Remembrance of Cheese Past
Cheese isn’t going to be a big part of my diet for the next several weeks. For someone who occasionally goes by the moniker of my50cheeses on the interwebs, this is a big deal. There may be a nibble here and a taste there. However I’m holding onto a few occasional gratings of Parm-Reg for dear life.
But don’t worry about me. I’ll be okay. If not for anything else except my memories of one amazing cheese experience in Paris.
If you like, I’ll tell you the story. I’ll even throw in a couple of pictures.
Paris is a dangerous city to be in when you are hungry. There are restaurants and food shops everywhere. Some are amazing. Others are not. But as a human being with only one stomach there is a limit to how much you can reasonably consume and still enjoy yourself.
When my old college friend A.S. was walking me through town up the hill to Montmartre, we passed this amazing looking gourmet food store. And when I said goodbye to her at the metro I was reasonably sure that I could retrace our steps and find my way back there.
Yeah. That didn’t work out so well.
But that’s the funny thing about fate, and the mindbending thing about being in one of the greatest food cities in the world. Because instead of my intended destination, I happened to stumble upon a cheese shop called La Ferme St. Hubert.
There was one older woman behind the counter attending to her wares. I greeted her with a feeble bonjour and in the best French I could muster asked if she spoke any English. Turns out this was the second of two cheesemongers in Paris who said that they didn’t.
That’s okay, I figured. Because I know the language of cheese. And really, there was only one type of cheese that I was interested in getting. Had it not been for all the time I had spent with The Cheese Traveler over the past year this one French word might not have been so close to the tip of my tongue.
Those would be the cheeses made on the farm from the cheesemaker’s own herd. These are the smallest of small production and tend to offer the most interesting and delicious specimens of specific cheeses.
I knew I was in a great place because with a smile the woman pointed with her knife from one end of the display to the other. It gave the distinct impression that everything in the store was made on the farm. Wow.
She then was concerned whether or not I was buying cheese to eat now or take back on the plane, and was trying to indicate that I couldn’t take these cheeses back to the U.S. Sadly, I am far too aware of this restrictive policy we have against the most delicious foods in the world. But I assured her I was going to eat it on the spot.
Honing in on cow’s milk cheeses, she pointed me towards a brie. But I had just enjoyed one of those the day before and something else caught my eye.
It was a bloomy rind disc that was wrapped in bark, and it was something that I had never heard of before. The cheese was called Comtesse de Vichy. There was a quarter wheel already cut, and I was hoping to get that cut down further so I could eat an additional cheese.
But I had to take the full quarter. I’m kind of glad that I did, because it was magnificent.
Cheese is crazy freaking cheap in Paris, by the way. It was a third of a pound and set me back 3.49 euros. The bread that I bought from a nearby bakery was an additional euro. And I had a magnificent meal in store for me.
The cheese was so special that I decided to walk it down to the Louvre for a photo shoot.
While I was sitting down on a bench in the courtyard of the museum enjoying my bounty the sun broke through the clouds and I had the feeling that surely this all was meant to happen. When the cheese and bread were all gone, I made my way into the museum to try and walk it all off.
Again, unexpectedly, I found myself in a room full of massive Rubens paintings that were simply unbelievable in scale and scope. It would seem that even one of these masterpieces would be one’s life work. Yet there were well over a dozen of them.
Now I get it.
Walking around the museum was also a good idea because it was a great place to avoid the rain. I saw some other museum goers standing at a nearby window and taking a picture of something outside. So I went over to investigate and there was a rainbow cutting through the sky. Even more striking was that it appeared to end somewhere in Montmarte, the very place where my afternoon adventure began.
I don’t think I needed a sign from the heavens to remind me that this had been a great afternoon, but I appreciated the thought.