part of your Paris aperitif
A recent French newspaper article said that fewer
varieties of cheeses are being produced in France; production is up on
more common industrialized cheeses, while fewer farmers are producing
specialized cheeses, many of which have faced extinction.
In light of this potentially life-changing event, you might not want to leave your Paris
vacation without trying a few cheeses as an aperitif (apéro)
instead of after the main course.
The menu: cheese,
Imagine having a cheese tasting (dégustation)
while standing in the kitchen, next to an open window
overlooking Parisian roof tops, a bottle of white wine, bite size pieces
of fresh bread and for greenery, lamb's lettuce
(mâche). Ah, c'est la vie!
Taking that first step into the cheese shop
Cheese shops might seem intimidating, but they have the
best variety of cheeses and can offer the best advice; or you could go to the grocery
store for fresh or packaged cheeses, but far less charming.
Enter saying "bonjour", smile and look
interested. If there is a line of people starting to form while they are
awaiting your decision, motion to the cheesemonger (fromager) that you are
looking. They will get back to you when you let them know that you are
French is limited, the easiest communication is to point and use your hand
gestures to determine the size to be cut. It is not necessary to buy the
whole piece, unless it is sold by the piece (pièce). Keep reading for
Take notes of the
cheese you have purchased. The notes will be big help when you are researching later just what
the name of that smelly cheese was! The names are not always common and often
refer to a region.
Not being a cheese
expert myself, a map of France from Monoprix in our kitchen provides the cheese
seasons, shows cheese regions and what is produced, and gives wine suggestions.
Another source is the interesting French
Decide if you want goat (chèvre), cow (vache) or ewe
(female sheep) from
the Pyrenées mountains (brebis). Why not try all three. Often you
will find the stronger the smell, the more the taste....
One day we tried a
Banon de Banon in the southern Alps-Haute Province, a
Brie de Meaux (region
of Paris/Ile-de-France) and a
is a town in Provence. After a maturation of two weeks the goat's milk cheese is wrapped in a chestnut leaf
and then dipped in eau-de-vie (brandy) and; the alcohol protects the cheese against bad
is in the Seine-et-Marne region of Ile-de-France (close to Disneyland Paris). Its Brie obtained its AOC
rating in 1980. "Approximately 25 liters of milk are needed to make on Brie de
Beaufort is a large, round mountain cheese produced in the province of Savoir
in the French alps. The average weight of a whole Beaufort is about 45
kilos (90 lbs) or all the milk produced by 45 cows in one day.
We tend to clean the
rind off of the cheeses before placing them on the plate (some French eat the
rind; cutting it off means you lose some of the cheese).
Taste is determined
either by the cheese's ripening time or by the seasons. The cow cheese products is
a result of whether the cows are inside for winter or outside
for summer. The either eat fresh
grass or they eat hay.
Goat cheeses are in season from Easter (April) to the first of November.
and camembert are best in the spring, summer and a bit into the autumn -- May to
December. The season for Beaufort is September to March.
Beaufort and Cantal
taste better in the winter because the cheese has matured (affinée). What you are eating in January is good because it is the milk from the summer.
"The older version of Beaufort called "hors d'age" comes from at least the
summer before (at least 12 months old -- stronger is 30 to 36 months).
Wine with the
A trip to Sweden on an
Air France flight began my white wine experience with cheese as opposed to red
For our dégustation
we had fairly strong cheeses and chose a Gewürztraminer, a spicy, fruity wine from the Alsace region on
the German border.
would be Mersault or other chardonnay-based Burgundy wines or why not Champagne
or Blanquette de Limoux. Please note that these are my suggestions and the
experts may have another idea.
If you have cheese
leftover, place it outside your hotel window or on your little balcony -- not in the sun -- wrapped in
bag. If it is there for a couple of days, it will not go bad and does not need
to be refrigerated. The best flavors come at room temperature.
