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French blue cheese

One thing I’ve learned in France, is that if someone who’s an expert tells you to eat something—you should eat it. (Except squid, of course.) When I lead tours, right before I place their hand on the bible, I make guests promise that if I tell them they have to try something, they will. It’s not that I’m on commission, it’s just I’ve sifted through a lot of stuff and it’s not worth filling up on the bland when the extraordinary is within equidistant tasting distance.

bleu de Termignon

When my girlfriends Peggy Smith and Sue Conley, who make the wonderful cheeses of Cowgirl Creamery, were in town recently for the Salon du Fromage, they were surprised to be honored with a medaille along with an induction into the French Guilde des Fromagers.

cheese guild medal

I’d met Peggy way back around 1983, when I started working at Chez Panisse. She was a chef and I was a bit scared of her, standing over a large lamb carcass wielding a large, and very sharp knife, getting the beast ready to roast on the spit.

At the time, there were a few people in the kitchen determined to give the newby a difficult time. The French call it le bizutage, which we in America call “hazing”. Of course, I wanted to do my best, and Peggy somehow took pity on me, pulled me into the walk-in refrigerator, and gave me her top-secret advice on how to deal with everyone who was having a field day on the new kid.

Now, after three decades cooking in restaurant kitchens, very little fazes me and there’s nothing I haven’t seen or heard. So as thanks for turning me into the bitter, jaded person that I am today, I offered to take her to a few of my favorite cheese shops in Paris.

bread slices

There’s plenty of fromagers in Paris, but a few, like Marie Quatrehomme, are truly le top du top. Some of the fancy fromageries can be slightly snooty if you’re not a regular (I won’t mention any names…), but at Quatrehomme, they’re always as nice as can be and when I told them that Peggy made cheese in California, the two salesclerks put down their cheese cutting knives, and quietly (mentally packing their bags) asked, “When can we go?”

Peggy scanned the counters and shelves, and pointed out cheeses that I didn’t know, and told me things about cheeses that I already thought I knew. One that really caught her eye was a funky-looking bleu de Termignon, which she said was especially interesting because for one thing, the mold is natural and isn’t from being inoculated.

And an interesting thing she told me was that the cows that produce the milk for this cheese graze very high up in the mountains of the Savoie and eat plenty of violets while also munching on the grass. (When I told a French friend this, she said, “You Americans will believe anything!“) But I did a little research in my handy French Cheese guide, and found out the cows do consume flowers, which does seem natural since I doubt they’re selectively eating around the pretty little flowers up.

bleu de Termignon

So I bought a wedge of the cheese, stuck it in my messenger bag, and brought it home. (I was trying to be vert and not take a plastic bag, which does have its caveats: I woke up in a panic in the middle of the night because it was forgotten and I left the pungent wedge in there, where it was ‘perfuming’ everything else.)

And she was right, it was pretty interesting. In spite of its odd appearance, it wasn’t super-funky, or sharp and bitter, as some of the crust-covered aged cheeses like this usually are. Instead it had a surprising milky-mildness and didn’t have the abrupt sharpness of a traditional bleu cheese, which I was kind of missing. It went well with the cool white sauvignon blanc we were drinking, and although I didn’t taste any violets in the cheese, it was a nice change from the usual cheeses, like Comté, Saint Marcellin, and Beaufort d’été, that I invariably fall back on.

Peggy invited me to come back for a few weeks to spend some time working at their shop in San Francisco, which I’m thinking of doing. So if you happen to see me there, and I make a suggestion, take it. Because some people will believe anything. Or so I’m told.

Fromagerie Quatrehomme
62, rue de Sèvres (7th)
Tél: 01 47 34 33 45

(Quatrehomme closes at mid-day, from 1pm to 4pm.)


