Tag Archives: cheese

My top 10: The best addresses for cheese shopping and finding a good coffee in Paris

30 Apr

It’s about time I shared the love. Two of my great loves are of course: coffee… and the other you already know — cheese. Not necessarily together or in that order! I’m often asked for tips and addresses on both of these subjects so I have compiled my top 10 and made interactive maps for both the lists. After all, what trip to Paris is complete without eating too much cheese? Then after all the fun of running around buying and tasting it, you will be needing a good coffee to pick you back up again if you want to make it on your last legs to that pastry shop…

Coffee and latte in Paris

COFFEE:

Let’s start with coffee, since it’s rather problematic in this city. A good friend of mine recently moved for a six-week stay in Paris and called me in a panic: “All the coffee is so aaaaawful here… what am I going to dooooo?? Why can’t I just go into a café and drink a decent latte?”

And she’s absolutely right. Unlike cheese, the good stuff is simply not common and easily available in this city, in fact, getting a real coffee is more like a treasure hunt — you almost need to plan your day/meeting around it to make sure you get your fix in one of the very few places that know how to make it. There has been a lot of press on the issue recently, and the scene is quickly changing for the better thanks to French-Australian partnerships who are raising the bar, such as Café Lomi who supply most of the places on my list.

So here is the list I gave my latte-longing friend. There is hope, I promise.

Where to get a good Latte / drink real coffee in Paris:

Café Lomi Paris 18eme
Black Market – Paris 18eme
Le Bal Café – Paris 18eme Clichy
KB Café Shop (formerly Kooka Boora) – Paris 9eme
Coutume Café – Paris 7eme
Sugarplum Cakeshop and Café – Paris 5eme
L’inconnu Bar/Café – Paris 10eme
Ten Belles – Paris 10eme
Télescope (great coffee in a central part of town) – Paris 1eme
Vélo Café (mobile coffee cart at Place de la Bourse) – Paris 2eme
Alto Café (mobile coffee cart at Galeries Lafayette and Passage du Havre) – Paris 9eme.

cafe lomi latte

L’art du Cafe at Lomi, Paris. Image © Rachel Bajada

CHEESE:

First things first, I need to lay down the rules of engagement here: no cheating and buying cheese at the supermarket! Sure, you may be able to find a decent fresh chèvre or biodynamic faisselle in the dairy isle, maybe even the occasional genuine AOC Camembert, but the vast majority of cheeses sold in big chains like Monoprix, Carrefour and Franprix are industrially processed, inferior, pasteurized milk cheeses which are actually slowly killing the real artisanal cheese industry in this country. Sadly, a growing number of French cheeses become extinct every year due to the industrialisation of the French dairy industry so please be a conscious cheese shopper and support artisanal cheese makers and small businesses by favouring quality over convenience and bargain basement price tags.

There is only one time and one reason only when you have an excuse to buy in the supermarket, and that’s if it’s your last stop in Paris and you’re buying cheese to take on the flight home. This leads me to my next important piece of advice and a common question:

Can I take raw milk French cheese back through Australian customs?

The answer is YES, you sure can! There is just one catch. Firstly, you must of course declare it on your arrival card, but as long as the cheese you bring in is “commercially prepared and packaged and originate from countries free from foot and mouth disease” you are allowed to bring it in. And don’t worry, as long as you wrap it in lots of layers of plastic and foil to avoid your entire luggage smelling of cheese, it will certainly last and wont spoil during the long journey home.

Because of this, you can’t just go to the farmers markets and buy a fresh unpackaged cheese to take overseas; so this is when the supermarket may be your only option. I have done this numerous times without problems but usually I stop at Galleries Lafayette Gourmand or la Grande Epicerie where they stock a good range of quality raw milk cheeses with sufficient labelling and packaging to keep you off Border Control at prime time. If you do however find yourself in a sticky situation with customs, here is how to successfully talk your way out of it.

