Friday, July 9, 2010

Charelli’s Cheese Shop and Delicatessen, Victoria, BC

A Whirlwind Tour of Europe
Today, we’re heading for Europe with its rich, complex food heritage. Charelli’s Cheese Shop and Delicatessen is a tiny storefront in the midst of a residential neighbourhood, but it is jam-packed with good food.

There are 250-350 varieties of cheese, and the cocoa and hot chocolate mixes alone come from at least five different countries – Holland, England, Belgium, Mexico and France. There are olives in bulk, olives in vacuum-sealed bags and olives in jars. There are crackers and cookies, chutney and jam, pasta and oil and vinegar.

Carmen and her daughter Nicole opened the store in December, 2003. Carmen was born in Holland, moving to Canada when she was 6, and she still has family in Europe. She’s always been interested in food, and she says she loves providing food to people who really appreciate it. “We introduced French butter, and now people love it and really want it,” she says. Nicole says she loves tracking down food products that customers have requested. “People are super excited when it arrives,” she says.

“It can’t work overnight,” says Carmen. “It took a good three years to build a reputation and for people to trust us.” Now their customers come from all over – Calgary, up island, all over the city. Carmen says that people who are in a hurry should shop at Thrifty’s. “We want to take time and get to know the people who walk through our door,” she says.

The small staff finds out people’s interests and recommends food they might like. They joke with a young woman who can’t resist buying yet more jam as they know that she is already well stocked.

When I said I wanted to buy some cheese, Carmen gave me 8 different samples to try. They were all wonderful, but I managed to restrain myself and only buy three different kinds (from Holland, France and Australia) – along with locally-made jam from North Saanich, black truffle oil from France via California, and chocolate from Belgium.

The bulk deli section features the shop’s own spicy bean and feta spreads, olive tapenade, peppers and artichokes and much, much more. Carmen says they make their own French-style pates and rillettes, sell sandwiches to locals and cater cheese and meat platters. “Christmas and Saturdays are just ridiculous,” says Carmen. “It’s so crazy with people lining up out the door.”

Charelli’s has a tasting room and provides educational sessions on food and wine pairings, wine regions, oils and vinegars. They would like to have a bigger store, to expand the educational component and possibly open a restaurant. They have a blog and send out a newsletter every month or two to over 1,000 email subscribers.

Be sure to visit Charelli’s at 2851 Foul Bay Road if you are in Victoria. It’s a treasure trove of culinary delights with friendly, welcoming staff.

Thank you, Carmen, for taking the time to talk to me. And thank you for the completely unexpected discount on my bagful of goodies.

1 comment:

Stephanie V said...

So, did you bring an extra suitcase for all the yummy stuff you'll have to take home?
Our kitchen likes to cook good food.