For Amy Robert, cheese is an experience.
The versatile food has fascinated her for years, long before she opened the Rind and Truckle in downtown Orillia with her husband, Dan Boucher.
Her previous career saw her working as a corporate producer, but food is what has fuelled her passion.
When Robert graduated from high school, she wanted to become a chef. She ended up taking a different route and, while she enjoyed her career, food — cheese, especially — remained on her mind.
When her kids grew up and went off to school, she took the leap and became a fromager.
After years of driving from Toronto to a cottage in this area, Robert realized something was missing. She’d bring cheese with her, but if she ran out, she’d have to drive to Barrie for the specialty stuff or go to a grocery store.
Eventually, she concluded, “Orillia needs a good cheese shop.”
Before opening the Rind and Truckle at 153 Mississaga St. E. in June 2021, Robert and Boucher did their homework. They went to Quebec to check out some of the province’s many fromageries.
La belle province knows what it’s doing when it comes to cheese, which is why the majority of what is offered at the Rind and Truckle comes from there. About 80 per cent of the cheese sold at the local shop comes from Quebec and Ontario.
“Ontario is certainly coming up. There are lots of great fromageries,” Robert said. “A lot of people don’t know that you can get fantastic local cheeses. They’ll come in and say, ‘I want something from France,’ and I’ll say, ‘But try this one.’”
More often than not, the customers are sold on the Ontario product.
Robert is a fromager, after all, and she knows what she’s talking about. Not only that, but she enjoys talking about it and explaining the products, their nuances, their characteristics to curious customers.
If someone isn’t sure what they want, Robert can help. She’ll ask what kind of cheese they usually like. Cow? Goat? Sheep? Do they like a nutty flavour, a firm or creamy texture, something mild or sharp?
She can also explain where the cheese comes from, how it was made and what makes it special.
It’s all part of the cheese experience.
“I want people to leave here having learned a little something about the cheese,” she said, “because cheese is fascinating.”
With the cheese coming from different sources — cow, sheep, goat, buffalo — there’s something to cater to various dietary needs and preferences. Vegan cheese is also on offer in the fridge.
Cheese is, of course, the star at the Rind and Truckle, but Robert and Boucher knew if they truly wanted to offer an experience, there had to be more.
They sell cheese boards and cheese knives, as well as jams, chutneys, crackers, nuts and other products that complement the main attraction.
Like many small-business owners, Robert looks for ways to support and promote others in the community.
You can enhance that charcuterie while at the cheese shop by picking up some of the delicious chocolate from DWN, a block away from the Rind and Truckle.
Robert also sells dips from PICNIC, which she can see from her window. Right across the street, PICNIC — which carries some of the Rind and Truckle’s cheese — is known for its wine selection. With wine and cheese being a classic pairing, it’s convenient, and the two businesses are happy to refer customers to each other.
Robert was right. Orillia did need a good cheese shop.
I had been driving to Barrie to get cheese from J’adore. I’ll still make the trip once in a while — shout-out to J’adore, a wonderful shop with a fantastic selection — but I won’t need to as often.
My first impression of the Rind and Truckle, after having gone to J’adore for years, was the Orillia business was small but mighty. The variety the owners pack into the relatively small space is impressive.
They are satisfied where they are, with what they offer, and don’t currently have expansion plans in mind.
“We’re very happy,” Robert said. “This was a little bit of a dream. If anyone ever tells you when you’re a little older or retired that you can’t dream or do something different or reinvent yourself, you can. That’s what we did.”
The good stuff
Most popular: Thea sheep cheddar
Amy Robert’s favourite: Le Crottin à ma manière
My favourite: Thea, Midnight Moon, manchego, smoked cheddar
Nathan Taylor’s local food and drink column appears every other Saturday.