Fromages et Plus
The Dordogne region of France is an area we had visited previously, but only briefly at the end of a trip that was focused on the Medoc peninsula to the west of Bordeaux. For the April school break, we decided to explore it what the English joking call “Dordogneshire” owing to the vast presence of Brits who take advantage of low-cost nonstop flights from the UK to Bergerac.
We came upon Fromages et Plus rather by accident. My younger son had taken ill and we needed a pharmacy. Villéreal was the closest town to where we were staying that had one. We hadn’t planned to stay long, but we decided to look around when we realized it was the town’s main market day.
Villéreal is a charming town that dates back to the 13th century. It is one of the bastides, or villages that provided order and commerce during an era of urbanization. Many of these towns were also meant to keep the English at bay during the Hundred Years War. While France is said to have won the war, the English took many of these towns and appear to have been there ever since!
Villéreal’s covered market, itself dating back to the 14th century, is the town’s central hub. Fromages et Plus is situated right on the square and offers a diverse selection of cheeses from small producers and, for the most part, made from raw (rather than pasteurized) milk. The cheese comes from From’Terroir, a distributor I met at the Salon du Fromage.
Despite the fact that there were several customers waiting and a terrasse full of people eating cheese and charcuterie (the “Plus” in the name) I spent 15 minutes talking with Nicolas, the owner. In fact, after deciding to eat lunch in town, we then went back to the shop and spent another 20 minutes chatting.
The story could easily end there as yet another encounter with a cheesemonger who is passionate about quality and his craft. But the driving force of Fromages et Plus is actually Nicolas’ partner, Valérie. Valérie quit her well-paying job at Citibank in Paris about 15 years ago for a different trade and has found success doing something she loves. Boy that speaks to me.
Fromages et Plus was another serendipitous discovery, another delightful exchange, and gives me even more food-for-thought as I consider alternate paths for the future.
This tomme is a unique cow’s milk cheese. It’s a local product made at the Abbaye d’Echourgnac, a Cistercian Abbey about 80 km north west of Villéreal and about the same distance east of Bordeaux. The cheese is washed with a nut wine that imbues it with a very nutty flavor. Otherwise it has the semi-firm texture of other tommes. This was one of few in shop that was pasteurized.
Le Petit Fiancé
This was a gorgeous goat cheese that was just to my taste. Tangy but not strong with the consistency of reblochon or brie, it comes from Ariège, a department on the border of Spain due south of Toulouse.
These little rounds of goat cheese are perfect morsels that capture the rich taste of the pastures that flavor the milk. This one was medium in intensity.
Fromages et Plus, Place de la Halle, 47210 Villéreal