A rendezvous with the cheeses of France, and famed French cheesemonger François Robin. Think cheese, and you’re probably already thinking French cheese. There are around 1,600 types of French cheese, with 1.8 million tonnes being consumed every year – that’s 57 kilos per second! So, what’s the deal? We took a few tips from cheesemonger François Robin – born and bred cheese lover and aficionado!
What should we ask before buying French cheese? People feel you need to know a lot about French cheese before you buy it. This isn’t true – all you need to do is enjoy it! You can be your own judge. The best starting point is with a mild cheese – then build on that with cheeses of more intensity. You’ll soon get to learn what you like.
Look for PDO labels – they’re yellow and red – and guarantee that the cheese has been made according to the old traditions and in its original area.
Which flavors go well with cheese? Cheese works well across the table! For example, with an intense blue cheese – where the finish in the mouth is quite salty – this works very well paired with dates. The contrast of sweetness and salty is perfect. Try a small scoop of blue cheese inside a date! Also, pomegranate molasses works very well with the Comté (a mild, hard cheese). Pistachios, roasted sesame, and fresh figs make great accompaniments to lots of cheeses!
Is French cheese the best? I think so! French cheese is unique because of the range of climates we have within one country – from wet in the north, to Mediterranean in the south. We’ve got high mountains and low plains. These all give a tremendous variety to our chesses. Also, and this is very important, is the fact that all our farms are small farms – with an average of just 60 cows per farm, all the cows are able to graze on fresh grass outside – it is completely natural. Also, we’ve kept the tradition of cheesemaking and cheese-aging. We’ve been doing it this way for generations!
Will a French cheese taste the same on a rooftop in the Gulf as it would be the Seine in Paris? Yes. Unequivocally, yes. I’ve travelled enough and eaten enough French cheeses around the world to confirm this!
What are the trends in cheese? Today, it is to pair cheeses with sweet ingredients – and many of these originate in the Middle East. Honeys, dates, pomegranate molasses. Pairing with a strong cheese softens the flavors. Try it!
What makes a good cheesemonger? You have to love people and love cheese! You need to learn about cheeses – we have cheesemonger schools in France. People are changing careers – from banking, from the world of commerce – and becoming cheesemongers.
What’s the best cheese you’ve ever tasted? It’s impossible to pick just one, but I’d say that every cheese I’ve eaten at its original location has inspired me the most. A mountain cheese in the mountains… with the view… unforgettable. Also, my father was goat-farmer – at two months I was drinking goat milk. And, always, every day, fresh goat cheese!
What the best cheese for cooking with? If you don’t need to melt the cheese – they are all good! It depends on your own personal taste. To cook though – some cheeses melt better than others. Reblochon and raclette cook well – and try baking a camembert! You can add zaatar and cashews – put it in the oven for 15 minutes – when cheese has melted, dip some bread in it. A perfect small meal!
What’s your best advice for enjoying cheese? Don’t overcomplicate it. Keep it simple! Share it with friends – anytime…. anywhere… anyhow!
Find out more about the world of French cheeses here: saycheese.me