The full details on Australian quarantine regulations can be found at the daff.gov.au site here. I regret that I don’t know enough about current regulations in the US, UK and Canada etc. to provide them but if you know please drop a comment below.

My favourite places to buy and taste cheese in Paris:

Fromagerie SecrétanParis 19eme (owners are extremely friendly and helpful and they stock a range of beautiful seasonal and special cheeses)

Galerie Fayette Gourmande – For the pre-flight stock-up to take home

Market bio 17eme and Marche bio Raspail. Excellent organic/biodynamic producers of goats cheeses and nearly every French cheese you could dream of. More expensive but worth it, make sure you get there before midday. The markets are my weekend sport.Hah.

La Ferme Saint Hubert FromagerieParis 9eme. You will smell it before you find it. This is a good thing. Very traditional with a great range.
A memorable shopping experience.

Quatre Hommes CrèmerieParis 7eme. A top quality cheese shop which also produces and sells exciting new cheese varieties such as Pistachio Brie.

CantinParis 7eme. Run by cheese queen Marie-Anne Cantin fromager de tradition and Affineur with 7 impressive caves, the shop has been open since her father set it up in 1950.

Marche BastilleParis 11eme. Here you will find a few great stands with excellent cheeses. My favourite is the best Burrata I have found in Paris from the Spanish and Italian food stall. You can also find more exotic cheeses such as Guinness Cheddar and Goats Milk blue. Photos here

Alléosse Paris 17eme. Stocks an impressive array of artisanal AOC cheeses such as camemberts, Saint Marcellins, a large choice of chèvres and the best part- a selection of rare, hard to find cheeses such as Persillé de Tignes made by the last remaining producers of their kind in the country.

Mmmozza – Italian Mozarella and cheeses – Paris 3eme. A great spot to buy giant buffalo burrata, fresh burrata from Puglia, smoked and classic Mozzarella and Treccia, other Italian cheeses and excellent Prosciutto and Parma hams, in the heart of the Marais and a stroll from Marche des Enfants Rouge.

The ultimate cheese selection at Edouard Loubet, Bonnieux France. Photo courtesy of Arturo Zavala Haag www.arturozavala.com

Ready for the suitcase: Black Truffle Brie at Lafayette Gourmet, Paris

Advertisements

A heart between two homes

6 Mar

paris_sydney_cheese_je t'aime

Dear Australia,

I love you. You raised me, bathed me in sunlight and blessed me with beautiful beaches, an awesome lifestyle and my treasured family and friends, but I am sorry, I am leaving you. This little holiday at home has been magical, but the time has come, and I am going back to my adopted country, France.

Now, don’t be like that; please don’t be jealous, we absolutely cannot compare the two of you. And don’t be so presumptuous please- it’s not the wine I’m leaving you for. It’s also not the amazing markets and restaurants, nor is it for the fashion. You did everything right, my dear homeland, but you did one thing wrong. There is just one thing missing in this relationship…. Let me explain…

Chère France,

I love you, too. And I am coming back to you, if you will take me. How you have such a strong pull on me, honestly I don’t know. In reality, you treat me kinda mean. You’re painfully cold 6 months of the year. You make me drink too much wine, eat too much bread and not do enough exercise. You made me tolerant of passive smoking, and living in overpriced shoebox-sized flats. You make me spend too much money on pretty things I probably don’t need. Your metro is an efficient but dehumanising experience. Your lovely pebbled pavements ruin my stiletto heels and your thousands of poodles leave their sh*t everywhere. Too many of your shopkeepers are rude and obnoxious; your Michelin star waiters refuse to serve me real cappuccinos and most of your café coffee sux.

OK OK … maybe that was a little rough, after all, for a love letter, this didn’t start so well. No need to be insecure. I do love your amazing fashion, and strolling around the city at night is like living in a walking museum. Your effortless elegance, manicured gardens and romantic summer nights certainly wooed me, but that is not why I am taking you back. I’m coming back, my dear France because you offer me in abundance one thing Australia cannot – real cheese.

