For the last 18 months or more I’ve been going to the same cheese shop near where I live. The people there have always been really friendly and chatty and they have a great range of cheese. The shop, if you’re interested, is called L’Alpage and is 15 rue Aligre in the 12th arrondisement.
For my last birthday some friends bought me a voucher for La Cuisine Paris, near the Hotel de Ville. I signed up for a session with a master affineur and it turns out he owns the cheese shop [or fromagerie, as we French people say] over the road. He was an interesting chap and he had some interesting cheese views. French cheese, he though was over-rated. Especially the cow’s milk cheeses. In his view, the world’s best cheese is Roquefort. And that’s a fine view since it is a magnificent cheese. After that, he was heading to the UK and Ireland for cheeses in his top ten. In France, this smacks of down-right heresy. And if there’s one thing I like it’s a heretic.
But now what? I had to go to his shop. What if the people from L’Alpage saw me. I was feeling like a cheat, a cheap, cheesy strumpet who would take their cheesy custom to any cheesy heretic who crosses their path. Ah well, it is cheese after all, one of the major food groups. I went in, quite brazenly.
Mmmmmm, new cheeses. Cheeses I hadn’t seen before or heard of before. Cheesy vistas opened in front of me. Here’s one of the new cheeses.
It’s called Pipoune. And it’s an artisanal goat’s cheese from the commune of Montréjeau in the Pyrenees.
There are three main types of cheese to look out for in a French cheese shop, and I guess you should apply them wherever you are buying cheese. I am assuming you already look for unpasteurised cheese as a matter of course. Fermier means that the cheese is made on the farm where the animals are who provide the milk. This is the purest and most beloved of cheeses since you van get a taste and sense of the terroir. Artisanal is next best and this means that the milk comes from a number of farms in the same region and Industrial means that they take milk from wherever. Industrial is generally worth avoiding. Unless it’s that rubbery, orange cheddar that’s perfect for baked beans and / or baked potatoes. Funnily enough, they never write “industrial” on these cheeses. I can’t imagine why…
It’s a little more mature than most goat cheeses I see. It has a washed rind that’s dry, firm and a little thicker than most but it’s still edible. The paste is soft, creamy and rich and its taste does not is much milder than its smell suggests. That’s not to say that this is a really stinky cheese though. As you can see, the paste is starting to run. It doesn’t have a long aftertaste though so it’s worth eating this early on your cheese board, spread on some decent bread.
And so now I have to share my cheese buying between the two shops. And I don’t feel any guilt. Not one ounce. Shameless.