Story and Photo by Tara George

Like many, I grew up knowing only of mozzarella and cheddar. But my culinary horizons have expanded, and when I learned of Thunder Bay’s newest cheese store, The Cheese Encounter, this dual-fromaged victim was very pleased.

Doug Morrill, owner of Gargoyles Grille & Ale, had always wanted to open a cheese store, but it was just a matter of finding the right location. When the storefront of Bay Meats became available, he jumped at the opportunity. Manager Matt Wilkins recalls developing his palate for cheese by taste-testing at Bay Meats—it only seems fitting that he now sells cheese in that very location. The store has over 80 types available, and Wilkins and Morrill select products with the “mindset to carry things not available in the city,” as well as to “cater to everyone’s taste,” Wilkins says. Among the best-sellers thus far are French Comté, Tiger Blue from BC, BellaVitano from Wisconsin, Brie Le Trappeur from Quebec, and Thunder Bay’s own Thunder Oak Gouda. I was partial to the sweet and nutty Comté, but most intrigued by the vibrant orange and sharp flavor of the Mimolette, a French cheese aged in damp caves.

Although you can delight your palate with the flavours of the world at the store, there is definitely a local vibe. Wilkins and Morrill try to deal directly with as many farms as possible, and carry local products, such as those from Bay Meats and Superior Olive Oil. And the Gargoyles menu now offers a cheese platter featuring a selection of the store’s product. Drop in at 282 Bay Street and to do a little taste-testing of your own—“It’s the only way to make sense of it all,” says Wilkins.

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