That’s right baby. Unpasteurised, unhomogenized, unadulterated, raw milk, artisanal, wonderful… CHEESE! Fresh ones, aged ones, soft ones, hard ones, stinky ones, mild ones… I’m only just getting started. You know you’ve got what I need my love, and over 400 of them….

So yes, you won me over.

Yours truly,
Rachel

Rachel Bajada with giant Mont d'Or cheese

At Rungis Markets, Paris with a 'Mega Mont d'Or'

And so there we have it. Going home after almost two years in the land of wine and cheese, I have returned as a changed woman. Arriving in Sydney was like walking into my hometown with a brain transplant. My country has not changed a lot, but I have evolved enormously. I’m the same person, with different eyes, and slightly evolved tastebuds. A new language, a million crazy stories, hundreds of new friends and bank accounts in multiple countries.

Out of habit, one of the first things I did was to check out the cheese selection at the local delis and department stores (like, isn’t that what we all do)? Wasn’t that just a depressing experience? Hate to say it but Australia really is the communist Cuba of fromage. We are living in the height of cheese communism. How can such a developed and progressive country still have strict bans on raw milk production? As long as Australia keeps a ban on raw milk cheese production, I’m going to have a hard time living there!

So I’ve decided to do something about it. Next month I’m launching a campaign in conjunction with Slowfood International and Australia’s top chefs to lobby against the ban on Raw Milk production and sale in Australia- the principle thing preventing artisan cheese makers cultivating a rich and diverse industry. Let’s support local producers and artisans and support the freedom of choice over what natural raw foods we have access to.

Watch this space and stay tuned for updates. In the meantime, check out some reading material on the issue here, and while you’re at it, join my Facebook Cheese Fanclub

See you at the Paris fromagerie!

Rachel
xox

How I became an international French cheese smuggler

13 Mar

Now here is a very funny real life foodie adventure story.

We’ve all been there. Stranded at customs or airport security begging the security agent to let you though with you your so-called ‘prohibited or dangerous’ goods- usually an expensive hand cream, alcohol, perfume or gourmet gift that you put in your hand luggage, not knowing of, or forgetting the crazy cabin baggage policies of today. Bring back memories? I bet it does. I’m still laughing to myself about the journey I went through with my precious French cheeses went last night when taking a short EU flight between Marseille and Malta, and since it’s quite a laugh, I just had to share it.

– Printed board pass and passport in handbag? Check

– 15 kilos suitcase pre-paid check in luggage. Check

– Bag of edible goodies and gifts for expat friends ? (Check-in bag already at 15kg so will have to go in hand-luggage). Check

– Hand cream, lip gloss, nail polish and hairspray: All under 100 mls and sealed in plastic zip-lock bag? Check

And so, there I was. Bag checked in and ready to go through security to board my flight.

It started with the usual procedure. Laptop out, boots off, jacket off, liquids separated and in plastic bag, handbag in tray and on the conveyor belt. I then pulled out my shopping bag of goodies intended as gifts for friends and family in Malta and put it in the tray.

I had spent a good 45 minutes in the local fromagerie yesterday deliberating over which of the finest, stinkiest French cheeses to take with me and bring delight to those eagerly awaiting at the other end for their foodie fix.

Aside from a top French sauccisson and a block of fine dark chocolate, I had 750 grams ‘quota’ to fill with cheese After much indecision, I ended up choosing three of my favourites, just imagining the look of pure delight as they were received by their cheese deprived recipients.

A 250 gram Tête de Moine (my new favourite). Usually served as an appetizer, it’s a firm cow’s milk cheese that’s loads of fun to serve using it’s special ‘shaving handle’ implement which shaves it into cute little ‘chanterelle-shaped morsels.

