A Visit to a French Cheese Shop in Paris (video)

The way to shop for cheese in France is not to go into a shop with a list of cheeses that you plan to buy. The way to do it is to go in, look around, see what looks best that day, and buy that. There is, however, another factor – and probably the most important one – and that’s to listen to the advice of the fromager. He or she can tell you what’s the ripest and best that day, or let you know what’ll be best depending on when you plan on eating it. In all my time in Paris, I’ve never been steered wrong by a fromager.

Jérôme Boulestreau is one of the nicest fellows in Paris. Jérôme was the fromager and owner of Bellevaire Fromagerie, located in Belleville, a charming neighborhood perched just above Paris. It’s one of the double-digit arrondissements, a typical Parisian neighborhood, where a lively community of people shops at one of the many boulangeries for their daily bread. Locals pop into a favorite pastry shop to pick up a dessert for that evening. And when they want cheese, they come to Jérôme for advice.

Jérôme transitioned from owning a cheese shop, to founding Maison Castro, a modern épicerie that carries cheese and charcuterie (hams and cured meats), olive oils, wine, French condiments, and offers up some of the best sandwiches in Paris. In this video, Jérôme shows us a selection of the magnificent cheeses from France, as well as a raw milk crème fraîche that’s so thick, you can turn over the pot and not lose a drop. There’s the most spectacular Comté cheese imaginable, a true Camembert du Normandie (and one of the cheeses that’s most in danger of disappearing), plus ash-covered goat cheeses, which I can’t resist bringing home whenever I visit a cheese shop. I hope you enjoy my visit with Jérôme, and if you get a chance, stop by yourself – and say hi!

Maison Castro
114 rue de Belleville (20th)
Tél: 01 42 52 79 23
Métro: Jourdain

[For more videos, check out my Paris Video Archives]

 

 

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60 comments

  • March 8, 2016 1:52pm

    What a great store!

    • March 8, 2016 6:58pm

      you know every so often I get your newsletters and man, as I say here so often, what I love about travel, are the things I missed! What a great shop and will have to think about a return trip……

  • Claire
    March 8, 2016 1:56pm

    Thank you for showcasing this lovely shop! Maison Castro is one of my favorite stops on every trip to Paris. Jerome is fabulously helpful and patient. But isn’t the Belleville metro stop just a bit far? I usually use Jourdain or Pyrenees.

    Apologies. I’m my haste to put the post and video together, I checked Facebook maps via their Facebook page and it showed Belleville métro as the closest. I usually walk there, but it’s been corrected. Thanks -dl

  • March 8, 2016 2:06pm

    Beautiful! I love this video, David. That cream looks unbelievable.

  • Ivana
    March 8, 2016 2:34pm

    Awesome video! I love the advice to ask the fromager what’s good at the moment (recommended by several chefs I follow), but to be honest I’ve never had success with it here in Brussles, Belgium (even though we have some wonderful cheese shops). When I pop the question I usually get a non-commital shrug and roll of the eyes “Well, EVERYTHING is good.” Perhaps it’s because my accent gives away my foreign-ness (implying that I don’t know much about cheese) or because I’m not a regular customer (which is sort of ironic, because if they would advise me I would certainly come back to them regularly), but it seems like they never want to invest the effort to actually recommend me something. I will try the “we’re having x for dinner, what cheese would you recommend for afterwards” strategy and see if that works better.

    • March 8, 2016 2:47pm
      David Lebovitz

      I think what’s often better is to ask a more direct question, like what’s the most unusual cheese they have, or can they recommend a good aged goat cheese. That can help them dial in on something more specific.

      I’ve not had a bad experience in Paris, although at a few shops, they can be a little tough to crack. (If they are rolling their eyes at you, I’d find another cheese shop, too!) But I usually let them know that I’m exigent, or discriminating, which usually works in Paris ; )

  • Franko
    March 8, 2016 4:04pm

    in recent years i’ve gotten into cheese making, and i’ve made all sorts of hard and soft cheeses. i’m still in the early stages of learning, and while the ones i’ve made are edible, it has given me a MUCH deeper appreciation of well-made cheeses. this video made me swoon. dying to try that comté! so, what was it about the little cheese that made it challenging? what was the flavor like?

