All right, I admit it. I feel about cheese the way some women do about shoes or handbags. It may not be a true addiction, but I do get all tingly and excited every time I approach a cheese counter. And is there ever a lot to be thrilled about on the cheese-front in Paris! Sure, other French cities we’ve lived in have had their fromageries and they were great. Here though, the amount and assortment are stupendous. It’s enough to make a girl cry from joy!
As a general rule, grocery stores in France are the worst place to buy cheese. Unless you’re looking for some standards such as Saint-Marcellin, its “cousin” Saint-Félicien, or a Roquefort, it’s best to avoid supermarket cheese altogether. On the other hand, we do have a large Monoprix on boulevard Edgar Quinet with a wonderfully extensive cheese counter (I’m talking hundreds of varieties); it also has a hands-off policy--no touching of the products except by personnel--and a knowledgeable saleslady just like in a fromagerie. In our neighborhood there are two very nice dedicated cheese shops as well. Because of the quality and the shops' proximity to home, we usually go to either Vacroux et Fils on rue Daguerre or, in the other direction, Fromagerie Boursault. Both have fantastic selections and a helpful staff offering suggestions when asked or when they see a pattern to what the customer prefers. Like the time at Vacroux when the seller proposed a raw cow’s milk cheese called l’Écir from the Massif Central. We loved it!
Ever since I first came to France for junior year abroad at age nineteen, I’ve been a huge fan of fromage de chèvre. Who can resist the tang and consistency of a good goat’s milk cheese? These tasty bits come in all shapes, sizes, and styles: dry, soft, ash-covered, pyramid-shaped, with herbs, etc. My favorites by far are the soft, creamy ones. During the past month we’ve tried quite a few; the best for us were a Pélardon from Languedoc-Roussillon in the south, which has an AOC much like many wines, and a Galletout from the Midi-Pyrénées. This last one, completely new to us, has that crapotté or wrinkled exterior, which we call brain cheese. So delicious!
My husband likes to have a hard cheese around, so we usually look for sheep’s milk cheeses. We had a wonderful Brebis corse that tasted like clover and honey to me. Interestingly, Vacroux also had one soft brebis called Laouzou, which I can't seem to find anywhere online but we gobbled up in no time! When I went there this afternoon and asked for a suggestion, the salesperson recommended a Berber Dou Rey from the northern Pyrenees. Don’t know yet, of course, but I’m sure it’ll be terrific.
We’ve fallen into a pattern here which consists of eating less meat at dinner time and adding cheese at the end of the meal. Sure, there’ve been some mistakes, like the Brin d’amour, a sheep’s milk cheese with herbs, that neither one of us was too crazy about. In spite of that, we’re having a heck of a time trying as many as we can!