Best Moments from the Salon du Fromage (part 2)
I posted the first half of my favorite moments from the Salon du Fromage a few weeks ago. Here is the second installment.
Le Père Bafien
Gregory Sevie from Le Père Bafien (an affineur specializing in goat’s cheeses) strongly believes in the craft, the savoir-faire of the artisan cheesemaker. That said, he asserts with equal conviction that the artisan should also experiment with new ideas and tastes.
Le Père Bafien ages cheeses from both raw and pasteurized milk. Sometimes he’ll place crumbled nuts on top of a small round, or maybe a little Espelette pepper, or maybe just leave it plain as has been done since long ago. Or, he might gently smoke it, which won him one of the “Coup de Coeur” (Best in Show) awards at the Salon. His approach, the marriage of both old and new, is provocative. It’s not easy to do both. But that’s what differentiates the good from the rest.
Cheese and meats from the mountain regions in the French and Swiss Alps have an unmistakable taste of their terroir, the place from which they come. It starts from the grass and vegetation upon which the animals feed. L’Etivaz, from the Vaud Alps (Vaudoise) is one of these cheeses, and some consider it to be the King of them. It has a rich and earthy taste with little white crystals and a firm texture. Real Étivaz is made by only 70 families. Each does its own: no milk is transported or mixed. The cheese is made between March 10 and October 10 each year owing to the grazing season. Otherwise it’s called “Étivaz d’Hiver”, or Winter Etivaz, and it’s a lighter shade. Étivaz that’s been aged for three years is often shaved (like a tête de moine, only with a different apparatus) into razor-thin salty strips called rebibes.
Caves d’Affinage Savoie
At this display, I tasted tomme au foin, a semi-hard cow’s cheese that is coated and aged in hay. The hay imparts a subtle grassy flavor to the already earthy tomme. I found this interesting, though I wasn’t blown away by it.
Colston Dairy and Neal’s Yard
Neal’s Yard is the famous London cheese shop that serves not only the capital, but all of Great Britain and ships all over the world. I had a long conversation with Billy Kevan from Colston Dairy. He’s one of an increasing number of cheesemakers in Britain doing it the old-fashioned way. He explained that he works with four local farmers who supply milk in a specific legal arrangement unique to the UK called a “friendly society”. I tasted his Shropshire blue and a Stilton, and both were really delicious. Colston makes cheeses to satisfy various parts of the market, using both animal or vegetarian rennets (which he says have gotten better than they originally were in the 1980s). As a small provider he’s been quite happy with his relationship with Neal’s, which has helped him access both the domestic and international markets.
In my view, Pierucci the best Corsican cheeses at the show. They had five different sheep’s cheeses, each with a different texture and flavor, each delicious. I think I may have insulted someone when, despite apologizing in advance, I told them I could not remember what they called the cheese that I knew as Brin d’Amour, which they call Saveur du Maquis.
Baron Edmond de Rothschild
Somewhat surprisingly, while there are many AOP bries made from raw milk, there is only one AOP Brie fermier cheese. It's made by Baron Edmond de Rothschild, from their own cows, from one and only one milk. This was a good brie, but not my favorite at the show. (I loved the brie from Dongé!) That said, the Délice de Favière (Brie with truffles) was amazing. Then again, I feel that way about anything involving truffles.
One of only about 20 affineurs in France, Jean d’Alos has two caves: one in Bordeaux, the other in Pau. They specialize in cheeses from the southwest of France, although they receive milk from all over the country. Here I had an awesome tomme de recollects, a mix of cow and goat’s cheese flavored with different herbs and a bit of pepper.
This was my one missed opportunity. This was actually the first exhibitor I spoke to at any length. From’ Terroir is a purveyor of a variety of products including wine and cheese. Here I came upon the first of many gorgonzolas à la cuillère (creamy, runny gorgonzola you eat out with a spoon, very popular this year) and an intriguing cheese coated in flower petals which, regrettably, I never got a chance to try.
Alain Dubois & Bérangère Lepetit
I've already written about this chance meeting in a different post as the article came out in Le Parisien about a week ago. How I love serendipity!