Related Links

Marie Quatrehomme (Rosa Jackson)

Cowgirl Creamery

Guilde des Fromagers (Official Website)

Roquefort and Honey Ice Cream

Le Bleu de Termignon Selon Marcel Bantin (Production & Photos of Bleu de Termignon, in French)

Favorite Books on Cheese (Amazon)

Bleu de Termignon (Wikipedia France)

French Cheese Archives



    • Sunny

    Big congrats to the Cowgirls on being inducted into the Guilde. I was an East Coast resident, so never got to try their cheeses myself, but Cowgirl Creamery is legendary among foodies everywhere.

    Glad to know that they made their mark amongst the fromagers, too. It doesn’t make your cheeses any better, but it’s a hard-earned badge of honor. Well done.

    • Loulou

    Definitely odd looking…but sounds very nice. I’ll have to keep an eye out for this one.

    • Hannah

    Oh, that looks amazing! I’m trying to squeeze in (literally) as much pastry and cheese as I can here in France, but being by myself and in a hostel with no kitchen, it’s tricky as I pretty much have to eat entire wedges of cheese by myself in one go. It’s hard. I’ve so far had a Bleu D’Auvergne and a Petit Valencay, and St Marcellin is next. I’ll have to keep an eye out for this one now!

    • Pete from DC

    So we don’t get to learn what the top-secret advice was on how to deal with hazing that Peggy gave you? Rats! I just began working in a kitchen and this has begun almost immediately! I was hoping I could get some advice…

    Kind regards,

    • David

    Hannah: You might want to visit Fromagerie 31 (64 rue de Seine). They offer assorted cheese platters in their small café so you can sample as many as you want, without having to buy large wedges of the various cheeses.

    Pete: Then it wouldn’t be “top secret”…but another friend of mine, when she starts at a new place, doesn’t talk to anyone for the first two weeks so people are afraid of her. It worked!

    • Charles

    Scary looking but I would eat it if the right person told me to. Oh, I guess they just did. Do you know if it’s exported to the US?

    • Jessica @ How Sweet It Is

    Strange looking, but cheese is my one true love. Would love to try this.

    • bigjobsboard

    Wow. I didn’t think that is cheese. lol. Honestly, I thought it was some kind of fruit. LOL. But any way, if that’s cheese, it will definitely go well with Parisian bread! Thanks for sharing.

    • Amy

    I was at a wedding in France last year, and my very good Parisian friend (who also happened to be the bride) informed me that it is not polite to just saunter up to the cheese plate and cut off a hunk of cheese any old way.

    Oh no. You must cut your piece in such a way as to preserve the original shape of the cheese so that those browsing the selection after you can easily recognize the cheeses. For example, don’t just hack off the tip of a wedge shaped cheese. Instead, slice carefully from the side (alternating sides if you are having more than one piece) to preserve the shape and proportion of the cheese. If cutting a cylindrical cheese, slice a wedge without disturbing the exterior silhouette any more than necessary. For goopy things like Saint-Felicien, I guess all bets are off.

    I just wish she’d told me all this before I had made a fool of myself at French cheese plates for 12 years!

    • Sara

    That looks amazing. I don’t need any prodding or cajoling to try a new cheese. I just wish I had known of this place before I moved back to Boston.

    • NickKemball

    Wow – that is one funky looking cheese. About as unpasteurized as it gets! That would never fly in Quebec. There was recently an altercation between cheese producers and the Ministry of Agriculture over the use of lait cru in local dairy products. All because two producers in the whole province were found to have stocks infected with listeriosis. People are way too paranoid about it now and demand for lait cru cheese is dwindling. :-( Big shame for cheese lovers! Cheeses like Bleu de Termignon taste amazing in all their raw, unpasteurized glory!

    I bet you anything that the Savoyards wash that cheese down with vin jaune. Seems like it would be a perfect match.

    • charlotte

    I live practically next door to this place! When I stop in, I’m tempted to spend all the money in my wallet, everything looks that good. They have such a good selection, and the store itself is inviting.
    There is this slightly spicy Basque goat cheese that they carry which I’m a big fan of, Brebis d’Espelette. Some shops don’t carry it, maybe because it seems to me like the french aren’t big on spicy foods, but I highly recommend it. Anyway, I’ll have to try this cheese next time. Thank again :)

    • Margaret

    Well, if you’re coming over here anyway, you have to stop by San Antonio’s Central Market and have Mexican food with everyone!

