Local Luxe: A Montréal chef builds a cheese program around Québec specialties
What started as a $6,500 investment for Executive Chef Jérôme Ferrer and partners in Montréal’s 30-seat Europea restaurant in 2002 is today a burgeoning culinary enterprise. It includes an expanded three-story Europea, the gourmet take-home food shop Boutique Europea, French bistro Beaver Hall, Mediterranean-influenced restaurant Andiamo, and upscale Birks Café located in the Montréal flagship store of Canadian luxury jeweler Birks.
Ferrer has built his big empire on many small details. Every aspect of a guest’s experience is thoughtfully considered and choreographed, including Europea’s cheese plate. Ferrer has been quoted as saying, “Business is all about giving pleasure.” Little wonder that he plies his guests with a sélection fromagère featuring some of the finest Canadian artisan cheeses.
In the restaurant’s busy downtown Montréal locale, Cyril Duport, general manager, oversees Europea’s cheese program along with headwaiter Martin Carboni. Collaborating with trusted advisor and longtime cheese retailer Fromagerie Atwater, Duport works to create a balanced board to suit all palates (mild, goat, soft, blue, and more pungent varieties). Cheese choices are seasonal, local to Québec, or highly recommended by Fromagerie Atwater. “We keep our selection to six or seven cheeses tops at a time to make sure they’re ripe and at their best for our customers,” Duport explains. An integral part of Europea’s menu, a cheese course is offered at the end of every meal and included as a core feature of the restaurant’s lavish Chef’s Table experience.
Europea’s cheese plate course is a finale of Québec flavor,
adorned by a simple flourish of wildflowers and housemade accompaniments. The all-Canadian selection changes seasonally, but here are some Europea favorites:
Fromagerie du Presbytère, Sainte-Élizabeth-de-Warwick, Québec
Produced on the fourth-generation Morin family farm, in a restored rectory, this is the 2011 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix blue cheese category winner. A beautiful, semisoft raw organic cow’s milk cheese, Bleu d’Élizabeth displays a natural rind with spots of dark clay color. The moist and creamy ivory paste is speckled with blue and blue-green veins and has a balanced blend of sweet, fruity, and salty flavors.
Fromagerie Le Detour, Notre-Dame-du-Lac, Québec
This cheese is named after the legendary conservationist known as Grey Owl (his real name was Archibald Stansfield Belaney), who inhabited the region of Lac Témiscouata where this 2011 ACS first-place-winning cheese is made. Contrasting colors, textures, and flavors characterize this goat’s milk cheese: a slate-colored, soft and wrinkly vegetable ash rind covers a snow-white velvety and tangy goat’s milk interior.
Le Gaulois de Portneuf
Fromagerie de la ferme Ducrêt, Sainte-Basile-de-Portneuf, Québec
Thanks to a small herd of Jersey, Ayrshire, and Holstein cows fed with herbs and hay, this cheese is a remarkable example of Québec terroir. Styled after the French cheese classic Reblochon, Le Gaulois is a soft, surface-ripened raw cow’s milk cheese. When it’s perfectly matured, you’ll find wild mushroom, herbal, and fresh cream aromas and flavors of buttery popcorn and sweet milk. A cheese to savor slowly, Le Gaulois dissolves on the tongue into barny, grassy goodness.
Société Coopérative Agricole de l’Îsle-aux-Grues, Îsle-aux-Grues, Québec
Le Riopelle celebrates its tenth anniversary this year as one of the region’s most popular cheeses, named for world-renowned painter Jean-Paul Riopelle. The distinctive flavor of this farmstead favorite hails from the unpasteurized milk of Brown Swiss cows fed exclusively on salty hay from the island’s shore. This Canadian Cheese Grand Prix winner is pure luxury, with its soft, surface-ripened, white bloomy rind and triple-cream cheesecakelike center—butter in your mouth.
Le Sieur de Duplessis
La Bergerie aux Quatre Vents, Sainte-Marie-de-Kent, New Brunswick
An extraordinary farmhouse cheese made from one of Atlantic Canada’s first sheep’s milk cheese producers, this is considered Canada’s first “tomme-style” cheese. Sieur de Duplessis honors the lord who once lived in the seigneury (feudal estate) where the farm now stands. Rustic in character, the firm, raw sheep’s milk cheese is enveloped in a dusty brown rind covering an antique-ivory-colored paste with meaty, savory flavors and hints of toasted nut and dried fruit.*
Written by Vanessa Simmons
Photography by Allen McEachern