Although the store never closed its doors, La Fromagerie Hamel at Jean-Talon Market has undergone significant renovations that took six months and cost $650,000. Central to the renovations is a new, windowed, walk-in cheese fridge, unique in Canada.
The new fridge keeps Hamel’s best cheeses at an ideal temperature and humidity level, and free from the drying effects of ventilation. Clients can accompany an employee into the fridge to select and taste their highest quality cheeses.
Other renovations include changes to the façade, a reorganization and renewal of the interior, and a move to energy-saving lighting and fridges.
Opened in 1961, Hamel has six locations in Montreal and is known for offering the largest selection of imported cheeses in Quebec. They are also the only purveyor in Canada to import some French cheeses by airplane. Their house line, Le Pic, consists of 45 carefully chosen products unique to Hamel.
The cheeses they import by air, from France and Italy, are fresh – rather than aged – and benefit from the reduced transportation time and storage conditions of the plane. These include Burrata Le Pic and Camembert Le Pic. “We only import some of our cheeses this way,” said Vice President and Head Cheese Monger Ian Picard, “it’s the difference between three weeks on a boat and ten hours on a plane. There’s also a lot of ventilation on the boat. Temperatures are often colder than ideal. This leads to drying out and hardening.”
But not all their cheeses are imported. Quebec cheese represents 35 to 40 per cent of their merchandise. “There is more and more of a demand for local, Quebec cheese,” said Picard.
In terms of conserving cheese at home, Picard advises against keeping it in plastic wrap: “put soft cheeses in wax paper and hard cheeses in aluminum foil.”