By Mary Jo Waits
Several years ago, I read a New York Times article about Paris by Mouth, a food-oriented blog and website created by Meg Zimbeck, an American woman living in Paris. On each visit to the city, I sign up for one or more Paris by Mouth food tours and my favorite thing to do is their French cheese and wine pairing/tasting workshop. You taste 11-12 cheeses paired with 5-6 wines over 3 hours. Here are highlights from the workshop and my day in Paris.
Across the Seine to the Left Bank. The workshop is in the St-Germain area so I had another wonderful long walk, along Rue de Cléry, Rue du Louvre, across the Seine on the Pont des Arts, a pedestrian bridge, and down Rue du Bonaparte—all lovely streets. View is of Île de la Cité where Notre-Dame is.
View in the other direction, towards the Musée d’Orsay. It is a beautiful, sunny day, with no thunderstorms in the forecast.
Location of the workshop, on the second level of La Cave du Cherche-Midi. I arrived early and had coffee at a café.
Workshop for 8 people. Cheese tasting progressed from this end to far end. I’m not going to explain the cheeses in detail. But I will say that they go from mildest to strongest—basically, the first board is a combination of soft and hard versions of goat/sheep cheeses, the second board is the triple-cream (80% fat!) and Camembert-de-Normandie cow cheeses, the third board of hard cow cheese includes France’s most famous cheese (has the highest production of all French cheeses)—Comte (one cheese is young, 8 months old, and the other is 40 months old)—and the fourth board
is Roquefort. Not shown is a board with 2 “smelly” cheeses brought out later because the odor is so strong that it can contaminate the taste of the other cheeses. They smelled like a barnyard, to put it politely.
Map of French cheeses by region. Very much like a wine’s AOC label, French cheese will reflect the region’s “terroir” (climate, soil, animals, and other conditions). Two cheeses I’d definitely try in Paris: Camembert-de-Normandie, because you’ll not likely find it outside France, and Brillat-Savarin triple-cream from Bourgogne because it comes from the “diva” cows (something about France’s best cows being from this region).
Map of French wine by region. A good rule of thumb to guide wine and cheese pairing is: “What grows together goes together.” The pairings that I liked best were: Champagne to cut the richness of the triple-cream cheeses (Brillat-Savarin and Camembert-de-Normandie), Sauternes with the Roquefort/blue cheese because the sweet wine pairs well with the salty cheese, and a crisp Sauvignon Blanc with the goat/sheep cheeses. Paris by Mouth sends the workshop participants a list of the wines and cheeses we drank/ate. If you’d like a copy, let me know.
The workshop participants, all from the U.S., and, except for me, from either Seattle or San Francisco. But the exciting thing is that the 2 couples on the left side of table are in France for a long stay. The couple at the top are on a sabbatical for 3 months—she works in biotech and he works in a Napa winery and they own a small winery. The couple closest to me just sold everything and have moved to France for a year, just arrived 2 days ago. They received a 1 year visa (something I am checking out). I love the fact that young people are now doing what only retirees/older people have been doing. I’m so inspired. I loved talking with them.
This workshop was hard work—my (leftover) homework. Or, I should say, “I ate my homework.”
Can’t resist a sidewalk café. Even after 3 hours of eating and drinking, I still had to have my daily time relaxing and people-watching at a sidewalk café. My brother and I have been to this café. This café is one where Hemingway came for coffee. My brother, Ike, and I stumbled upon it one morning while we were waiting for a Left Bank tour to start and then I realized it was mentioned in the book that I was reading at the time: Paris Wife (book about Hemingway’s first wife).
My arty photo, which is me reflected in a mirror.
On the way home, I walked by a very busy shop, called Buly, that smelled so good, I had to go in. Buly 1805 specializes in water-based perfume, in contrast to alcohol-based perfume. I learned Buly’s philosophy: “A good perfume adapts—to the person and the personality. It must neither precede nor follow the wearer too intensely; it shouldn’t emanate imperiously. Thus, it never inconveniences but always delights. It can be breathed on the wrist, or in the air disturbed by the motion when someone’s hair is shaken loose. Modest as well as faithful, it imposes nothing. It lingers but never clings—it is politely perceptible.”
I sampled them all…and bought one.
Bottom line, I had a great, full day of sampling French cheese, French wine, AND French perfume. What a city!