  • Jean
    March 8, 2016 5:13pm

    I think one of the many things the French do better than anyone else is butter. When I go to Paris, one of my first stops is the Beillevaire fromagerie, but it is specifically to pick up some of their butter with sea salt (I saw a glimpse of you holding some in the video). Then to a good boulanger for a baguette. The moment that the two meet is sublime. I have also learned that you can bring butter back through US customs in your checked luggage (it’s cool in the luggage hold, and I have never been to Paris in the summer) so I stock up on this butter to bring back home. They’ll shrink wrap it for you, if you want. I keep it in the freezer and take some out periodically to defrost, and it keeps surprisingly well. I always intend to give some away as a gift, but I end up hoarding it instead. I know you know this, David, but I wanted to add that fortunately, they have smaller shops on rue Mouffetard and rue St Antoine, and I’m sure elsewhere in Paris. No Jerome, but certainly more convenient. Thank you for your great post.

    • March 8, 2016 6:43pm

      Just walk up the street to the 140 boulangerie foe a great baguette. It’s a very cute area to shop…nice cafes too. Take the 11 from hotel de Ville et voila

    • March 8, 2016 9:48pm
      David Lebovitz

      Yes, their raw milk butter is really good. I often bring butter to friends in the states and believe that it’s okay to transport it. And yes, I recently brought cheese to the states and declared it, and the customs officers let me through without any problems. I did put it in my checked bags through, which I only do if I’m sure they’re not going to sit on the tarmac for a while under the sun (!)

  • March 8, 2016 5:19pm

    What a lovely way to showcase the cheeses and this cheese shop. I love raw milk cheese; and I agree, it’s always better to allow the fromager to help us make the selection. I do that always in all food shops.

  • Mrs. Gibson
    March 8, 2016 5:23pm

    Please go to Androuet and take a video. My personal fav. that I know many would enjoy. Such history!

  • March 8, 2016 5:29pm

    My laitiere (a local dairy farmer) delivers raw cream just like that in the video. It is soooo much better than the pasturised stuff. We used to be able to get the little goats cheese plugs from a producer at our market, but he’s stopped coming unfortunately. We love them. Now we buy 60 day old Selles sur Cher from another producer. That’s a good alternative if the plugs are too ‘challenging’ for you but you want that strong pepperiness in the goats cheese. The whole cheeses retain more creaminess and are a better balance.

  • Mary F
    March 8, 2016 5:34pm

    Wow! What a great video, thank you!! I can almost taste them myself…time for a return trip!

  • Marshall Rothman
    March 8, 2016 5:41pm

    I love your blogs, and this video is FABULOUS!!! Thank you for the pleasures you experience in Paris and France. Absolutely wonderful!

  • Annette
    March 8, 2016 5:42pm

    Thanks so much for this video, David! It brings back fond memories of the day I was fortunate enough to take part in a small group tour with Jerome in his shop. I agree, he’s one of the nicest guys around, and is so willing to share his knowledge, even with the cheese-challenged. I knew he had a new shop, but had lost the name and address, so thanks for posting that, too.

  • Steve L.
    March 8, 2016 5:58pm

    That was fun — thanks!

  • March 8, 2016 6:02pm

    oh, what a mouth-watering vid this is…. Watched it twice and now again with Hero Husband and we laughed when you said: Challenging because OUR experience in the UK for things they don’t understand or/and approve they very politely said: That’s INTERESTING… (my very red wedding dress is one example and only months later I learned that only a certain type of women wears RED – and I certainly was never one of them, lol). What a treat – and that comté… and the ashed goat & ‘what’ cheese (didn’t get the name even after the 3rd time).
    Thanks a bunch – we are way too far from the 20th but have an excellent fromager in our town as well as in the hall of our weekly market too.

    • Sara aka Sally
      March 11, 2016 6:03pm

      Dear Kiki.
      Centuries ago, wedding dresses were red! So you’re bang on the mark with that.
      Sara aka Sally.

