Think you have to go to France to visit an authentic cheese cave? No need to get on a plane. You can actually explore the craft of cheese in the heart of downtown Toronto. With an outdoor dining terrace that’s an oxygen-boosting oasis of greenery, a glam lobby bar, and an esteemed Italian restaurant led by a two-star Michelin chef, the Ritz-Carlton, Toronto is a natural spot for a culinary getaway. But the real reason to head to the Ritz-Carlton is to immerse yourself in the aromas and tastes of its beguiling cheese cave.
Tackling the cheese menu is a precarious and heady affair. With 35 cheeses to choose from, you’re best to put yourself in the capable hands of Chef de Cuisine Jitin Gaba, who will guide you through the science of aging and tasting these works of art. If you’re lucky, he’ll invite you to step inside the cheese chamber, a modern, glass-clad room featuring wooden shelves filled with cheese ripening to perfection. Surrounded by a constellation of tantalizing rounds, some with natural rinds of mottled grey and others with flakes that look like a biohazard in action, you’ll learn how a special alchemy of cool temperatures, high humidity, and microbial activity creates premium craft cheese with just the right balance of salt, fat, and water.
Once you’re shivering with anticipation, or from the chilly six-degree Celsius temperature, it’ll be time for a cheese tasting. Dive into a custom flight, from a plump young Spanish Manchego to an aged Avonlea cheddar from Prince Edward Island that tastes of maritime sea spray, and you’ll feel as though the world has transformed from globe into giant cheese wheel. And that’s a good thing; you never know what you’ll discover. It might be the pungent hit of a Triple Crown Gorgonzola or the joys of a creamy Lankaaster, a Canadian gouda-style cheese voted best in the world at the Global Cheese Awards.
Fine artisanal cheese also makes a tasty appearance on the menu at TOCA restaurant. Under the creative direction of two-star Michelin Chef Oliver Glowig, you’ll experience inventive southern Italian cuisine that will have you dreaming you’re on the Amalfi Coast. The menu includes impossibly tender house-made ravioli stuffed with caciotta farm cheese and branzino, or roasted sea bass stuffed with squid, rapini, and mussels. But TOCA’s menu evolves seasonally, so plan ahead and book a room if you want to catch special experiences such as the truffle menu or a small-batch cheese.