” Age is something that doesn’t matter unless you are a cheese” so said Luis Bunuel.
The jury is out on exactly how many cheeses made in France, but it is probably safe to say that there are at least 400 major French cheeses and countless lesser known or artisanal cheeses.
Cheese is so important to the French that it has its own course in a meal. Respect! We include a cheese course during all our French Market Classes in Paris and even whip out a mini cheese platter for the Bread class. Our Montmartre & Gourmet Food tours always take you through a cheese shop. Cheese in general and French cheese, in particular, deserves its own holiday!
But faced with so much choice, one is sure to feel intimidated when entering a “Fromagerie” (a boutique selling only cheese). Better just browse the dairy aisle at the supermarket and pick up some Brie, right? Wrong? But you needn’t be an expert, and like wines, you should allow yourself time to sample the many varieties to sort out which one you prefer. Don’t be shy about asking questions, the salespeople are proud of their shops and pride themselves on their vast knowledge of the products they sell. If you want to deepen your knowledge of French cheeses (and its wines), you can always sign up for a cheese & wine pairing with a pro.
Here’s a little cheese know-how to help you navigate your way at the market or the cheese shop:
Cheese is made from three different types of milk; Cow, Goat, and Sheep or a mixture of them. And the taste is determined from which animal it comes from with ewe’s being the stronger more full-flavored of the three.
They are also grouped according to type:
-Fresh with no Rinds: example Boursin or Brousse
-Soft Cheeses with White Molds: Camembert and Brie
-Blue Cheeses: Roquefort (sheep’s milk), Bleu d’Auvergne (cow’s milk)
-Pressed: Water is literally pressed out
-Semi-hard (with natural mold or waxed rind): Saint- Nectaire, Cantal, Tomme, and Beaumont
-Hard Cheeses: Comte and Beaufort
You also have the spreadable cheese and ones made with wine and herbs or other alcohols.
So if you grew up on “La Vache Qui Rit” ( The Laughing Cow), that soft, processed, melt in your mouth type, or Velveeta for that matter, it’s time to be adventurous during your vacation in France , stop buying cheese at the grocery store (no, no), and journey into a fromagerie. To help you here’s are a few good places to start in Paris.
You can buy cheese by weight, whole or by using hand signals to indicate the amount you want. smaller cheeses are sold whole and it is generally only the large hunks of cheese that the cheesemonger is willing to give you a taste of.
Paris cheese shops we like
These shops don’t only sell cheese, they age them known in French as affinage
51, rue de Grenelle
Metro: Rue du Bac ( line 12)
Closed Sunday and Monday
If you want to mingle with celebrities and the elite (think French presidents and the like), this is the place for you. Also known to have wonderful Brie and Camembert and the seasonal Vacherin (Oct to Mar).
37, rue de Verneuil
Metro: Rue du Bac
134 rue Mouffetard
Metro: Censier Daubenton (line 7)
This family-run business that has been in existence for over 100 years! Most Parisians know and trust this establishment and with 7 shops in the city, it’s gotta be good!
La Ferme Saint Hubert
36, rue Rochechouart
Metro: Anvers (line 2), Poissonnière (line 7)
54, rue de Damremont
Metro Lamarck Caulaincourt (line 12)
As part of our Montmartre Food Tour route, this is a cheese shop that you just have to visit. Virginie the current owner and occupant of this boutique that has been a cheese shop since 1900, takes great pride in her selection of cheeses. a little tip, if the cheese is wrapped, it is sold whole.
Fromagerie Laurent Dubois
47 Ter Bd Saint-Germain
Metro: Cardinal Lemoine (line 5)
2 rue de Lourmel
Metro: La Motte-Piquet Grenelle (lines 6,8 7 10)
97-99 rue Saint-Antoine
Metro: Saint Paul (line 1)
If Tiffany’s was a cheese shop this would be its home. Mr. Dubois is not only a cheesemonger and affineur, he is also an MOF
Join a Cheese & Wine pairing class in Paris.