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Sep 25, 2010 09:38 PM

Question about Cheese Shops in Paris

Curious about the protocols for purchasing cheese in Paris Shops like Cantin or Dubois. I love cheese, don't know that much about it, and have never purchased at a Cheese Shop in Paris.
Is the "sampling" of cheese customary before purchasing, as it is done in some US shops? Will the Vacherin Mont d'Or be in season in early October? I am also interested in Epoisse and Comte. Is it possible to purchase small amounts of these cheeses? Is there a minimum to purchase ie. 100g? Thanks in advance for feedback and advice.

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  1. The protocol for buying cheese in Paris is different from the US. One does not do any sampling. Parisians develope a relationship with their neighborhood cheese mongers. The usual method is to talk to the cheese monger what types of cheese you are interested in and when you plan to eat it. He will let you know what specific cheeses he has that is in prime ready to eat condition. Certain cheese shops are known for certain specific cheese, ie Barthelemy for camembert and goat, Dubois for his aged comte. Vacherin Mont d'Or is made in the autumn and spring and definitely be available in the shops in October. As for the amount, you can be a small piece of most cheeses including wedges of Vacherine and Epoisse. These two cheeses are best when it is very runny, best eating it with a spoon, therefore make sure they are wrapped very tightly so the paste does run all over the wrap. I usually just use my hand and fingers to indicate how big a piece I want. The cheese monger usually show me the amount for my approval before actually cutting it.

    21 Replies
    1. re: PBSF

      A nice summary. The only exception to not sampling is at big food halls like the Galeries or little neighborhood places with outside stands like my Quatrehomme where they sometimes have samples out, .but those of course are what they're featuring, not necessarily what you want to sample. Nonetheless, I cannot resist, nor a bit of Bellota-Bellota.

      1. re: John Talbott

        Also, every time I have been to Dubois in the 5th, there are tiny samples (in cubes) of some cheeses for tasting. For example, I tasted a 2 year old comte and some lovely aged sheep cheese. I have never seen this in Cantin.

        I also love Epoisse. Every time I have bought it in Dubois or Cantin, I ask for a piece to eat for that particular day. It is always perfectly ripe and delicious, but never soupy (unlike the typical condition when I buy it from my local cheese monger -- e.g., Artisanal in New York).

      2. re: PBSF

        Dubois had sample bites of some cheeses pre-cut and laid out in little trays at their Maubert-Mutualité shop when I was there a few months ago. At Alléosse they often offer me a taste if I start asking questions about a cheese which is unfamiliar to me. I think Mont d'Or is one of Barthélémy's specialties.

        1. re: fanoffrance

          Yes, it is and they sell a vacherin cheese halved horizontally then wrapped in thick and pretty plastic on the top. Comes in a Barthelemy box, that is the good news. Bad news last time l had it , cost was 40 euros, tre cher

          1. re: Delucacheesemonger

            Thanks to all for the great info....DLC what is the price range for Epoisse and Comte in Paris? Is it priced by the Euro/kg ? I see a small round of Epoisse selling at Whole Foods in US for around $35 US . I'm coming over next week.

            1. re: mdietrich

              As of today the price of Gaugry Epoisses is @ 7-8 euros depending on store. This would be for the round of about 350 grams.As the only Epoisses still made au lait cru, this is the one to get, not Berthault, which is the standard one in the US. Perfect condition IMVHO is when you remove a spoonful from the top, that gap will take about a minute to fill in. Comte will be priced primarily based on period of aging. The youngest or sometimes jeunesse or fruity sells for about 18-20 euros/Kg. Older it gets, more expensive it is. Bought some 24 month for about 26 euros/Kg and the 4.5 year old from Dubois at 41 euros/kg or $ 25/Lb, a true bargain for this product. Hope this helps.

              1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                My Epoisses (200) from Quatrehomme that I'm having in about 50 minutes was 3.80 E.

                1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                  Thanks to all for outstanding information.
                  One last question:
                  do you eat these cheeses (epoisse, vacherin, comte) with any particular type of bread or cracker? or just straight up with a spoon like pudding?
                  I will be in town next week MTW and looking forward to cheese tasting...anyone interested in joining lmk...thanks

                  1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                    the 4.5 year old from Dubois at 41 euros/kg or $ 25/Lb, a true bargain for this product.

                    That is a deal.

                    1. re: Busk

                      It's in my cheese box in the fridge as we speak. The good sized chunk was around 10€, packed sous vide.

                    2. re: Delucacheesemonger

                      Deluca, which is your favorite shop for the Gaugry Epoisses?

                      1. re: biondanonima

                        Different shops on different days will have ripe ones.

                        1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                          Good to know. I'll have to see what I see when I get there!

                    3. re: mdietrich

                      The only thing I would add is that not all cheese can be purchased by the gram. Some of the smaller cheeses are only sold whole or maybe by the half. This applies to lots of the goat/sheep cheese as well as the really runny ones in little pots i.e. St. Marcellin.

                      Barthelemy is also famed for its Roquefort.

                      1. re: PhilD

                        "Some of the smaller cheeses are only sold whole or maybe by the half"...or by the 1/4 (Pont l'eveque, Livarot). I've found that when cheese is available by weight, instead of per piece, fromageries are generally happy to let you try before buying. You just have to ask.

                      2. re: mdietrich

                        Cheese prices vary by neighborhood and affineur. We usually pay around 8€ for a Gaugry Epoisses at Ferme St. Hubert on rue Rochechouart. This same raw milk Gaugry cheese was 10.+€ at Dubois at Maubert last week, as was a pasteurized Epoisses at Quatrehomme.

                        I did not know and am actually confused by the stricture against sampling at small shops. My husband concurs that we have often been offered samples in these shops while discussing cheeses new to us with the shopkeeper. What's the drill?

                        1. re: mangeur

                          Does it depend if you are buying? We were regulars at Barthélémy (the nearest to our apartment) and used to buy most Saturdays, I am certain we were offered tastes as we pondered the different cheeses they were suggesting.

                          1. re: PhilD

                            Hmmm. I'm sure that we've always bought something after samples, even if something familiar that we knew we'd enjoy more. So I guess the answer to your question is that we didn't just graze but entered the shop with obvious intent to leave with a purchase.

                            1. re: mangeur

                              Yah, that's why I don't go to vineyards; you must buy and schlep the stuff back to Paris, unless you are missing the guilt/shame DNA. and my trunk is already full.

                              1. re: John Talbott

                                Hi - I'm new to this (old) conversation and going to Paris on Wednesday - any suggestions where to find the best Chaource? Thanks in advance!

                                1. re: cheesio

                                  Not a difficult product to find. Galleries Lafayette has a wonderful one. Have never seen the two brands available in the states. Here they are larger and FAR less expensive. Barthelemy, Dubois, Quatrehomme, and many others have them, but not necessarily at the same time.