Results tagged fromages from David Lebovitz

Cantal

It’s pretty overwhelming visiting a fromagerie.

After years of trying as many French cheeses as I could, I’ve settled on a few favorites that I go back to over and over, which include moist, piquant Roquefort de Carles, which I like drizzled with chestnut honey, little rounds of tangy chèvre and ash-covered Selles-sur-Cher, and nutty Comté from the French alps, which if you taste one that’s been aged 30 months, I assure you you’ll never buy any other affinage (ripeness) of Comté.

When people ask me which cheese to buy, though, I turn the tables on them, asking them what kind of cheese they like. Do they like dry, sharp, nutty, or powerful cheeses? Thankfully because there’s so many choices out there, there’s no right or wrong answers. Only what you like. Unfortunately, I pretty much like them all.

Ok, scratch pretty much…and let’s just say I like..er..love them all.

cantalblog.jpg

But I rarely visit a fromagerie with a laundry list of cheeses I want to buy.

Instead, while waiting every-so-patiently in line, I crane my neck around madame in front of me and use that time to see what looks the best that day. Often the fromager will leave the most popular cheeses, like brie de Meaux, within easy reach of her since invariably just about everyone wants a wedge of that. Especially if it’s so oozingly-ripe and pungent that just lifting the big, gooey wheel is virtually impossible. Camembert du Normandie is another cheese that’s popular, but I’m always sure to get one that’s not industrial, since the artisanal and AOC ones are invariably more delicious.

(I don’t understand why anyone buys the crummy ones when the excellent ones are so easily-available. But I guess the same holds true in the states: people choose American-singles over the decent cheddar that’s widely available. Tant pis, as they say…)

Continue Reading Cantal…

Fromagerie François Olivier

When people ask me the rather perplexing question, “Why do you live in France?”, I simply direct them to the nearest fromagerie. Yes, there’s great food to be found everywhere: Spain has great ham and crisp, almond turrone, Italians have great olive oil and gelato. And when in New York who can resist the chewy bialys and bagels? But there is nothing comparable to the cheeses of France…

cheeseblogsusans.jpg

In the small city of Rouen, in Normandy, is one of the few remaining affineurs in France. As you may know, once milk is formed into molds, it needs to be properly ripened to become cheese. The ripening can be for just a few hours or can last up to several years for a hard grating cheese such as Parmegiano-Reggiano. There’s just handful of affineurs left in France, who ripen cheese in caves just below their shops. The last time I visited François Olivier with my friend Susan Loomis, he welcomed us into the caves. This time, he told us that as of a few months ago, European Union regulations forbid visitors. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons the French voted against the constitution.

francoisblog.jpg

Of course, I was immediately attracted to the butter that François salts himself. While I was there, a steady stream of customers came in for a large block of it.

butterblog.jpg

But I also came for the camembert, since François carries one of the few artisanally-made camemberts left in Normandy. Although camembert is the unofficial symbol of France (there was a giant wheel of camembert balloon ‘float’ to lead off the parades at the commencements of the Tour de France recently) but there are few remaining true camemberts left. Like Brie de Meaux, true camembert is actually called Camembert de Normandie and will be labeled au lait cru (raw milk) so if you come to France, be sure to choose a cheese labeled as such, not simply “camembert.”

gooeycheeseblog.jpg

The French are a famously stubborn lot and are refusing to compromise the integrity of their cheeses (as well as a few other things…) But why not? They make the best cheeses in the world. And Normandy is arguably the most famous cheesemaking region here in France. At François’ fromagerie, you’ll find the elusive Maroilles, a hulking square of cheese aged for 100 days and weighing in at a hefty one-pound, with a powerful, pungent fragrance that cheese-expert Steve Jenkins describes as “…about as subtle as a bolt of lightening–get out a clothespin.” One whiff, and I agreed.

More subtle was the soft, dewy-white wheels of Delicor. When sliced open, the pleasantly chewy rind gives way to a soft, milky cheese that is sweet and slippery on the tongue. This is the one cheese that François makes entirely himself and is justly proud of it. Another famous cheese of the region is represented here, Neufchâtel (not to be confused with the low-fat cream cheese in the United States) which is often heart-shaped since the women cheesemakers would often make them for their sweethearts. You’ll find Graval, a mound of bulgingNeufchâtel, enriched with extra cream with a velvety yellow mold on the exterior. The nutty, complex Comté, aged for 2 years, was the best I’ve had. And I’ve had a lot of Comté.

Properly made raw milk cheeses have been consumed for centuries and he noted that raw milk that’s less than 1½ hour old is full of natural antibodies. He compared cheeses made with cooked milk to wine made with cooked grapes.

When reflecting on the new changes in cheese making because of EU regulations and strict US importation laws, François sadly noted that in most of the world, quality means hygienic, whereas here, quality means “good taste.”

Fromagerie François Olivier
40, rue de l’Hôpital
Rouen
tel: 02 35 71 10 40


French Cheese Archives