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Fred and I have been somewhat lazy when it comes to grocery shopping. Instead of taking advantage of the many marchés and independent shops in our neighborhood, we often find ourselves at Picard or Monoprix out of convenience.
On Saturday we took a short walk to rue Daguerre and purchased the cheeses for this tasting at: Fromagerie Vacroux, 5 rue Daguerre, 75014 Paris, 01 43 22 09 04.
The fromager was extremely helpful and didn't even laugh at me when I stood gazing at his offerings and flipping through my cheese encyclopedia. I'm more open to striking up conversations when Fred is there as he can swoop in and save me and my victim when the going gets rough. (It's also a good tactic to use when we're lost and he refuses to ask for directions. I'll stop a stranger and start stuttering in French, leaving him no choice but to jump in and do clean-up. It's a little humiliating, but it saves time looking at a map.) The fromager recommended some very nice cheeses and offered us a tasting prior to purchase. He also suggested a bottle of sparkling cider, which he carried, to go with one of our choices.
The wine shop across the alley wasn't as accommodating (La Cave Péret, 6 rue Daguerre 75014 Paris, 01 43 22 08 64). We've been there a few times and I don't find the owner helpful. If you know what you're looking for, it's easy to pop in and out. But if you'd like some guidance, forget it. She always seems rushed and inconvenienced. Next time, I think we'll go to Nicolas a few doors down. Although it's a chain, we've had good luck with other locations in Paris.
So, here is what we ended up with:
On the left:
Cheese: Camembert de Normandie – Isigny Sainte-Mère
Milk: Cow's milk, raw
Cost: 3.15€ (demi wheel)
Estate: Ferme de L’Hermitiere
Type: Cru de L’Hermitiere - Cidre Bouché Fermier (Farm-made Sparkling Cider)
Cost: 3.90€ (from fromagerie); 2.50€ (from producer)
The Camembert and cider come from the same region: Normandie; yes, we are back to one of our favorites! The Camembert was coated in chapelure (bread crumbs) that had been parfumed with Calvados (an apple brandy also from Normandie). It's a neat concept as you can serve this cheese without bread. We found it difficult to taste the Calvados, Amy sensed it in waves, but over all it was faint. Regardless, the chapelure was a nice touch as it made the generally strong Camembert a bit milder.
The cider is produced by a small family-run business, which is usually a good sign for quality products. This cider was no exception. Clearly made from real apples, it was opaque and had a good smell. It wasn't too sweet or acidic, just right! Amy felt that it had a barnyard odor, which makes sense as it is a fermier (farm-made) product, but the "strong" smell didn't stop her from finishing half the bottle.
I recommend enjoying this combination during a warm afternoon under the shade of a tree. I know, this is cheesy but this is an entry about wine and cheese after all. It might also be nice served in small wedges before a meal with an apéritif, such as champagne, for example. Amy agrees. This is the perfect picnic combo as the breaded Camembert is easy to handle and the cider is light and refreshing, and if you drink it outdoors (near a stable) the farm smell will be insignificant.
On the right:
Estate: Château Carbon d’Artigues
Cheese: Tome* de chèvre des Pyrénées-Orientales
Milk: Goat's milk, raw
Cost: 5.39€ / 26.95kg
The Tome de chèvre is from the East side of the Pyrénées, les Pyrénées-Orientales, close to the Mediterranean sea. Tomes de chèvre come from many regions, usually Savoie. This cheese was excellent. It's a semi-hard cheese, a bit creamy and not as hard as a parmesan so it didn't crumble between our teeth. The first bite delivers a slight pique (prick), but the cheese mellows with each chew. Towards the end, you can feel some grit or chalkiness. We were amazed at how many tastes and textures appeared in one little bite. Like the Camembert, this cheese would be great served in slivers with a before dinner drink or at the end of a meal in a traditional cheese course.
We paired this wine with a Château Carbon d’Artigues from the Graves region, the Southern wine region of Bordeaux (allez Bordeaux!). It is recommended to let this wine breathe before drinking. The color is like a medium-dark ruby, the smell not too powerful and the taste is that of oak and red fruits. The initial impression is strong, but the wine settled into a nice smooth taste.
The pairing of the two was decent as the strong young wine offered some balance to the Tome de chèvre. Next time, we'll probably try a white wine from Limoux as recommended in our cheese encyclopedia. However, the wine shop didn't carry any so we went with the suggestion of the fromager, a red Graves.
Cutting the cheese:
During my first meal with Fred's family I made the rookie mistake of cutting the nose off the cheese. His family didn't care, of course, and I didn't even realize that there was a protocol until I read about it in a book later. I still remember the giant cheese platter making its way down the table to me. Being polite, they wanted me, their guest, to go first. It would have been less awkward had I figuratively cut the cheese; over in a quick second and I could have blamed it on Fred. Literally cutting the cheese is a different story. There were several of them and I didn't know how many or much to take. A giant chunk of Comté haunted me. I felt like I was sawing away at its thick rind for hours with the family watching on. Flopping it on it's side and cutting it in to alternating triangles (like the Tome in this picture) is much easier to manage and still accomplishes the goal of allowing everybody the opportunity to taste the cheese from the center to the rind. So nice of the French to assign Geometry homework with their meals.
The Camembert and sparkling cider can be found on the Northern half of the map, and the Tome and Graves in the Southern half.
*FYI: The fromagerie spelled it tome, but we've also seen it spelled tomme.