In France, making and serving cheese is an art. There are more than 1,200 varieties of French cheeses and, unlike American cheeses, many of them are unpasteurized, meaning that they take on more complex, nuanced flavors. Like wine, French cheese are said to have a terroir, or flavor that is unique to the particular place that it is made.
But it’s not just the flavor of cheese that sets French cheeses apart, it’s the way they are enjoyed. “Cheese is very much a part of everyday life in France,” says Marjorie Taylor, co-owner of The Cook’s Atelier. Marjorie has been putting together elegant cheese courses alongside her daughter and The Cook’s Atelier co-owner Kendall since she moved to France years ago.
Here, Kendall and Marjorie explain the ins and outs of enjoying cheese like the French do.
1. Enjoy cheese at the end of the meal.
“In France, the dining experience always begins with apéritif which sometimes includes charcuterie such as saucisson, rillettes, or a homemade pâté. The cheese is always saved for the end of the meal, just before dessert. You would never serve cheese as an appetizer as the French consider it much too heavy to begin the meal. However, for a quick cook’s lunch, we love to serve a lovely cheese board with a big green salad and a nice bottle of Pinot Noir.”
2. Pair it with the perfect wine.
“Wine with cheese is a match made in heaven. In France, you’d never serve cheese without the appropriate wine. Although it’s popular now to serve white wine with cheese, we are a bit old-fashioned and prefer the classic pairing of a great bottle of red (preferably Pinot Noir) with our cheese course.”
“During our traditional ‘long French lunch,’ each course is accompanied by a specific wine pairing. We begin the dinner with a glass of chilled Champagne, continue with white wine and lighter reds, before opening that special bottle of Ladoix 1er Cru to enjoy with the final cheese course.”
3. Serve it with style.
“At The Cook’s Atelier, the cheese course is really a big part of the experience. We always serve cheese at room temperature with the appropriate cheese knife, a crusty baguette and a pedestal of fresh, seasonal fruit such as cherries, apricots or pears. Depending on the number of guests and the number of cheeses you have, we like to serve it on a large vintage wooden board or, for smaller groups, we serve our cheese course in a vintage cheese cloche.”
See more of our day spent with The Cook’s Atelier below.
Great article, although, as a raw milk cheesemaker I will say that there are many raw milk cheeses in America!
Looking forward to reading more and following your posts!
I was born and raised in France and now lives in the US. My company makes cheese pairings made of fruits and spices, so I have spent a lot of time thinking about the difference French vs. American people eat their cheese (and have even written about it).
Indeed French people don’t eat cheese at the beginning of the meal. Interestingly, they also don’t eat cheese with fruits (dry or fresh), as The Cook’s Atelier mentioned above, or with preserves.
Some cheese pairing preserves are starting to appear on grocery store shelves in France, but it is really uncommon to see them served. And it is true that when cheese is eaten at the end of a meal, with a nice wine, a nice baguette, and even butter sometimes, anything else seems too much!
Oh, there is one more thing though that we were eating with cheese, when I was young: a nice lettuce with home made vinaigrette. Delicious and light complement to a lot of different cheeses!
Although anything French intrigues me, I was a bit disappointed in the whole story. I’d love to have more information about the town, the shops, what products are available at the atelier, etc. The recipes are good, but again, give us more. (And you definitely need a good proofreader, as there are many typos.)
Love this article. I actually am never unhappy with all your postings.