  • debby
    March 8, 2016 6:13pm

    Thank you David for taking the time to visit Jerome’s shop and have your visit video-taped. While there isn’t a local fromagerie in Evanston,Il. there is a wonderful small shop/cafe called Bar Pastoral in Chicago. Should you visit Chicago in the near future, you might need to check it out. Of course, Michael and I would need to join you.

  • March 8, 2016 6:18pm

    Nice video, would love it more if I were there, cheese tasting!

  • March 8, 2016 6:41pm

    Nammi! I have to visit this cheese store. Thank you for the video. Just great.

  • Alonna Smith
    March 8, 2016 6:50pm

    Love your videos David. Thanks for all your hard work!

  • milton gersh
    March 8, 2016 7:18pm

    u brought tears to my eyes w/ this video. one of the things I miss about paris. thanks. milt gersh

  • Sasha
    March 8, 2016 7:30pm

    !AWESOME!

  • Louise Yenovkian
    March 8, 2016 7:57pm

    I want to run out and have cheese and crusty bread right now! Thank you for this wonderful video.

    • Marshall Rothman
      March 8, 2016 8:36pm

      An artisan crusty bread, some of that wonderful cheese shown in David’s video, a good bottle of wine, and this is heaven on Earth!

  • Kathleen Taussig
    March 8, 2016 7:58pm

    I want to thank you for your lovely book,
    “My Paris Kitchen”, which is a jewel and
    significantly far greater than any other
    books about food on my bookshelf! It
    is so alive and genuine! I have just now
    received your first blog and I am in heaven!
    Kathleen

  • Nikki
    March 8, 2016 8:20pm

    I LOVE the comment that the flavor of that one cheese was “Challenging” as soon as it was cut I thought whoa that’s gonna be strong! I would love to have a Formagerie like that near me. When visiting France that is one of the things I loved..a place to buy cheese, a place to buy meats and so on. A grocery store is wonderful but I think much has been lost as far as being in touch with the producers and the expertise

  • suedoise
    March 8, 2016 8:49pm

    Wow you are in my neighbourhood – the adorable rue de Belleville so close to my rue Botzaris by the awesome parc Buttes Chaumont, heaven itself not merely for the cheese connoisseurs!

  • Deborah W
    March 8, 2016 9:10pm

    David, Thank You! I did cry watching this, it was like being back in Paris again. This shop is on our “next time” list, along with so many of your suggestions. Then back to Auberge Bresson for Comte souffle and the chance to pet all the neighborhood pups on the way out the door as they sit in the aisles looking adoringly at their master’s and mistresses tables. The most civilized place on earth. from the woman who can never get enough fondue……..

  • Lillian Plummer
    March 8, 2016 9:22pm

    Hi David, loved the video presentation. Love trying different cheese and French cheese is superb. Just wish there were fewer calories in cheese is all!

  • Paula
    March 8, 2016 9:40pm

    Perfect timing! I saw this just before dinner time and ran down to the Bellvaire store on rue St. Antoine for some creme cru. It went very well with the steamed French potatoes.

  • Rita Marlowe
    March 8, 2016 10:48pm

    Hmm, thought others would comment about the audio, seemed to cut in and out, and was the conversation you were having with Jerome meant to be inaudible? Don’t mean to be snippy, but your other videos I’ve seen did have audible dialogue.

  • Rita Marlowe
    March 8, 2016 11:11pm

    I rechecked my equipment and, of course, the problem was on my end.
    Great video, as usual!

  • Bonnie
    March 9, 2016 2:06am

    Lovely!
    David, a request: would you tell us more about how the French eat cheese? I know it’s at the end of the meal, but other than pears & Stilton or apple pie and good cheddar, I’m woefully ignorant about pairings. Merci.

  • ron shapley
    March 9, 2016 3:01am

    Dave……any chance of getting a quality Comte’ in the states ??

  • March 9, 2016 11:57am

    Oh how I would love to taste that Comté cheese! Thank you for getting my day started in such a delightful way.

  • March 9, 2016 12:55pm
    David Lebovitz

    ron: Yes, you can get good Comté in the U.S. There are different grades/qualities (even in France) as well as Comtés of various ages, so best to go to a good cheese shop and see what they have. (It’s unusual in France for cheese shops to give you a taste, but I know it’s standard in the States, so you can taste before you buy.) It is hard to find with well-aged Comté cheese in the States, like this one, though.

