Earlier this month, the Stratford-based Monforte Dairy Company opened its first stand-alone store in Toronto on a quaint strip in the increasingly gentrified Liberty Village. A mainstay on the farmers’ market scene, Monforte, owned by cheesemaker Ruth Klahsen, was lovingly bullied by its many fans into opening a shop so they wouldn’t have to contend with erratic market hours to get their fix of goat gouda. Christina Stapper, a veteran of the market circuit and manager of the new Jefferson Avenue location, is understandably pleased by the new indoor digs: “Now I don’t have to stand in the rain and try to hawk cheese,” she joked.
In spite of the move indoors, the shop’s interior and offerings betray the brand’s market table origins. The decor is endearingly eclectic and homey, and the shelves are lined with edible items by local producers who have sold alongside Stapper at numerous markets in the city. There are bags of fair trade coffee beans from Toronto-based Merchants of Green ($3 for a cup, $9 for a half-pound), jars of soup from the adjacent bakery Sweet Everythings and an assortment of olive oils from Sarafino, a small importing and distribution company based in Uxbridge.
The Liberty Village shop offers a wide selection of seasonal artisanal cheeses, all made with GMO-free milk sourced from Mennonite farmers. Aged varieties include Little Prince ($10.50), a goat cheese covered in ash, Bliss ($12), a cow and sheep’s milk triple cream, and Toscano ($4.95/100g), a sheep’s milk cheese. The fridge is packed with tubs of cream cheese ($7.50) available in three varieties: Rosa (chèvre with quince), Elsie (chèvre with pesto) and straight-up. Stapper offers daily cheese samples served with a smear of Sarafino’s clementine and hot chili-pepper marmalade. Grilled cheese sandwiches ($5) are made with De la Terre bread and any of the cheeses available that day, and the dairy’s rich buffalo milk ice cream is stocked as well (although supplies are always limited). Stapper expects to introduce a wider variety of baked goods from Sweet Everythings—pies, cookies and muffins— in the coming weeks.