The Eiffel Tower, the River Seine, the Champs-Elysees–these are mere details placed to ornament the real heart of Paris–cheese! Like the moon, Paris is made entirely of cheese for the true cheese connoisseur and my tour of the City of Cheese uncovered delectable morsels of Comte and untold lunches of baked potatoes covered in creamy Reblochon. If you love fromage as much as I do, you’ll discover that Paris is truly the ideal destination for cheese-lovers.
In a country that produces hundreds of cheeses, Paris is the single place where one could sample them all. Discovering the best cheeses in Paris is really about personal preference, but it also depends on the season. I indulge in fresh goat’s milk cheese in spring when it is as close to perfection as it gets. Paris in spring is all about Camembert and I thank the cows of Normandy whole-heartedly with every bite. In winter, I seem to gravitate toward the aged cheeses. Of course, Paris is famous for its cheese shops and these proprietors understand when any cheese has ripened to its most perfect state.
When it comes to Parisian fromagiers, I love Marie-Anne Cantin. Her shop is located on the rue du Champ de Mars and it is famous for its meticulous selection process–their raw milk cheeses made in limited quantities from small farms are beyond mouth-watering. Of course, the city’s excellent fromagiers will allow customers to sample varieties and instruct them in the best choices for the season or for particular culinary needs.
During summer and much of the fall, I also find a superb quantity of cheeses available at the farmers markets. Strolling through a French market place is heady with smells of flowers and fresh pastries, but I can usually sniff out the best cheeses for my after-dinner cheese trays or something to snack on while I tool around town.
One vendor once told me to steer clear of any cheeses wrapped in cellophane; cheese needs to breathe so I tend to avoid any market cheeses overly wrapped.
While individual neighborhoods usually boast such marketplaces, I love to visit the Bastille Market and the covered market of St. Quentin. Since the French are such devotees of unpasteurized cheese, I usually confine my choices to unpasteurized examples and am never disappointed!
My greatest pleasure in Paris is finding bistros and restaurants who serve extraordinary cheese-laden meals that are the stuff of a cheese-lover’s dream. While I love to cook with cheese in my own kitchen, I always discover new ways to pair cheese with other foods I love from chefs who are steeped in the culinary traditions of French cheese. When I’m really hungry, I head to Chez Denise (famous for large portions) for whatever cheese-infused dish is on special. The escalope de veau au Roquefort at the unpretentious La Baribal is one of my favorites. Many locals enjoy their favorite bistros because the menus change on a daily basis, allowing them to find new favorites.
Other cheese-laden foods to scour menus for include Chicken Cordon Bleu made with Comte or Etorki and Fol Epi Gratin Provencal. Some of the best foods I’ve eaten in Paris include crisped rolls stuffed with wild mushrooms and brie cheese, spinach crepes with St. Agur cheese, St. Andre-stuffed chicken papillotes, Andouille sausage with Pont l’Eveque Cheese, and Quiche Lorraine with Morbier Cheese. Of course, I can typically be found nibbling a piece of rustic black bread with Supreme Cheese or a cheese-stuffed crepe. Be sure to include desserts on your cheese tour of Paris, too. My favorites are Boursault honey pears, pecans and Fol Epi beignets, and crème brulee made with chestnuts and Saint-Nectaire Cheese.
Of course, sometimes the simplest meals are best when it comes to Paris. Pick out a sampling of cheeses from a fromagier and buy a rustic loaf of fresh bread and a bottle of good red for a meal in one of the city’s lovely parks. Cheese can be a great portable snack, too; you can take it with you when seeing some of the city’s other, albeit less cheesy, sites.
Guest post contributed by Taylor Ritchie for TravelSure. Taylor is a freelance travel writer in the UK. He enjoys writing about his travel experiences, in particular the flavors he encounters on his adventures.