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When I offered to make the French cheese board for both the Christmas and New Year’s festivities, I knew I would have some good fun putting it together. But would my French cheese choices please the French friends I was celebrating with?
Living in France, it’s impossible not to be drawn into the delicious world of French gastronomy. Standing at the market the other day, the French man beside me declared, “Well…the French only talk about la bouffe (food).” This, I know to be true.
In my two years of life in France, I’ve become, dare I say, rather knowledgeable about French pâtisseries and French cheese. Perhaps what this really means is that I can clearly admit to having savoured an inordinate amount of French pâtisseries and an equal amount and variety of French cheese. And, I’m always up for trying something new that catches my eye at the fromagerie! Don’t forget, if you read my post on French cheeses, that there are over 300 varieties and some people claim up to 1000!
This fall, I was standing at the Fromagerie in the covered Beauvau market and the man just ahead of me in line ordered the Brillat-Savarin with Truffles. Brillat-Savarin’s words “Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are” rang through my mind and it dawned on me that I had never tasted the cheese named after him.
I leaned over and started up a conversation.
“Excuse me sir, is the Brillat-Savarin with Truffles good?” (en français, of course)
He readily answered telling me it was delicious, buttery and creamy and not as high in fat as the Camembert or Brie beside which it was perched. The vendor chimed in extolling its qualities – the Triple Cream, the whipped texture, and the layer of shaved truffles making the cheese exceptional.
And to top it off she noted, Brillat-Savarin with Truffles is best served with champagne.
How could one resist?
Of course, I bought this Brillat-Savarin with Truffles. I let the first taste sit on my tongue. I practically dropped to my knees. It’s like eating a complex-flavoured cloud. The most delicious one imaginable. One you just can’t get enough of.
Read More | Are you a cheese lover? Have you tried these French cheeses? And here are seven of the best fromageries in Paris to find that perfect cheese, and have that, oh so fun, experience of standing amongst oodles of cheese.
Planning The French Cheese Platter
When putting together a French cheese board, pick an odd number of cheeses and choose from the following categories:
Soft Cheeses such as Brillat-Savarin, Brie, Camembert, Munster, Epoisses, Reblochon, Langres
Hard Cheeses such as Comté, Beaufort, Ossau Iraty, Mimolette
Goat Cheeses such as Rocamadour, Chabichou du Poitou, Selles-sur-Cher
Blue Cheese including Roquefort, Saint Agur, Bleu d’Auvergne
Pro Tip for the French Cheese Board: The blue cheese should have a separate knife and is best enjoyed after the milder cheeses.
The French Cheese Board For Christmas: Which Cheeses?
I chose these cheeses for the French cheese board at Christmas:
Brillat-Savarin with Truffles: I bought the whole round of cheese, feeling quite certain it would be a bit hit.
Comté: Comté, from the Jura region, is everyone’s favourite. The thing is there is not just one. Most fromagers will ask you which month you would like. Usually, there is a Comte around 20-months, 30-months and sometimes much younger. This time I was also offered one at 44-months. The vendor assured me the Comté at 44-months is a popular choice at Christmas time.
I couldn’t decide so chose two Comtés, the 20-month which I had bought recently from this vendor and knew was outstanding and the 44-month based on his recommendation.
Most of the French people, including guests that had arrived, had never heard of nor tasted a Comte of 44-months.
They were truly in awe. This Comte is a bit more fragile and the flavour was outstanding. It was a huge hit.
Munster with Cumin Seeds: Munster with cumin seeds is one of my favourites cheeses and is always a popular addition to a cheese board.
Crottin de Chavignol: I asked for some guidance here on a creamier and milder goat cheese.
Blue Cheese: You know I love my Blue Cheese! I rounded the cheese platter out with a blue, and asked the fromager for something on the milder side.
The Score On The French Cheese Board
As we started to devour the French cheese platter, in true French style a chorus a “Mmmmmms” went round the table. The conversation continued and suddenly Guigui, one of the hostesses, announced that she was awarding me a 19/20 for the selection of French cheeses.
She claimed the only cheese missing was “Cancoillotte.” I’d never heard of this runny cheese served hot or cold. You know what I’ll be ordering on the next fromagerie excursion!
The French Cheese Board For New Year’s Eve: Which Cheeses?
I spent New Year’s Eve in Le Mans with a group of 13 others. We all took our Covid tests and arrived in fine form. Instead of bringing the cheeses for the French cheese plate from Paris, I decided on an insider’s tip to purchase the cheese from Fromage & ses amis in Le Mans owned by a world champion cheesemonger, Fabien Degoulet.
Here’s what I chose:
Comté: When I asked if there was a 44-month Comté, I was told that the designation of age for Comté is just a marketing ploy! I was presented instead with the flavours. A fruity Comté, one with more of a tannin flavour, and one that was slightly caramelized. I chose the caramelized Comté, which I do think was the oldest. It was delicious.
Langres: This soft cheese is a bit sunken in the middle. It was suggested the we pour champagne into the middle before serving. Quel délice!
Brillat-Savarin: This time it was a Brillat-Savarin plain and simple. I would have to say that even without the truffles this cheese is an absolute hit everytime.
Ossau Iraty: This sheep cheese that is another favourite of mine, hails from the Pays Basque (always brings back memories from my trip to Biarritz).
Chabichou du Poitou: A delightful goat cheese rounded out the French cheese platter.
Accompaniments For The French Cheese Boards
Truth be told it never crossed my mind to bring accompaniments for the French cheese plates. Maybe because we were travelling. Maybe because it just never crossed my mind. Nobody seemed to notice but I sure did. Next time I would bring the following:
- Pomegranate seeds
- Cut fresh figs
- Litte bowls of almonds or candied walnuts
- Grapes and/or apple slices
Pro Tip for the French Cheese Board: Don’t overcrowd the cheeses with the accompaniments!
More Paris Travel Info…
Gastronomy in Paris:
If you are looking for food suggestions, read about where to find the most delectable pâtisseries in Paris. Have you tried all these classic pâtisseries, like the Paris Brest?
These spots will have you savouring the best croissants in Paris.
Here are some tips on eating oysters like the French and how to dive into a huge pot of steaming mussels without standing out like a tourist.
There are also plenty of café suggestions for the Marais area in this post: Tips from a Local. Suggestions for restaurants in the Marais is a popular post along with the best places to eat in Canal Saint-Martin.
If you are looking for a truly unique dining experience, try one of the training restaurants at Ferrandi Cooking School.
If you are in Paris and gluten-free, luckily it is much easier to satisfy the taste buds than it was years ago. Here is my go-to on gluten-free delights.
DELICIOUS TIP: If you are in Paris in January, don’t miss out on this very traditional pâtisserie that only makes an appearance once a year. Find out more here.
Exploring Paris and Beyond:
PARIS: Travelling to Paris alone? This article on navigating Paris alone is full of tips and tricks for the solo traveller. And this guide on the Paris arrondissements will help you plan the best trip ever!
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