Monforte Dairy’s Paradiso cheese

I threatened to post occasionally about cheese, so here goes:  One of my favourite cheese producers is Monforte Dairy of Stratford, Ontario. Yes, Stratford is my hometown, but when it comes to cheese my objectivity is unquestioned.

Monforte’s owner, Ruth Klassen, is a fantastic woman who has built up a formidable operation over the years. She faced huge obstacles when she started up the dairy, using milk from local sheep and cowherds. The regulatory and bureaucratic hurdles in setting up a small-scale artisanal cheese operation 10 years ago were daunting, but she stuck to it and has been producing outstanding cheese that you can find in her store in Liberty Village, decent grocery stores, markets (St. Lawrence, Wychwood Barns, Brickworks) and lots of good restaurants around Ontario.

The Beijing Cheese Society Canadian cheese tasting, March 2006

I love her stuff so much that I once took two kilos of her Paradiso sheep milk cheese to Beijing and fed it to the dozens of cheese-starved locals and expats who constitute the Beijing Cheese Society. They loved it, of course.

If you haven’t had any Monforte cheese, go get some. And if you want to try some in a restaurant setting, then get ready to go to Stratford; Ruth is opening up Monforte on Wellington, a small resto that should be opening in April. Consistent with her approach, the restaurant will focus on locally-sourced ingredients.

Stratford and Perth County have become a serious food destination – Monforte’s restaurant is an excellent addition.  And for me, it also serves as further motivation to visit my parents!

If you are going to Stratford, be sure to visit the restaurant or the factory store. And while you’re in the Festival City, you’d be missing out if you didn’t swing by Pazzo on Ontario Street for sublime pizza and Italian-inspired dishes.

Haven’t been to Stratford since high school? Then get off your ass, get down there, go see a play or two and eat very, very well.

Finally, I’d like to point out that I haven’t once mentioned Justin Beiber in this post.