Our favorite, local
cheese shop is Pascal Trotté, 87, rue Saint-Antoine in the fourth
arrondissement near Saint Paul's church.
Some of the factual information
that I have given comes from the
French Cheese book that we
found at W.H. Smith in Paris. Additional information came from our cheese and
wine map that
Monoprix gave out years ago.
Ask the fromager
what is in season right now (Quels sont les meilleur
fromages en ce moment?)
Blanquette and Crémant
wines. Although they do not carry the Champagne name, it is a good idea to try
these wines (sometimes available as sweet (doux) or dry (brut).
You will be pleasantly surprised, especially on a budget.
Julia and Eric found
some information about Paris cheese shops from the
Cheese Primer. They carried the
photocopied pages with them instead of the book to hunt down the book's
suggestions. Along the way, they found a few no longer existed; but it was a
good way to check out the Paris neighborhoods.
Androuët - They
tried the shop on rue Mouffetard. The main address is 41 Rue d'Amsterdam and is
considered one of "Paris's most famous fromagerie"...now part of a
rue de Grenelle (open in July, closed in August). They recommend trying the
"Nicolas" goat cheese.
have closed in case they are noted in your guide books:
La Ferme Saint-Hubert
on rue Vignon, Creplet-Brussol on Place de la Madeleine and La Ferme
Sainte-Suzanne, rue des Fossés Saint-Jacques.
87, rue Saint-
Antoine - near Saint-Paul metro
DK Publishing --
the wide varieties of cheeses found in France, this highly informative reference
provides essential information on each type of cheese, as well as advice as what
wince to drink as accompaniment and the history of each flavor.
fact-boxes give size, weight, style and maturation time for each cheese
Maps locate the area
of production for each cheese
Suitable for both
the novice and the connoisseur" --dk usa website
The Cheese Primer
Workman Publishing Company
"Cheese Primer enerously punctuated with maps and photos, the book includes all kinds of historical and other relevant information.
Jenkins seems to describe every kind of cheese made in the U.S. and Europe, including when to eat them, how and with what.
His passion and blunt opinions make it easy to travel the 548 pages of this book if you have even the smallest interest in cheese.
The guide to pronunciation is particularly helpful. " --
Other reviews, including Publishers Weekly, are also available on the Amazon website.
Tourist Office recommends the following restaurants that specialize in
Fans of French cheese take note: winter is the perfect
time to sample Alpine specialties such as tartiflette, fondue and
Several restaurants in the capital offer a smorgasbord of
cheese varieties — a treat for the taste buds!
Aligot: Aubrac speciality made with mashed potatoes and fresh tomme (website is available in English)
22, rue du grenier Saint Lazare – 75003 Paris
Tél. 01 42 72 31 22 / Métro : Rambuteau
Cheese, raclette, Savoy fondue. Excellent! We sat downstairs in the cellar and chose their fondue.
Fun evening with the kids!
3, rue Geoffroy l’Angevin - 75004 Paris
Tél. 01 42 74 07 52 / Métro : Rambuteau
Fromages et affinités
All kinds of cheese
58, rue des Mathurins - 75008 Paris
Tél. 01 40 06 96 18 / Métro : Saint Augustin
Numerous varieties; regional assortments
12, rue Neuve-Tolbiac - 75013 Paris
Tél. 01 53 79 13 35 / Métro : Tolbiac
La Table de Marc Labourel
Fine cheese-based cuisine
6, rue Ernest Renan – 75015 Paris
Tél. 01 43 06 84 75 / Métro : Sèvres-Lecourbe
Le GR 5
Raclette, Savoy fondue, tartiflette
19, rue Gustave Courbet - 75016 Paris
Tél. 01 47 27 09 84 / Métro : Victor Hugo
Le Refuge des Fondues
Savoy fondue specialist
17, rue des Trois Frères - 75018 Paris
Tél. 01 42 55 22 65 / Métro : Abbesses