    • David

    Hi Nick; There’s an interesting article, A Guide to Avoiding Listeria, that Marion Nestle just put up. And she says “Listeria infections were virtually unknown 25 years ago.”

    Charles: I don’t know what cheeses are exported to the US, but you can ask you local cheese merchant, or check online at places like or Formaggio Kitchen, or iGourmet.

    charlotte: Lucky you! I also bought a wedge of comté there that was amazing.

    • Caroline

    Perfect timing! I am headed to San Francisco tomorrow and was planning on going to Cowgirl Creamery on Saturday… I’ve even have my copy of The Sweet Life in Paris packed in my carry-on.

    • Stephanie

    That looks delicious. I love that you’re being vert and not taking the plastic baggy. I recently was chided by a grocery clerk for not putting my veggies in a plastic bag. Which puzzled me, because I’m actually saving them money for not using the bags, but ok…

    And I chuckled at the American will believe anything statement, sounds like something my husband would say. :)

    • Kristin

    Looks a little scary, but with the right bread, maybe from Poilane, and some good red wine I’m sure I would love it….
    Oh how I miss good French cheese.

    • Nathalie (spacedlaw)

    Do you mean to tell us that that some people RESIST when you tell them to eat something? That is incredible. Unless you are the most terrible prankster, the mind boggles, crackles and pops.

    • John DePaula

    “So as thanks for turning me into the bitter, jaded person that I am today, I offered to take her to a few of my favorite cheese shops in Paris. “

    I love that line… :-)

    • paola

    this looks so interesting and delicious. i always love a new bleu to try. thanks! what would you recommend as good guide to french cheeses in french ?

    • Stephanie Manley

    Your pictures look so inticing. I love trying out different types of cheese. I had no idea about the proper way of cutting cheese from a cheeseplate, thank you for sharing, and I will be sure to cut all future cheese as to preserve it for everyone else.

    • berkeley girl

    I just went down to get Cowgirl’s St. Pat’s w/nettles yesterday- no corned beef etc. for us Italians – just great cheese and a baguette from Acme!

    • French Cooking for Dummies

    So interesting! I have never heard of or seen this cheese before… Definitely going to ask my fromager if he has some! What surprises me is its look, it’s very different from other blue cheeses that don’t usually get cooked. This one definitely looks like it did.

    • Camille

    Aha! This is the mystery cheese I bought the other day! I remembered it was called bleu de something, and it was from cows in the mountains, and it didn’t really look very blue at all. I just saw it was labeled “rarissime” and had to have it. Thanks for the clarification!

    Love Cowgirl Creamery – their Mt. Tam is one of my favorite American cheeses.

    • Lynn T.

    My dear David,
    If you are at Cowgirl Creamery, I will be first in line, not only to get goodies from one of my favorite sources, but to see your smile and hear your comments. I know you will be in Bay area in fall for BlogHer. Suggest away…………………….
    By the way, somewhat concerned about rumors I hear regarding future of the Ferry Bldg. and its inhabitants.

    a bientot,
    Lynn (Mom) T.

    • Drue

    I always pictured the Cowgirls as dainty, young, lithe thangs – not intimidating, knife wielding, lamb wrangling behemoths that can cow the heart of an ambitious neophyte. But somehow it fits. “The Creamery That Could.” The establishment that bucked all the odds and started a renaissance of artisan cheese makers across our sad, homogenous country. Yeeeeeha, girls. Yeeha!
    And there’s something to be said for a group of people that would believe the best of the story, the heart of tale. I seem to recall there is a beach just north of you that stands as a testimony to a people that would believe “anything” is possible.

