Good Food Blog
Homage to fromagePosted at 1:08PM, 04 March 2009 by Mary Cadogan - Food writer
I took a quick trip to Paris last weekend to do some cheese judging at the annual Salon De L'Agriculture which regular blog readers will remember I wrote about last year.
This year I judged Munster cheese again. (Only for the export market - the French wouldn't let us anywhere near the judging for the home market). I had always steered clear of this cheese because it often has a nose-searing ammonia whiff that takes me back to nappy changing days. The amazing revelation is that the flavour of a good one is creamy but with bit of a tangy punch and a long lasting velvety flavour. A good one should have evenly coloured orangey yellow rind with a hint of moistness, and the inside should be firm in the centre surrounded by unctuous creaminess. Get one like this and it will be totally delish.
The cheese we awarded a gold medal was so gorgeous there was a battle of knives as we fought to have just one more taste.
The one we awarded a gold medal was so gorgeous there was a battle of knives as we fought to have just one more taste. The following day we were up at the crack of 5am for a tour of the cheese section of the famously massive Rungis market, near Orly airport.
This market was in the centre of Paris until 2nd and 3rd of March 1969 when it transferred overnight to its current site using 50,000 lorries to carry all the produce and equipment needed to set up in their new home. This is the biggest food market in the world, and it is so huge you need a car to get round all the buildings housing fruit and veg, meat and fish, cheese and milk products and flowers.
We were shown round the cheese section by the glamorous Sophie who runs a family firm of cheese wholesalers, and despite starting work at 3am each morning and working in fridge temperatures was fully made up with perfect hair and left a waft of expensive perfume in her wake. We were taken underground where the huge mountain cheeses such as Comte and Beaufort are stored on vast wooden racks. These are serious cheeses weighing in at around 40kg each and sold at the market for around £400. There was also a room reserved exclusively for goat's cheese of all sizes and shapes including a heart shaped one topped with rose petals left over from Valentine's day. These cheeses are ready to eat for chefs to buy for their cheeseboard.
There is always something new to see here, and the day we visited there was a big stack of the rare Bleu de Termignon - a mountain cheese from the Savoie made in the Autumn and matured for 10 months to eat from the following July. Only around 400 of these cheeses are made each year and the trader we met buys half the production each year.
Sadly, it is not possible for the general public to buy direct from Rungis but visitors are welcomed to this foodie paradise. A word of advice, wrap up warm and wear comfy shoes!