Tête de Moine cheese

Tête de Moine shaved into chanterelle morsels

An 350 gram round wooden box of divine Mont d’Or. For those of you not familiar with this cheese, all I can say is: this is the stuff dreams (and round hips) are made of. An unpasteurised ‘cru’ cows milk cheese which has an exquisitely creamy oozing centre and washed rind. The best way to eat Mont d’Or is heated in the oven in it’s own round wooden box, mixed with white wine till it’s an oozing and melting pot of liquid heaven.

Mont d'Or cheese

Mont d'Or: a melting pot of liquid heaven

And finally- I couldn’t go past 250 grams of the irresistible and classic Blue d’Auvergne. Another one of my personal favourites (especially with a walnut and endive salad) it was also a special request anxiously awaited by my friend Dennis at the other end.

Now… I got a little carried anyway there describing those cheeses- let’s get back to the story.

The dialogue from this point went a little something like this:

Security checkpoint officer woman: “What’s in the plastic bag?”

“Oh… just cheeses.”

“What type of cheeses? As some kinds of cheeses are not allowed”.

And then it occurred to me: Maybe you actually can’t take unpasteurized cheeses outside of France? So, knowing that 2 of the cheeses were ‘cru’ and one was not- I responded sheepishly with “Tête de Moine” (the pasteurised cheese). Hoping that would get me out of the red. After-all, the x-ray machine can’t tell the difference….right?

So, I proceed to go through the scanner gate. No beeps. All clear. I wait anxiously at the other end for my bag, laptop, jacket, shoes and- cheeses.

The woman at the other end opens the goodie bag and goes through it piece by piece.

Saucisson- fine. Chocolate- fine. Tete de moine- fine.

Just when I think it’s all good, she starts poking at the slab of blue cheese, shakes her head, and then puts it aside.

Then she picks up the round box of Mont d’Or…. and … puts it aside.

“Sorry- you can’t take these two cheeses- the other things are fine”

My panic begins to set in. Stay calm, don’t look stressed.

“But why? They don’t say that the milk is unpasteurised? And it’s the EU?!

She glares back at me, shaking her head and says:

“No no no it’s not that- that doesn’t matter. You are carrying too much LIQUID”.

Now I’m getting confused. I respond:

“You mean, it’s ok that the milk is unpasteurised, but I can’t take it because it’s a LIQUID?!”

She calls over Mr French Security Officer to further explain.

He lifts up the two offending cheeses and starts squeezing and poking them, shaking his head in dismay.

I respond “Mais… je ne comprends pas” C’est incroyable… This is not liquid- It’s CHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSSE!!!”

“Yes, madame, but these cheeses are too soft so they are classified as liquid, and you can only take 100 mls of liquid on board.”

My jaw drops. I try to imagine possible ways of hijacking the plane armed with my Tête de Moine and Blue d’Auvergne. My imagination did not take me very far. Now I’m just annoyed at the sheer ridiculousness of the situation.

“But I HAVE to take the cheeses with me- they are important GIFTS!”

“I’m sorry, but that’s the rule. Can you put them in your check-in baggage or give them to a friend?”

“I have already checked in my bag, and there is no-one here who can take them from me.”

“Then, I’m sorry Madame, but there is no other option.”

Now my determination takes over. I respond, evidently flustered, in clumsy French:

“I cannot leave the country, and arrive empty-handed, without the cheeses- everyone waiting for them will be soooooo disappointed!”

He looks mildly apologetic, shrugs his shoulders and again, apologises. Now I am even more determined- I refuse to abandon my beautiful cheeses at the border.

That’s when it occurred to me. A flash of inspiration. A wise, authoritative voice in my head says:

“Pull out the Grandma story.”

So that’s exactly what I did.

Holding a piercing gaze with Mr French Security Officer, I respond with full conviction and my best possible French:

“You don’t understand. My Grandma is going to CRY if I don’t bring this cheese”

His face instantly starts to melt, kind of like the gooey Mont D’or. Now that I know I have struck a chord, I come in for a second strike.