    • Maureen in Oakland

    All I can say is those cowgirls know their cheese and that we are lucky to have them here in the bay area (and in Paris for trips!). They deserve that medal. I don’t know how I could live w/o Mt. Tam and their cottage cheese each week.

    • jule

    Each time i see your cheese post, I write all the recommendations down in my little notebook – having lived in France for a little over half a year, I’m still overwhelmed each time i visit a cheese shop!

    On a side note, are you thinking of doing any book signings towards autumn? I’d love to attend the one in mid-May, but it’s right in the middle of my exam week, so I’m not sure if I’ll be able to come. On second thought, who needs higher education ,) But still, it’d be nice to know.

    • stephanie

    So that brown crusty stuff on the cheese is natural mold? Hmmmm….I trust you that it is good (just back from a week in Savoie and ate my weight in cheese), but it does not look very appetizing. I would likely carve away the brown part fearing the worst.

    • bethh

    Oh I like your policy very much. Still, you ARE brave – that cheese is pretty dang off-putting-looking. (and I like squid a lot!)

    Those Cowgirls are so great – their Mt. Tam is like airy clouds of brie. YUMMY. I visited Petaluma recently and their shop is really quite the hopping place. I want to tour their production facility someday, but am saving it for a midweek cheese-loving visitor (yet to be determined).

    • Renée

    Will you be giving us advance warning to look for you at the cowgirl creamery at the ferry building. Or would that cause a mob?

    • Urban Stomach

    During our week in Paris back in ’08, I inhaled cheese day and night but coming home to Redhawk and Mt. Tam made the transition easier.

    • Amanda Bowyer

    Wow that’s a weird looking cheese. I would try it as I love cheese.

    • Sarah – A Beach Home Companion

    I love that Cowgirl Creamery! It was on my list of must-see places in San Francisco. We had such a good time trying little samples at the Ferry Building last summer. We eventually decided on 4 good chunks, bought some bread and tomatoes and went to town.

    Now I’ve got Fromagerie Quatrehomme on my list of places to visit in Paris next month.

    • Sarah

    Congratulations to the ladies at Cowgirl Creamery. I am positively
    addicted to REDHAWK and nearly panic when our local Bristol Farms
    are sold out.

    I enjoy your website very much.

    • Johnette

    David, what kind of bread is that? It looks fab-u-lous! Of course so does the cheese.

    • mike at

    Please do tell…where can one ever be so lucky to purchase this cheese in the U.S.? Fingers crossed as the wait for the answer hopefully nears! I honestly hope that a web order may be a possibility…

    I mentioned a few places in my previous comment that sell French cheeses in the US online and via mail-order, which may carry this cheese, depending on availability and US import laws. You can also type the name of what you’re looking for into Google Product Search, too. Good luck! -dl

    • Maggie

    Love the Cowgirls, and I’ll be hitting this shop in the 7th this weekend. Thank you!

    • Kimberlee

    how cool for Cowgirl Creamery, I loved eating their cheese before I moved to France…I used to walk up to Market Hall and buy bits of cheese from all over … even local! :P

    • Barbara Crooker

    I have a friend who lives outside Paris and can trace her roots back to the 12th century.
    But she won’t eat cheese. I said, “But there are 400 kinds of cheeses in your wonderful country,” and she said, “Yes. And I hate them all.” Quelle domage!

    • The Paris Food Blague

    Congratulations to the cowgirls! what an honor!

    makes me think of the famous cdg quote “How can you govern a country that has 248 varieties of cheese”….and then on top of that, the cows are eating violets.

    and what’s wrong with squid??

    a bientot

    • Nancy Singleton Hachisu

    David. I suppose I’m in a weepy mode, but the photos of this astounding aged bleu and the post itself caused a few tears to fall. So what…I’m moved when I read something about something I don’t know (but should). For long years, Cantal was my cheese of choice (especially the rind), but I’m in the more plebian frame of mine with mimolette vielle (especially the rind).

