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Les Petits Chefs visit the Cheese Boutique

Les Petits Chefs were lucky little guys earlier this week as not only were they dismissed from school extra early, but they got to visit Cheese Boutique on our first ever Petits Chefs field trip!  We’re fortunate enough to call Afrim from Cheese Boutique an alum of our school and now his nephew is in one of my classes.   The folks from Cheese Boutique are very generous towards school functions and fundraising, yet I was interested to hear that none of my Chefs had ever visited before.  It was a fine choice for our first trip off campus and it was fabulous for the boys to spend a little time with Afrim – if there’s ever a guy who absolutely loves what he does, this is it!  Following your passion and loving what you do every day – a great role model for my little Chefs!

Cheese Boutique began in 1970 as a simple mom and pop corner store on Bloor Street in Toronto’s West End.  Growing into a gourmet “must visit” store and eventually outgrowing their tiny premises, Cheese Boutique moved into a new home in a former sausage factory on an industrial strip called Ripley Avenue off the South Kingsway.  This veritable treasure chest of epicurean delights (with an ever-expanding product range) contains the cumulative knowledge of three generations of the Pristine family.  Pristine patriarch Fatos has been honoured with the title of Knight of the Order of Agricultural Merit and his son, Afrim, was made a chevalier by Confrérie des Chevaliers du Taste Fromage de France in 2007.

The beautiful bay leaf tree by the entrance. The boys loved smelling fresh bay leaves!

At Cheese Boutique prosciutto hangs from the ceiling, truffles are flown in every Wednesday, foie gras sits under lock and key, beef is dry aged 60 days, there are olive oils from 80 different terroirs and jams made from green walnuts.  And that’s before you even hit the beautiful artisanal breads, not to mention the chocolate boutique, pastry temptations and daily handpicked produce.  It is, however, for the cheese that one visits. This is a place where “best before” dates do not apply. Taking something good and making it great is a constant philosophy of Cheese Boutique and part of what Afrim, our tour guide, tried to impress upon the boys – that learning how to cook is wonderful but all great dishes start with great ingredients.  Nothing like a little tasting of some artisanal lemonade and a selection of charcuterie and cheeses with some baguette to show the boys that really good simple ingredients themselves are always the start of the best meals!

The boys were fascinated to check out the pasta room where there was pasta nearly as tall as they were!

(so many varieties!)

Aging and curing everything from cheese to beef to Meyer lemons is done in-house done with the expert knowledge that only comes with years of experience. You can even get a glimpse of the process by visiting the unique Cheese Vault.  Cheese Boutique has been supplying Toronto’s gourmands and restaurants with succulent selections for over 40 years and has become something of a “food museum” where one is not only allowed to  take the art home, but nibble it en route!

The cheese vault was, indeed a highlight of the day.  Filled with VERY large and sometimes very expensive cheeses, the Vault also contains cheeses aging for some of Toronto’s best restaurants!

What’s better than looking at giant rounds of cheese? Why learning how to slice it with a wire cutter! Afrim showed the boys the way, then they all helped slice up a giant cheese into more manageable blocks!

Then the boys got a chance to drive the meat slicer and they shaved off some very thin slices of prosciutto to take home to their lucky families.  They were quite the pros, even though they were only just tall enough to operate the slicer!

A little shopping followed the slicing excitement and the boys were bundled back in the car, tummies full of delicious cheese and charcuterie and bags full of treats to share with their parents. More importantly, their eyes were opened to the importance of great quality ingredients and how sometimes simple, when it’s done really well, is all you need.  I know a few of them will be back with their parents. Soon!

Many thanks to Sophia, for helping arrange this trip and Agim and Afrim for their generous hospitality. Thanks also to the staff and customers of the Boutique who indulged 8 very excited little boys :)

Cheese Boutique on Urbanspoon

* Canadian residents, did you enter my Cora’s giveaway yet?  Contest closes October 29th at 6pm EST and the winner will be announced in my post on Sunday, October 30th. Good luck – I can’t wait to read your fun egg facts!

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20 Responses to Les Petits Chefs visit the Cheese Boutique

  1. Jan @ Family Bites October 26, 2011 at 07:06 #

    What a fun outing! I know Afrim via my job in catering, and Sofia and her son via hockey. They’re a fun family and the store is one of my favorites in the city. How wonderful that you got to take your little chefs there. I bet they loved it.

  2. Mr. Neil October 26, 2011 at 08:17 #

    What a wonderful trip! Afrim has always been a delight when I’ve chatted with him, and it sounds like he was a great host to the boys.

    I was disappointed to *not* find any Iberico waiting for me. Hmmmm… ;-)

    In another life, I’d like to purchase the old Brigham Pipes building next door, and turn it into a fine wine boutique. :-)

  3. Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction October 26, 2011 at 10:25 #

    Oooh my, I think I would like to make a trip to the Cheese Boutique, too. And, can you arrange for me to get that cute little tote bag? Perhaps I can just enroll as one of your petits chefs. :)

  4. Paula October 26, 2011 at 10:40 #

    How nice that Les Petits Chefs are going on field trips this year and the Cheese Boutique sounded like an awesome place to visit. I can’t believe all the offerings they have, the place sounds huge. Very prestigious that Fatos has received the title of Knight of the Order of Agricultural Merit and Afrim having received the honour of becoming a chevalier by Confrérie des Chevaliers du Taste Fromage de France. It’s wonderful that a little *Mom and Pop* shop has grown so successfully over the years and is receiving such well deserved recognition.

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite November 5, 2011 at 17:16 #

      Yes it’s great to see a small business be so successful – has a lot to do with the passion the Pristine family bring to their job.

  5. K A B L O O E Y October 26, 2011 at 14:27 #

    I know for a fact I’ve never before written the sentence I’m about to type: I wish I were an 8 year old Canadian boy.

  6. amelia from z tasty life October 26, 2011 at 15:05 #

    wow: how i would love to be a petit chef and go on these kind of field trips!!!

  7. rebecca October 26, 2011 at 22:51 #

    wow what a fun store and great culinary experience i want to come

  8. Cher October 27, 2011 at 11:24 #

    That is so fun – and I really wish I had a cheese boutique nearby…

  9. penny aka jeroxie October 29, 2011 at 22:42 #

    What lucky lucky boys!

  10. jen Laceda October 30, 2011 at 23:32 #

    We live just minutes away from The Cheese Boutique and this is such a DANGEROUS place for me ;) I can spend hours and hundreds of dollars at this place!!! But…I love it!!!

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