    Bonnie: I wrote about that more in depth in my book, My Paris Kitchen, but the short(er) answer is that yes, French people eat cheese after a meal, sometimes as dessert, sometimes before. Rarely is cheese paired or served with anything (no jam, fruit, mustard, or chutney) – just bread. Basque sheeps’s milk cheese is traditionally is served with dark cherry jam. Sometimes small chèvre cheeses are served with drinks before dinner, maybe dusted with herbs and spices..which one can buy them already made (!)

  • Kathryn
    March 9, 2016 2:00pm

    Great video, David – both entertaining and educational!

    I believe I’d be the one silently weeping in the corner over those cheeses!

    Please post more videos, although I still love your wonderful writing and photographs too!

  • Minnesota Red
    March 9, 2016 7:23pm

    I can no longer eat dairy but I really enjoyed this video! Also, having gotten a good look at you now, how do you stay so slim with all the eating you get to do?!

    • March 9, 2016 7:26pm
      David Lebovitz

      Well, you might want to direct that question to Jérôme, who is around cheese and charcuterie all day yet is still quite fit. (More than I am!) But as I say, you don’t see drunk bartenders and people who are around food all day usually are good at moderating their consumption. Here’s a post I did about that: How I eat.

  • Sandra
    March 9, 2016 8:35pm

    Nobody does cheese like the French. Just look at that selection

  • March 9, 2016 11:53pm

    Great video and interview, I think I would go home with the whole shop!

  • March 10, 2016 12:29am

    What a gorgeous shop, and so nice to have a knowledgeable person to guide one through it! I’m always torn: Do I try to soldier on in schoolgirl French, or switch to English to get the help I need in choosing?

    Now I need to go back to Paris…

  • Nemo
    March 10, 2016 5:15am

    I’ve never heard of the “challenging” mini goat cheeses, and Jerome seems so helpful and passionate about his job. Thanks for such a charming video!

  • Amila Wickramarachchi
    March 10, 2016 3:28pm

    This is a really interesting video which anyone who likes both food & travelling would enjoy.I am so glad to see different types of cheeses in a shop like this.

  • Nola
    March 10, 2016 7:51pm

    French cheese = a very good treatment for homesick American expats living in France. When I get homesick for the States, I eat some cheese (Montd’or, for example) and I’m reminded of the awesome things in France that I should never take for granted. That was a great video.

  • Gavrielle
    March 10, 2016 10:50pm

    Wonderful video, and that shop! Are you sure you didn’t accidentally take a wrong turn and end up in heaven? If I went there I would have to take a tent because I would never leave.

  • Hannah
    March 11, 2016 6:05am

    It’s so beautiful!!! Love this video!!!!!!!!!!

  • Raymond Frazier
    March 11, 2016 3:28pm

    Thank you for this charming video.

    It reminds me again why we so love to visit Paris.

  • March 11, 2016 5:04pm

    Great advice & video, David. Thanks!

  • March 11, 2016 5:39pm

    In all the visits I made to Paris, I always stop at the door of these shops, but never have the courage to go in. Now, after reading your article, if I go there again and pass by one I will go in and surely go to heaven and back with a sniff :-). Loved it!
    Thanks
    Paula Lima (from Portugal)

  • Laurent
    March 11, 2016 5:48pm

    That’s a great video that makes me envious and jealous, watching it from Korea (a country where you can find so-called «Camembert» in a squeeze bottle). I miss my Normandie !!!

  • Paul Lambert
    March 12, 2016 5:09pm

    More videos please. Makes me feel like I am in Paris

  • Lance
    March 16, 2016 5:00pm

    Great video David! Thanks for sharing this.

  • Julie
    March 16, 2016 6:01pm

    Love the video and great advice!

  • Jacqueline
    March 17, 2016 2:26am

    Loving the video! More please.

  • Mak
    March 21, 2016 1:51am

    Hate to gum up your comments with a non-substantive post, but just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed the video.

  • Jessica B
    April 2, 2016 9:03pm

    Great video! We loved seeing your appearance in I’ll have what Phil’s having and looking forward to visiting in May.