    I don’t always know how to describe something when I taste it, but I can always “taste” something from a good visual (usually live) and I’m tasting that bleu de Termignon and pining for it with my glass of zinfandel. I have a great fromagerie in Tokyo, but have never seen this bleu on the list. I’ll be calling them post haste. Thank you for opening up my world. Nancy

    • kok aan huis

    The cheese looks odd indeed. I’m certainly going to visit this shop this summer when I’m in Paris.


    • Jenny

    Now that the iPad is out, when are you going to do video tours of Paris? You’re blog is my favorite and I’ve learned so much about french food, France, Paris…. on and on — ok I’m a shameless groupie. I’m even learning french and planning a trip to Paris and Provence because of you. The french travel industry should give you an award.

    • Margaret

    Central Market in San Antonio sells Mt. Tam — can’t wait to try it….

    • bunkycooks

    Sometimes those really scary cheeses are not too bad after all! If I should ever be lucky enough to find it, I will be brave and give it a try!

    • my little expat kitchen

    Blue cheeses are my favorite. I’m so intrigued to find out about this one. I’ve never heard of it before.
    By the way, squid is sooo good if you cook it properly. In Greece we love it, we usually cook it with spinach and it’s so yummy!

    • Danielle

    First, I believe the violet thing gullible as I may be. Second, I want to know what advice Peggy gave you in that walk-in! Can you tell me?

    • Eleonora

    From a woman who’s epitaph (many years from now) will read “she died by cheese,” I have to admit this baby blue looks very interesting. Mmm, that texture and your description are making me have sinful thoughts. I had never heard of Bleu de Termignon, thank you!

    Have a bon week end.


    • Patty

    That cheese actually looks pretty good, I’d eat it!

    • Deanna

    I wish I could get a wedge of this for my upcoming trip to Yosemite. We like to pack a bottle of champagne, cheese, and a baguette and hike up to the waterfalls. Until I find it I suppose my standard Brie and gruyere will suffice.

    • lee


    Thank you for that link to the Listeria information. I avoided all the things listed in that article including deli meats while I was pregnant, and at times felt silly, especially when associates chided me for being ridiculously paranoid. Reading that article makes me glad I did stick to it because it is so dangerous to unborns and there were outbreaks in the news during my pregnancy. I wish I had something that clear back then. It really helps to know more precisely where the danger lies and to whom, and what can be done to reduce risks.

    • Kelly (at Local Foodie’s Fight)

    There is just something about the way that cheese looks with the big brown spots that makes me uncomfortable. I don’t know if I would be able to get past how it looks to have a bite.. :-/

    • Julie

    I’m French woman from French Alpes (Savoie) who loves Roquefort, Bleu de Termignon, Comté, Saint-Marcellin… All cheese who smell very strong!
    In my blog I wrote few days ago an fantastic article about Roquefort… Le bleu, our French blue cheese with big spots but so delicious!!! :-)

    For your next trip in France discover best places to find Le Roquefort :

    • Food Menus

    The Cheese looks good, from a curious perspective.

    • Kathleen is Cooking in Mexico

    Probably this cheese would never be allowed to be sold in the US, which is their loss. So many foods are formed my mold, yeasts, spores, and who knows what else. Thanks for sharing with us foods like this that many of us will never encounter. You allow us to eat and travel vicariously through your writings.

    • Laura Paine Carr

    Yay for Cowgirls. Living in Sonoma Co., CA, means that their delicious cheese in all its glory and variety is available at all times! Ah, good fortune.

    • Angela@spinachtiger

    I am so happy for Cowgirl Creamery. I shop there everytime I’m in SF. How much I would love to be able to shop there every week, or Paris of course.

    • Julia

    I thought I have tried all kinds of cheeses. not this one, I guess. I’ll try to find it next time at Whole Foods.

    • David

    jenny: I’ve been toying with the idea of doing something like that for a while. The problem is that I need a crew and someone to shoot it all. I did do something recently here in Paris, though. So look for a video on the site shortly…

    paola: The book French Cheese is the best guide that I know of. It’s available in various languages, too. The pictures are great, too.


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