So there I was in the main square in Aix en Provence, wolfing down yet another perfectly flaky croissant in the glorious morning light, when my sister-in-law Cler utters the magic words - want some cheese? Do I ever. In France eating cheese is not reserved for the select few “gourmands” or for certain times of day. Cheese is revered by all for being the fabulous foodstuff that it is – rustic, full of character, and down right delicious.
A few blocks away we encountered the unassuming storefront (I have to admit I was so excited that I didn’t catch the shop name, but I do have the address and phone number lest anyone find themselves in Aix craving some fromage: 33 rue de Cordeliers, tel: 04 42 27 26 57). Right away I was struck by the love the storeowner must have for cheese. The smaller cheeses were thoughtfully arranged by type, and all in peak perfect condition. Monsieur Fromage (the storeowner) greeted us shyly but once he saw how excited we were about his wares he proudly lit up and proceeded to point and talk so conscientiously that it was all I could do but nod and smile and pretend I understood every word. Fortunately Cler did some translating for me, and it turns out Monsieur Fromage does a lot of affinage (cheese aging) in the back of his little shop, an activity not uncommon in the best cheese shops in Europe.
Twenty minutes (and a lot of ooing and aahing later) we were presented with a tidy package of four cheeses – a Saint Marcellin (considered almost “local” as it comes from the nearby Dauphine region), a Banon (also from Provence), a Selles sur Cher (from the Loire valley) and a local airy goat’s milk cheese the size of a large walnut.
We carted the cheeses around with us all day until we were bursting with anticipation (and suitably prepped with a few bottles of rose wine and a crusty baguette). At this point we had made it to Cannes but rather than ogle the celebs on the film festival red carpet, we elected to set up a tasting while waiting in the hardly-moving taxi line. The cheeses did not disappoint, and we’re pretty sure everyone else in line wished they had gone to see Monsieur Fromage.
Merci bien Monsieur Fromage – a bientôt!