How to buy cheese in Paris?
Making and eating cheese is a fine art and every Frenchmen is an expert. I guess that's why there are over 500 different types to choose from. That's also why it is a good idea to have some advanced knowledge regarding any purchase. First, prepare for a full nasal assault on your adventure, because some of the best French cheese are STINKY! But don't worry, the smell will be stronger and more pungent than it tastes. Also, don't be shocked. The ripening process includes mold and bugs! It's OK, nothing is rotten.
Next, find out what's in season and which variety will be a timely option. It's also important to learn a few key terms to use when ordering. Finally, one of the best ways to discover great local shops is to take a food tour in Paris. If you don't have time to purchase on the spot, you can always go back later.
Variety and Seasonality
Made from cow, sheep, or goat milk, the most popular types are Camembert, Brie de Meaux, Roquefort, Boursin, Reblochon, Munster, Pont l'Eveque, Epoisses and Tomme De Savoie. When shopping, it's a good idea to ask which the owner recommends and what is in season.
- Spring/Summer is perfect for goat cheese (fromage de chèvre). As the #1 producer of pure goat cheeses, there are 14 out of 45 different varieties that are made in one of the designated regions using traditional production techniques. Look for them labeled AOP.
- Summer is good time for soft cow varieties such as the Saint-Nectaire, Reblochon, and Camembert.
- Fall is excellent for stronger flavors like the blue cheeses; Roquefort (sheep) and Fourme d’Ambert (cow).
- Winter and the holiday season is often celebrated with the special gooey and creamy Vacherin Mont d’Or. You can spread it on bread or scoop it out with a spoon.
Where can you get it
Fromageries vs. grocery and food stores. If you really want superb quality, do not purchase pre-cut or pre-packaged product. That's what you will most likely find in the grocery store. It is less expensive, but is not the same quality you will find in a Fromagerie. Unfortunately, if you plan to travel out of France, your only option many be to purchase from a grocery shop. However, you must take a walk down the animated Rue Notre Dame de Lorette in the 9th arrondissement and slip into a real cheese venue to taste (with wine) and purchase your favorite French cheese. If you want to take your cheese home, ask if they can vacuum seal it for you.
How to order
Knowing how to order your fromage in Paris will be helpful. Hard varieties and big rounds will be cut by the fromager whatever size you like, or by the slice (une tranche). Crottins or rounds are sold in the whole or entiers. You can order un demi (half) or un quart (quarter) of Camembert or Reblochon. Be sure to chat with the cheesemonger, you'll get some expert advice on your selection.
For more information, please refer to the following pages: