When you name your cheese, Manchebello — a sweet, mellow sheep’s milk cheese made in nearby Montebello, Quebec — the comparisons to Manchego are inevitable.
But according to the website of the Fromagerie Montebello, the cheese factory started last year by Alain Boyer and Guy Boucher in Montebello village, the “Manche” actually refers to the European sea inlet between France and England. It does not appear to borrow its name from the famous aged sheep’s milk cheese — Manchego — made in the La Mancha region of Spain. Au contraire, it’s a very “local” story.
The factory website states: “This arm of the sea separates and unites at the same time the two countries that have colonized Lower and Upper Canada in the old days. The word “Manche” refers to those two countries that are part of our past. It also reminds us of the importance of our great Outaouais River that also separates and unites Quebec and Ontario.”
Whether or not its name is an obvious nod to Manchego, Manchebello cheese is already adored by Chef Steve Mitton who shaves it over a smoked elk heart carpaccio at his restaurant, Murray Street. Mitton admits he couldn’t help but make the same association I did. He says it’s sort of like Manchego, “in its young stage now.” Official Manchego cheese is aged for between 60 days and two years, while Manchebello is ripened from 60 days up to 6 months.
No matter how you slice it, it’s delicious. The sweet, milky flavour is lovely and unique. Local cheese at its best.
In an age when UNESCO is busy attaching cultural heritage status to cheeses like feta and parmesan with their countries of origin, it’s probably wise to chalk up any similarities to mere coincidence.
Fromagerie Montebello also makes two cow’s milk cheeses: a creamy blue called Rébellion 1837 and a hard cheese, Tête à Papineau. All of its cheeses are made with Petite Nation milk.
Fromagerie Montebello, 687-A rue Notre-Dame , Montebello, Québec, 819 309-0541.
The cheese is available at il Negozio Nicastro (792 Bank St. and 1355 Wellington St. W.; $7.70/100g), La Bottega (64 George St.) as well as on the menu at Murray Street (110 Murray Street).