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Barthelemy cheese shop in Paris

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Diane in Bexley Mar 14, 2013 11:17 AM

We will be staying very near this famous cheese shop for our viist in May. We like good food, but are not gourmet. Can someone recommend some good cheese (without breaking the bank)? Our tastes run to Brie, Cheddar, Monterey Jack, plain Gouda and smoked Gouda. Not fans of super strong cheeses. We don't favor blue cheeses. We will want to try some cheese, can we ask for samples before buying or is that a no-no? I have heard that the woman owner is a little eccentric and we do not want to offend - thanks!

  1. Parnassien Mar 17, 2013 03:35 PM

    Despite all the good suggestions, I still stick to my previous advice (to someone not familiar with French cheeses) to start out at the lunchtime cheese buffet at the Salon du Fromage Hisada on the rue Richelieu to explore and identify their preferences. At least 20 different cheeses to sample at the buffet or a pick-n-choose platter of 5.

    I cannot imagine the very expensive and the very busy Barthélemy (or any other shop) having the patience and inclination to give visitors a cheese tour of France.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Parnassien
      PhilD Mar 17, 2013 04:11 PM

      It's good advice - but I never remember all the names of the cheese I eat in these situations, thus I tend to go with what looks good in a shop and I ask for advice.

    2. Laidback Mar 16, 2013 02:08 PM

      To add to the many suggestions, two others that I like in the "not too strong" category are reblochon and chaource.

      1. John Talbott Mar 16, 2013 10:50 AM

        To all the advice (great advice) you've been given I'd add one cheese - St Nectaire which when well-affinated, is sublime and fits your definition. We had one today at a place I wouldn't otherwise recommend (La Grande Cremerie) and it was the highlight of our meal.

        1. PBSF Mar 16, 2013 09:59 AM

          Don't ignore the supermarkets such as monoprix and franprix and the food halls of Bon Marche/Galeries Lafayette. Their cheese section is great for browsing at your leisure and gives a good introduction of the variety of cheeses. Fromageries such as Barthelemy have beautiful cheeses and worth a visit but Parisians also shop regularly at their nearby supermarkets for cheeses.

          5 Replies
          1. re: PBSF
            d
            Diane in Bexley Mar 17, 2013 06:41 AM

            Thanks for the tip about Monoprix. Discovered that on our first trip to Paris and there is one a 5 min walk from our apt. Bon Marche/Les Grand Epicerie is a 5-10 min walk n the opposite direction. This is our first visit to Paris staying in an apartment with a kitchen (albeit a small one) and REALLY looking forward to discovering food stuffs.

            Planning to viist the organic market on Blvd. Raspail on Sunday, what is a cross street and what are hours for this? Thanks again!

            1. re: Diane in Bexley
              PBSF Mar 17, 2013 09:54 AM

              On Blvd Raspail between r. de Rennes and r. du Cherche-Midi. Sunday morning, like most markets probably until 1pm.

              1. re: PBSF
                PhilD Mar 17, 2013 04:09 PM

                Yes it closes at 13:00 but like all Paris markets it tails off so to get the best from it head there early.

                Rue du Bac is a pretty good food street with and Poissonnerie du Bac is a decent fish shop, their hand carved smoked salmon is very good, and like all fishmongers they will shuck oysters to order. There is non-descript bakery just along Rue de Varenne which was the best we found for baguettes etc. Up towards Bon Marche there is another bakery that seems to specialise in quiche which is also good. For wine, Robuchon has a little shop just off Rue du Bac but maybe better to walk to Dernier Gout (towards Saint Germain du Pres metro) which offers very good advice bad recommendations for independent producers.

              2. re: Diane in Bexley
                mangeur Mar 17, 2013 05:14 PM

                Diane, I sense that your apartment might be equally close to the newer boutique Monoprix on rue du Bac, just north of Blvd St. Germain. Their cheese department is smaller than the Rennes store, but it is concentrated on higher end cheeses. Over all, a very nice food shop.

                And I would (and probably will) follow Parn's advice to do the cheese sampling at Salon de Fromage Hisaga...pen or ipod in hand to take notes as reminded by Phil.

                1. re: mangeur
                  d
                  Diane in Bexley Mar 18, 2013 01:02 PM

                  M, yes, I am sure the Rue du Bac is closer. We are literally upstairs from Barthelmy in the same building. That's why I wanted to know about their store. Thanks!

            2. PBSF Mar 16, 2013 09:48 AM

              A

              1. d
                Diane in Bexley Mar 16, 2013 05:55 AM

                Thanks to everyone for great advice. Sitting here on a gray, rainy day thinking about our trip to Paris in May is making me hungry. Between Poilane a couple doors from us and Barthelemy, I can't wait. Our studio is probably the size of a postage stamp, but at least we will be eating well. Again, thanks!

