It was September of 2006, our first anniversary and the salad days, so to speak, of our burgeoning food obsession. The weather was cool but not cold, alternately shifting from overcast to drizzly to rainy. Mike was undeterred. On a previous trip he stumbled upon a fromagerie adjacent to the Jean-Talon farmers market and come rain or high winds, he was going to take me to try it out. (Mike, for those who don’t know him, is a bit of a cheesehead.)
Turns out it was absolutely worth the trip. Fromagerie Hamel was a perfect introduction to Montreal. Before heading in, we were able to wander the beautiful market and ogle its amazing array of red peppers (we were told the neighborhood, though in Montreal’s Little Italy, had a big Hungarian population, making paprika the patron saint of the local dinner table) and fresh produce.
When the rain picked up, we ducked into Hamel for their cafe, where we opted for a cheese tasting. The set up is simple – a cheesemonger walks you around their impressive selection talking about cheeses, encouraging samples and suggesting new options. Being food geeks we were most excited about access to raw milk epoisses, a washed rind cheese whose pasteurized bretheren is available stateside.
After making our selections, we took a seat in Hamel’s cafe and a waitress brought our cheese selections and coffee orders. From there, we were able to while away a few rainy hours, people watching out the window and being complete gluttons in a foreign land – two of our favorite things.
The rest of the weekend in Montreal was lovely… we had an amazing anniversary dinner at La Chronique, an inimate restaurant in the Plateu Mont-Royal neighborhood. Over the next few days, we wandered the markets and took in the sights. But when people ask me about visits up there, the first thing I always remember is a happy, rainy day full of stinky cheese.