“She has rung me twice this week, just to remind me not to forget her cheese”

His bottom lip begins to quiver.

“She has been waiting SIX MONTHS for me to come, with this cheese, and if turn up, empty handed, she will be DEV-A-STAT-ED.”

The Grandma guilt trip is working. Mr French security officer is clearly disturbed by the thought of my sweet little 87 year old ‘Mamie’ missing out on her long-awaited cheeses.

He takes a deep breath, lowers his voice and pulls me aside.

“OK. There is one thing you can do. Are you listening?

Yes.

“Go back out of Security with your belongings, and the soft cheeses. Go over to the café, and buy two baguettes. Cut each of the cheeses in half.

“O…..K……”

“Put one half of each of the cheeses inside a baguette, and wrap up the other half separately.”

“OK…”

He continues: “ This way, technically, the cheese between the baguette will not be classified as a liquid substance anymore, and the other half will be closer to 100 mls.”

Again, I can’t believe what I’m hearing. First the cheese is a liquid, now a baguette is a liquid defying agent. Craziness.

“You mean, if I put the cheese in a baguette, It’s not a liquid anymore?”

Mr French Security Officer whispers with a very serious face:
“Yes… It’s not really ‘by the book’ but it’s the only way.”

And so off I went. Back out through security, passers-by watching and wondering why I am going in the wrong direction.

I go to the café and alors- there is only one baguette left for sale- and of course it’s filled with ham.

I buy it anyway. It’s better than nothing. Out goes the ham, I take a plastic knife and begin chopping the blue d’Auverge in half, much to the baffled looks of the other café patrons at my table. I then proceed to stuff the empty baguette with massive slabs of blue cheese, and wrap the remaining half.

I then realise the sad reality. There is no solution to save the Mont d’Or. Quelle dommage. This beautiful cheese, and I’m going to have to throw it out. Even if there were baguettes, it’s too soft to remain edible once its been squashed inside a baguette.

In desperation, I do the only thing I can to make the most of the situation.

I crack open the Mont d’or. I tear away a piece of the baguette and I scoop a big morsel of cheese, then eat right there, on the spot.

I have to say, cheese has never tasted as good as that moment there. Time stopped for a precious 10 seconds as this ‘forbidden’ cheese, about to be abandoned at the border, slowly melts in my mouth.

A Final boarding call for my flight abruptly ends my moment of pleasure with the Mont d’or.

I wrap up the blue cheese baguette, painfully drop the box of Mont d’or in the bin then run back to security.

The security officers let me jump the queue. I go through the drill once again with my belongings on the conveyor belt where I meet once again with Mr and Ms Security Officer who are giggling at my determined efforts to save the cheese. Amused, they inspect my baguette and hacked slab of blue cheese as I explain that I did exactly as they had asked me, and how I had to make the agonizing decision to throw out the Mont d’Or.

“It’s better than nothing” says the security officers.
“At least your Mamie will have some good French bread to go with it!” Someone else adds.

I thank Mr Security Man on behalf of my Grandmother and run to the boarding gate where I just make my flight, short of breath, stinking of blue cheese and proudly satisfied with my success.

Once again, Grandma saves the day.

And so there you have it. 10 points to the French for this one I say. Who else but the French care enough about food and the family bond with food, to bother finding a solution in the pursuit of getting good cheese across the border?

My faith in the French is restored.

I arrive at my destination and present my friend with his much awaited blue cheese. It’s not pretty. It’s squashed inside a stale airport baguette. It’s been through a tough journey.

But damn did it taste good.

Thanks Nanna.

The end.

Got a similar story to share? What’s the craziest thing you’ve done for the love of food? If you enjoyed this story or have a good one to add, add your comments below.

Blue cheese in baguette

The 'non-liquid' Blue d'Auvergne arrives at it's destination

%d bloggers like this: