Ask the Cheesemonger: Exploring Cheese from A to Z

Parisian cheesemonger Fabrice Gepner offers advice on how to eat French cheese, the best cheese and wine pairings, and making the perfect cheese board.  

One of the best ways to learn about food is to go straight to the experts themselves! In our “Ask the Expert” series , we get together with leading professionals in the food industry as they share their savoir-faire. Today, we’re speaking with “le Cheese Geek” himself, Parisian cheesemonger Fabrice Gepner, for his best tips on choosing and eating French cheese.

 

French Cheese 101

Whether you’re already a fan of stinky cheese or you have difficulty telling the difference between Brie and Camembert (Gepner describes Brie as milder and “more lactic” than Camembert, which is “rustic and bold”), there is so much to learn about the rich and varied world of French cheese!

While major resources are devoted to promoting French cheese around the world, it’s not all just marketing: the French cheese industry is backed by centuries of knowledge and tradition. For proof, you needn’t look any further than the European PDO and PGI labelling systems which have been created to recognise a cheese product’s ties to a specific region through its ingredients, artisan know-how, and local traditions.

© Ismail Benaghmouch

Fabrice Gepner’s guide to eating French cheese

When it comes to eating cheese, the French are much less strict: Gepner notes that “traditionally, it’s served between the main course and the dessert, but actually you can also have it for the apéro. Just bring cheese, bring wine, and that’s a sufficient meal!”

Now that you know the basics, let’s learn the best ways to enjoy French cheese!

 

What’s your best tip for pairing cheese and wine?

The first rule is to make sure that they are at the same level of intensity, so you shouldn’t have one component in the pairing that overwhelms the other. After  that, you can play with the balance of taste and how the flavours complement one another. Basically, if I could give one piece of advice: if you have one cheese board, I would actually recommend one bottle of white wine, preferably from the Loire Valley if you can, which will work very well with most cheeses.

Speaking of cheese boards, how do you create the perfect one?

Diversity! You pick all different types of milks– goat, cow, sheep–, and different types of cheese– bloomy-rind, washed-rind, blue cheese– and then to make it beautiful you play on different colours and shapes.

 

Can we eat the cheese rind?

Cheese rinds are edible! To me, they are always interesting, they are really part of the cheese because they bring something to the texture, a new taste and flavour. So, go for the rind!

 

What recipes do you recommend for trying French cheeses?

During winter time, I will always advise a raclette or a fondue. Raclette is basically melted cheese on potato, whereas with the fondue we dip bread into a pot of melted cheese. After that, a Welsh Rarebit is another good one as well. You get some bread and put beer on it, some ham, some cheese (cheddar or the local Maroilles), and you put everything in the oven to grill.

Raclette vs Fondue
  • Jérôme Berger
  • Editor

Learning more about French cheese

If Fabrice has inspired you to learn more about French cheeses and the best ways to enjoy them, watch the entire interview above, or head over to our directory of French cheese and dairy to expand your knowledge on this delicious traditional ingredient!

© Ismail Benaghmouch

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