The Joy of Cheese
Whether covered in thyme or marbled blue, strong and smelly or full of holes, crumbly, creamy, soft or hard – cheese is a beautiful thing. When I heard I would be cheese tasting at the Brasserie Le Faubourg this week, I had high expectations. I had seen their well-stocked cheese trolley being rolled out on numerous occasions. I knew that here, as in France, le fromage is taken very seriously indeed.
“Sixteen in total,” the waiter said, before I could finish counting, “there’s something to suit every taste. The selection varies slightly, of course, depending on the season and availability.” My gaze wanders over the oranges, yellows, blues and creamy whites. “Shall we get on with the, erm, tasting?” I suggest, a little too keen. I take a seat and pick out the three I would like to try most.
First off is the Banon. It’s wrapped in what looks like leaves, “they’re chestnut leaves, madame. They give the cheese an interesting flavour during the maturing process.” I spread a generous layer, soft and white, onto my bread before eyeing up the condiments: mango, orange and chilli, plum and grape, apricot… A dollop of apricot chutney and a sprinkling of nuts later and it’s finally time to put the Banon to the test. It’s nutty, smooth and criminally delicious. “That one’s from the Provence region, and this one,” he says as he hands me a slice of marbled blue, “is from the Auvergne region. It’s called Bleu d’Auvergne.” I take another slice of bread, this time crusty and white, from the basket, and balance the cheese, a couple of red grapes and a thin layer of plum and grape chutney on top. The Bleu d’Auvergne is strong and pungent, but surprisingly creamy for a blue cheese. It’s time to select my third and final piece. A ball of orange catches my eye “the Mimolette? Certainly.” I choose dark wholegrain this time and the final chutney: mango, orange and chilli. It’s a hard cheese with a nutty, herby aroma. I add a few nuts for good measure.
France has an impressive number of cheeses. Who could forget the former président de la République Charles de Gaulle’s famous words: “How can you govern a country which has 246 different types of cheese?” Depending on how you classify them, France could have as many as a thousand different varieties of cheese. The Brasserie Le Faubourg carefully sources their cheeses, from small producers all over France, to ensure a varied mix of the best available. I was seriously impressed, both by the taste and presentation, of my cheese plate and will be sure to order it at the end of my next meal here. After all, there’s always space for cheese.