I’m a huge fan of cheese, which is ultimately why Veganism has largely passed me by so far, one lone January in 2018 aside. As a rule I’ll pretty much try anything, whilst spending some time in Paris recently I was lucky enough to sample some of the best Fromage that France had to offer – all locally sourced, organically farmed – and was not disappointed. That said, a few of the local delicacies on offer were maybe a little too lively for my untrained British pallet. Here’s a selection of some of the big hitters which I had the chance to sample along the way.
Strength Rating – 4
Tastes like – Something I could eat all day without stopping for air
If you want to simplify things, the classic Comte is essentially a ‘French Cheddar’ which can be eaten with basically anything. Don’t say that out loud, however. Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and any time in-between, it’s a proper all rounder. It’s fairly hard, has a bit of a tang, and is extremely edible. Pass me the baguette.
Cendre de Niort
Strength Rating – 6
Tastes like – You’ve got home and had a rummage around the fridge, and accidentally taken a chunk out of the cheese you bought from the Tesco deli counter 3-weeks ago
If you’re not into Goats Cheese, this one might need a bit of a wide berth. Not the strongest of all they have to offer, but certainly packs a punch (or headbutt, perhaps?). The ash which encases the cheese is unsurprisingly a little bitter to the taste-buds, but not quite at the level of running your tongue around the bottom of an ashtray. Best enjoyed with red currants or blackberries.
Strength rating – 8
Tastes like – When the lid falls off the salt shaker whilst you’re trying to season your dinner
Veiny, salty, creamy, strong. What’s not to like? I’ve had versions of Roquefort back in the UK, but nothing as delicious as the real thing. This cheese has matured so much that salt crystals form because of the pressure during the process, yet simultaneously it somehow manages to stay moist. I could eat this all day long, with or without bread.
Strength rating – 5
Tastes like – Creamy, cheesy goodness
Easy on the old gob, this one. Just enough cheesiness, a hard texture which tastes nice and creamy. Not much more to say other than it’s an inoffensive winner.
Trou du Cru
Strength rating – 8
Tastes like – A pleasant punch in the face
When this bad boy was unleashed from it’s wrapper, it was like someone had exposed their untreated athletes foot to the hungry waiting room. Way to get everyone’s attention, Trou du Cru. To say the smell was intense would be doing it a disservice. But, as an intrepid cheese explorer I put that to one side and gave it a try. Each individual cheese is washed in a strong alcohol called Marc de Bourgonge, which is said to give it a certain straw flavour during it’s relatively short aging process. Nose cupped – just incase – the taste was actually surprisingly good. Creamy, strong and very tasty, but still not for the feint hearted.
Strength rating – 10
Tastes like – How I imagine death to smell, but more damp
Oh, Maroilles! How can a cheese with such a nice name be so god-damn heavy? Hands up time – this is the only cheese that was too strong for me to handle. Approach with caution, this infamous cheese from the North of France, gooey yet beyond bitey, is some serious stuff. After a small taste, I knew it wasn’t for me. I can safely say I will never wittingly go anywhere near this pungent beast again.
Brillat Savarin aux Truffes
Strength rating – 4
Tastes like – Running your tongue across the pearly gates of heaven
As the Stone Roses once sang – this is the one. If I was left alone in a room full of this cheese, I would leave 5 stone heavier than when I went in. It’s a young cheese made with triple cream, plus a healthy slither of truffle which kicks through the middle for good measure. This stuff is addictive, you shouldn’t leave France without trying it at least once. I’d even go out on a limb to say this is the best cheese that has ever entered my mouth. Just go and bloody buy some already.
Strength rating – 6
Tastes like – How I imagine Hannibal Lecter would feel chewing on the tendons of an actual human leg, but with added jelly
Ok ok, this isn’t actually cheese as we know it – and is just as gross as it sounds. On paper at least. “Fromage de tête” is made from off cuts taken from the head of a pig or a cow, such as cheek, tongue, but occasionally some brain & heart thrown in for the fun of it. It’s gristly, meaty, and generally just a bit weird. Oh, it’s also encased in a kind of congealed gelatine stock. Am I making you hungry yet?