75 plus $30 for the extra two treats. Is this fabulous value? Since moving to Chinatown, I’ve been buying my cheese at Cheese Magic in Kensington Market, partly because the owner, Ping, is such a charming enthusiast and partly because the store really does offer great value and a huge range. Doing my sums in the air, I think Andy Shay’s prices and Ping’s are probably pretty much the same. Shopping in the market, of course, I can taste the cheese before I buy. Then again, Shay’s palate is totally trustworthy. I imagine he will do a huge amount of business between now and Christmas, delivering to people too busy to go shopping. The Taster package, incidentally, would provide enough cheese for a dinner party of eight greedy people (assuming there was one guest who didn’t care for cheese and another who ate twice as much as anyone else). And, yes, the firm does offer a Vacherin in all its unctuous seasonal glory.