Plates Around Town
Bar Volo 587 Yonge Street,
Toronto 416 928 0008
This friendly little neighbourhood spot has been embarking on an ambitious Ontarianization
of its wine, beer and food menus, and wooing customers to love what’s local
by presenting great flavours at great prices. The cheese plate is no exception,
a handpicked selection from among our province’s praise-worthy craft offerings.
A post-work visit for beer and a bite included one of the most creative and unstuffy
cheese amuses I’ve seen in a long time. Breaking with convention, only
two cheeses were on the plate, and they were both the same cheese! Well, not
quite…. Eweda, the gouda-inspired sheep milk tomme from Elizabeth and Eric
Bzikot of Conn, Ontario, is available in two formats: one young and pasteurized,
the other aged well beyond 60 days, legally and proudly raw. This later variety
is Eweda Cru. While both share a lacy sprinkling of eyes, there the similarity
ends. Youthful Eweda is supple and ivory-hued, with fresh lemony and lanolic
(wool sweater) aromas. It’s a “more-ish” mouthful delivering
balanced salt, tang, and classic caramelized sweetness. Venerable Eweda Cru is
the colour of a beeswax candle, and snappily resilient. Its complex aroma of
chestnut honey and sour caraway rye – think Tokaji Aszu – follows
through in the mouth, resolving bittersweet and gamey. Side by side the pair
reveal the magic effects of time on flavour.
What could be more chez nous, yet utterly unexpected, than maple syrup as a gentling
drizzle? Thick, sweet/sour grade B dark is going to enter my cheese accompaniment
repertory from this day forward. That, some crisp red-skinned Macintosh slices
and a few toasted nuts supported the cheese with wholesome sensibility. How very
45 Elm Street, Toronto 416 597 0155
A recent dinner at Oro wound
down with a competent and ambitious, though
not quite perfect cheese plate. (Can there
be such a thing? I’ll
have to keep searching!)
The generous plate included Riopelle de L’Ile (Quebec), Tomme de Savoie
(France), Pied-de-Vent (Quebec), Rassembleu (Quebec) and a mysterious semi-soft
wedge the server tentatively called Capri-meule (never heard of it!) but which
didn’t taste like goat. Maybe she was thinking of Fromagerie Champ a la
Meule, in which case it was likely cow’s milk Victor et Berthold.
Top points for Canadian content! This could
easily have been a 100% pur laine platter,
and none but the most Europhilic would have
protested. Truly local talent was unrepresented,
suggesting a great opportunity for Ontario
artisan cheese makers to send the chef some
The cheeses were in peak condition, no easy
feat, especially where the Pied-de-Vent and
Rassembleu are concerned. Pied-de-Vent can
be challengingly intense, with a washed rind
ever so sticky and pungent. Any time in plastic
pushes its powerful funk right over the edge.
Luckily Oro’s kitchen seems to know this. Rassembleu
has never been a favourite of mine. My first taste, a few years ago, was exactly
like swallowing salt water at the beach, including a few gritty bits. The most
positive tasting note I have heard since is “somewhat like dry leaves”.
The wedge at Oro was slightly nondescript which, for this cheese, means not bad!
As always, the Riopelle offered a stunningly rich hit of cultured butter. Tomme
de Savoie and the unknown cheese delivered intentional bittersweet and slightly
sour impressions, reminiscent of rye bread. These cool, austere flavours are
classic, but not immediately appealing to North-American palates. Kudos to Oro
for giving under-appreciated tastes pride of place.
Garnishing the plate were some dried apricots,
a sprightly but out-of-place snippet of mint,
and pools of a house-made conserve that seemed
to be part mostarda, part apple butter. Dried
fruit is an excellent accompaniment to strong
cheeses, and it doesn’t fight with wine the way fresh fruit does. My only suggestion
would be to substitute unsulphured apricots, as the lurid orange variety appears
a bit ersatz beside subtle colours
of rind and paste. The mostarda was divine,
and contributed to the best mouthful of the
evening: Pied-de-Vent cheese, a drizzle of
condiment, and a sip of Banyuls. Rich, spicy,
and musty, this combination seemed like something
out of the souk.
Service was friendly and wine-smart, but less
informed about cheese. Admittedly, five polysyllabic
French names are hard to keep straight, but
now that simple Brie and Cheddar just won’t cut it on a plateau des fromages,
even scribbled crib notes would be fine.
This was a four-out-of-five-star performance,
and at only $25, one to enjoy again.