Almost two months ago I returned from an awesome cheese-focused trip to France. I split my time between Normandy , the Loire/Cendre, and Paris where I traveled in my little electric blue rental car visiting cheese shops, producers and affinuers. I spent a lot of time gorging myself on bistro food, wandering streets, oohing and ahhing, butchering the French language, drinking and relaxing in parks. The following pictures are a glimpse of my time spent traveling and learning.

Laurent Dubois’ shop is one of the most magnificent cheese establishments I’ve ever visited! The staff is incredibly knowledgeable, the display is stunning and the cheeses are only sold at their peak. Here is where I discovered the glorious Beaufort Alpage!

Jacquin is a major player in the French export market, and we are very happy to carry their affordable Loire goat cheeses. Above the affinage team at Jacquin is adding a coating of vegetable ash to their flagship cheeses: St. Maure and Selles-sur-Cher (both of which we carry in pasteurized form). The vegetable ash is added for rind development and as a way to lower the acidity in the cheese as it ages.

Like Graindorge, Jacquin is a co-op dairy. The major differences between the two are that everything at Jacquin is done by hand and each dairy’s milk is made into separate cheeses, which allows for better quality control. In the picture above a worker sets the curd into Valencay molds.

Pictured head affinuer at Ets Mourè. This place was awesome! They select Valencay and Selles-sur-cher cheeses from farms in a 30 mile radius, age them in a small aging room and sell it exclusively to the local market. I bought a Valencay from them and it knocked my socks off (and potentially ruined my hopes for ever find one remotely as good in the U.S.).

The Loire River- France’s last wild river and home to world famous goat cheeses. Unfortunately for us, these cheeses must be pasteurized to meet the specifications of the FDA. Pasteurization results in a loss of intricacies of flavor, beneficial micro-flora and can encourage things like goatiness, toadskin rinds and brittle interiors. Luckily we are able to obtain some decent pasteurized types from Jacquin.

Graindorge, one of the primary exporters of Normandy cheeses, is co-operatively operated and the cheese is processed primarily using machines. The factory included mechanical arms cutting curds, milk running through underground piping, and conveyer belts everywhere . It was weird and made me appreciate cheeses made by hand all the more.

Happy Cows at Tremblaye farm. Tremblaye is one of those producers that I have put a lot of weight behind at our store. They make Farmstead Brie and Camembert. No, the Camembert is not from Normandy, however it’s just a quick 30 minute drive to the border. And yes, it’s made with pasteurized milk, but it rivals any other Camembert you’re going to taste in the U.S. Sadly, I learned that the cows are not pasture grazing. Farmland has become so expensive in France that small operations can’t afford to buy land nor can they afford the tax on them if they own it. Having learned this I still stand by exporter and new friend Laurent Charles and his very special Tremblaye cheeses!

Feel free to ask any questions next time you’re at the store.