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Cheese

Cheese as 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, wine, accompaniment

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 ready.

 

If your 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 more ideas...

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 Cheese book.

 

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 Beaufort (region of Alps-Savoy).

 

Banon 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 mold.

 

Meaux 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 Meaux."

 

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).

 

Seasons determines taste

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. Brie 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 cheese

A trip to Sweden on an Air France flight began my white wine experience with cheese as opposed to red wine.

 

For our dégustation  we had fairly strong cheeses and chose a Gewürztraminer, a spicy, fruity wine from the Alsace region on the German border.

 

Other suggestions 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.

 

Additional information

If you have cheese leftover, place it outside your hotel window or on your little balcony -- not in the sun -- wrapped in a plastic 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 are sparkling 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.

 

Recommendations

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 conglomerate....

Barthélémy, 51 rue de Grenelle (open in July, closed in August). They recommend trying the "Nicolas" goat cheese.

 

Three fromageries 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.


 

 

 

 

 

 

Trotté cheese shop

87, rue Saint-
Antoine - near Saint-Paul metro

 

 

 

 

 

Book references:

French Cheese

Eyewitness Companions

DK Publishing -- Author

ISBN 9780756614027

 www.dk.com

"Cataloguing 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.

  • At-a-glance 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. " -- Amazon.com review.

Other reviews, including Publishers Weekly, are also available on the Amazon website.

 

 

The Paris Tourist Office recommends the following restaurants that specialize in cheese:

 

Fans of French cheese take note: winter is the perfect time to sample Alpine specialties such as tartiflette, fondue and raclette.

 

Several restaurants in the capital offer a smorgasbord of cheese varieties — a treat for the taste buds!

 

Reservations recommended.

L’Ambassade d’Auvergne
Aligot: Aubrac speciality made with mashed potatoes and fresh tomme (website is available in English) cheese
22, rue du grenier Saint Lazare – 75003 Paris
Tél. 01 42 72 31 22 / Métro : Rambuteau

Pain-Vin-Fromages
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

Fil’O’Fromage
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