a Divine Living Woman’s Favorite Everyday Luxury
When in Paris, there’s nothing like a trip to the fromagerie to develop my palette for fine cheeses. I love tasting the great variety of beautiful artisan products, all made in France according to age-old tradition.
At first, the fromage scene can be a little intimidating. In France cheese is something of a long-standing national obsession. Back when Charles de Gaulle ruled the land, the country was already producing over 200 different kinds. And today there are over 600 producers creating more than a thousand varieties!
Though I do love many different kinds, over the years I’ve found I’m a particularly big fan of goat cheese—in France known as chèvre. However, a creamy cow’s milk camembert keeps the competition for my favorite cheese alive and well!
Since I personally do not have a huge sweet tooth (I’ve been known to order an extra portion of pasta for dessert), I so appreciate that in France cheese is a respectable way to complete a meal. Arriving after the main (and sometimes followed by dessert), the cheese course is a staple of the French lifestyle. Families and friends linger at the table a little longer, enjoying a bit more wine and just a few bites of fine cheeses. Packed with beneficial digestive enzymes, eating raw cheese after dinner is also an elegant nutritional practice.
I’ve loved getting to know le fromage as the French see it, and have put together some essential info to inspire your next trip to the cheese counter. Whether you’re out and about in Paris or searching for high-quality imports to create the perfect platter for your next party, here’s what you need to know about French cheese.
The Types of French Cheese
Mild cheeses made from milk that has briefly fermented, never aged or cooked.
Popular melting and cooking cheeses often made high in the alps. Some are aged for many years in a salt brine.
Featuring a distinctive bloomy rind and rich, buttery center.
Created by a special aging process of washing cheeses with water, beer, wine, or brandy. Known for their pungent aromas.
The unmistakable Blue-veined cheese originating in France, with a uniquely pungent flavor and crumbly texture.
1 Select a variety of types of cheese—a fresh goat cheese, a soft-ripened cheese, one or two pressed cheeses, and a blue.
2 When tasting, go from the mildest cheese to the most pungent.
3 To serve, give each cheese its own knife on a platter large enough for ample cutting room.
Mix It Up
There are so many delightful gourmet specialties to liven up a cheese plate—Marcona almonds, quince paste, tapenade, olives, fruit chutney. Keep the number of sides you present proportional to how many cheeses are on the board. If this is an appetizer or a stand-alone snack, you might include one-to-three bread items: gourmet crackers, elegant bread sticks, and a baguette or fresh country loaf.
For Dessert Lovers
For those who have a sweet tooth, it’s easy to push a cheese platter a little further into the dessert realm. Try adding gorgeous candied nuts, fresh figs, apples or stone fruit, dried apricots, fine dark chocolate, and most importantly—honey.
The French are not ones to serve crackers or accoutrements with cheese. Maybe a baguette, but more likely just the cheese (and wine, of course).
Many people drink red wine with cheese, but an aromatic, floral white can often be the ideal accompaniment for cocktail hour or even a refreshing after-dinner change up.
A French dessert wine such as a Sauternes, or something heavier like a fine tawny port, adds a lovely sweetness to a more dessert-centric cheese plate.
There are many fabulous beers you might like to serve with cheese as well, like a Belgian Dubbel dessert beer, a dark porter or stout, or even a light-bodied and crisp hefeweizen.
Keep it Fresh
It’s important to store cheese properly. When you bring it home, take it out of any plastic and wrap it loosely in cheese paper or wax paper. Put it in something with a lid to create a humid environment. Give it a fresh wrap the next time it goes back in.
Savor Every Bite
When you end up with seemingly unusable little bits of different cheeses in the fridge, a great French trick is to throw them in the food processor with a clove of garlic and a bit of wine or brandy. It makes a delightful spread to enjoy with a baguette!
For The Cheese Connoisseur