Posted in Europe on April 13, 2012
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Love them or loathe them, there’s one thing that you can’t deny about the French: they have impeccable taste. They seem to be able to excel at anything they turn their hand to, gastronomically: from some of the best wines in the world to artisan bread that simply cannot be emulated elsewhere, the French have been a paragon of excellence for centuries.
Starstruck young lovers are known to embark upon flights to Paris only to return a week later a stone heavier after overindulging on macarons and saucisson.
But we’re not here to talk about pastries or charcuterie, oh no. We’re here to talk about something that France is undeniably the world leader at, with no question. We’re here to talk about cheese.
Get yourself some flights to Nice and start your tour in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur. Bordered by Italy, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Alps, the region has some very interesting and underrated cheeses; many of which are impossible to find in British supermarkets. St Remys in Provence is a cheese lover’s dream: Le Cave aux Fromages located at Place Hillaire stocks locally made traditional cheeses and is the ideal place to get your hands on some Saint-Rémois, a soft goats cheese which is only matured for 15 days.
In France it may strike you that cheese is seasonal: some are best eaten over the winter and Spring months, and others during the summer. Bear this in mind when planning your trip.
Roquefort is a must visit for cheese lovers, as you can tour the mysterious caves where the cheese is ripened. There are seven cheese cellars along the Avenue de Lauras, and although they are all worth visiting Société certainly put on the best show. For three Euro visitors are guided through a labyrinthine tunnel through the caves, a sound and light celebration of the “King of Cheeses”, and the sight of 33,000 loaves of cheese maturing deep underground.
Burgundy is one of those regions synonymous with wine. Like stinging nettles and dock leaves, where there’s wine cheese is sure to follow. Burgundy is famous for two AOC cheeses: Langres and Epoisses, although there is some debate as to whether they actually fall into the Champagne region. Langres is small and creamy, and has a small dip in the top: in champagne it is said that they pour fizz in here to enhance the flavour.
Epoisses is a personal favourite of mine but be warned: it stinks! Despite its pongy odour (a friend of mine used to ask her husband to keep his on the windowsill, the stench was so overpowering) the cheese itself is actually very mild and creamy. In local restaurants it can be found wrapped in pastry and served with a simple side salad. Rich, but oh so delicious.
Some of the best cheeses France has to offer can be found in the North, near Normandy. After spending a day visiting the beaches that saw an end to the Second World War, relax with an ooey gooey wodge of locally produced Camembert. This is one of the most popular cheeses in France, perhaps as a legacy from World War I when French soldiers were issued with rations of it.
And that isn’t even scratching the surface: a cheese themed visit to France will uncover many curiosities, like the local delicacy brie noir in the Île-de-France, and the cheese mite infested mimolette in Lille.
One thing’s for certain: no matter where you visit in France, an odyssey of cheesy discovery awaits.