La Fontaine de Mars
I had lunch with Sue Sturman of the Academie Opus Caseus a few days before the Salon du Fromage. It would be the first time we had met in person and we chose one of her favorites: La Fontaine de Mars, a classic French bistrot in the 7th offering specialties from France’s rich southwest. She was in Paris for a course she was leading with Academie, during which she’d be judging cheese in the export category for the Concours Générale d’Agriculture and visiting loads of cheese shops.
La Fontaine de Mars is down the street from two noteworthy places. One is La Billebaude, which—in writing these words—I realize I’ve not done a blogpost on. (They have great food and a terrific cheese plate.) The other is Marie-Anne Cantin’s boutique, always on the short list of sites to visit for any cheese pilgrimage in Paris. In fact, she supplies cheese for the La Fontaine de Mars cheese plate.
After a lunch of duck breast, which I am constitutionally incapable of passing up on a menu, I opted for the cheese. Sue went for the ice cream with plums soaked in Armagnac, which is never a bad choice. The cheeseplate included three cheeses:
- A thick triangle of Salers, a fairly hard cheese on the drier side rather like a Cantal. Salers is in south-central France, in the Auvergne region.
- A ripe, almost-runny quarter of Camembert, from France's Normandy region
- A creamy mild cinder-coated chèvre. There's a special place in Cantin's heart for goat cheese as there is something for anyone's preference. [article in French]
I’m not typically a fan of very ripe Camemberts, but the flavor of this one was very well-balanced and pleasant. The cinder-coated chèvre looked the most boring in a way, but was ultimately the most rewarding of the lot in its simplicity and struck all the right chords for my own taste in goat's cheese. The hard Salers countered the other soft cheeses in texture.
These were safe selections, to be sure. None of the cheeses was especially challenging to the eater in terms of smell, taste, or texture. They're fairly widely available, too. But the plate was a good reminder that "common" doesn't have to mean average. These were very good cheeses.
La Fontaine de Mars, 129, rue Saint-Dominique, 75007 Paris