                1. Yank Mar 16, 2013 02:09 AM

                  Diane, lots of good advice about how & where to buy, but not much on what to buy. Let me give you a few suggestions. I'm bearing mind what you say you like in your post.

                  Cantal - Cantal is cheddar like & comes in three different ages (young, medium & old) The the medium which is entre doux in French. In the same family are Laguiole & Salers. Both are a bit stronger than Cantal, but come from the same area of France.

                  Domaine du Bresse. This is a blue cheese, but very mild. You might just like it. Avoid the Blue de Bresses that comes in little round tubs; its awful.

                  Chevre. These are goat's milk cheeses and there are hundreds of them. Try the ones labelled Rocamadour. These are pretty consistent.

                  Gouda Not French, but since you like it you might want to try same aged Gouda.

                  There are lots of others, but just point at what you like the looks of. You can almost always get a sample taste.

                  You will find that the Brie in France that sold in the good shops in nothing like the Brie sold most places in the states. It will be stronger in taste.

                  Have fun with it. Choosing & eating cheese in France is a wonderful adventure.

                  A final tip. Use the cheese board near the end of a meal in a good restaurant as a tasting board. If both you & your companion(s) each select three cheeses from the board you get a tasting of 6 types.You can go for 4 each, but its pushing things a bit in my opinion. Ask your waiter for the names of the ones you like. This is a good way to do your tasting without the nervousness of doing it in a busy shop.

                  Enjoy

                  1. ChefJune Mar 15, 2013 11:11 AM

                    I don't know the Barthelemy cheese shop, but at Laurent Dubois they happily cut tastes of any cheese you ask for.

                    I don't think you're likely to find Cheddar and surely not Monterey Jack cheese in Paris. Monterey Jack is (je l'y pense) an American invention.

                    I also would recommend trying a couple of cheese plates in restos or wine bars before you go to the cheese shop. You'll have a better idea of what you like that will be on offer. The raw French cheeses (brie, camembert, etc) are quite different from the pasteurized versions we're restricted to here in US.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: ChefJune
                      y
                      yanks26dmb Mar 15, 2013 11:22 AM

                      Is there typically a minimum order required at these fromageries?

                      Is there any sort of interval that one should order in? i.e. by the ounce/28 grams - or is asking for 100 grams okay?

                      1. re: yanks26dmb
                        John Talbott Mar 15, 2013 11:53 AM

                        Nothing so gauche as a minimum.
                        I usually am either buying for dinner (raclette, St Marcellin heated up - try it) or a batch for whatever. But of course, they see me go by every AM on my limpies and I've been shopping there for 23 years, so...
                        As for amounts, I'm a great point and cut man and they are great "here, or here, or here" women.

                        1. re: yanks26dmb
                          PhilD Mar 15, 2013 05:50 PM

                          Some of the small cheeses are only sold whole, especially the goats cheese as it not practical to portion them. For the cheeses cut from large rounds or blocks you simply indicate where you want them to cut the portion. For soft/runny cream cheeses you choose the size of container you want and they fill it up.

                          No minimum order as such - just the practical side of how small a slice/portion can be cut.

                          1. re: PhilD
                            y
                            yanks26dmb Mar 15, 2013 11:52 PM

                            Sounds good - I didn't want to commit a faux pas by ordering a handful of ~28 gram selections.

                          2. re: yanks26dmb
                            John Talbott Mar 17, 2013 12:50 PM

                            "Is there typically a minimum order required at these fromageries?"
                            Okay, an example; I bought one item - 186 grams of raclette today at Quatrehomme's Fromagerie de Montmartre for 4.56 E to have as raclette for dinner - no raised eyebrows, no slapping of the head or thighs. A normal transaction. Fear not.

                        2. o
                          oferl Mar 15, 2013 06:02 AM

                          Visited several times in the past, never had service issues altough i'm not speaking French, and no clue who is the owner.. Staff always quite patient altough language issue and i found their young goat cheeses really excellent and maybe the widest and "rarest" selection i've seen, even vs what i saw in visits to Dubois at 5th etc.. Their Comte, to my very limited taste buds, did not feel "as special" as the more aged ones offered at Dubois.
                          Last visits i've preffered Dubois place altough i had some "less nice" or let's call it weird service expiriences there but nothing too critical. Both places expensive but in my opinion for sure worth the extra, i can't even start to compare it to the quality of cheese at my country or that i found in most of the places abroad, and at similar prices.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: oferl
                            PhilD Mar 15, 2013 06:00 PM

                            Oferi -it is good to remember that each of the top cheese shops in paris has its own specialisation. So yes Dubois Comte is unbeatable because that is their speciality (not that any of their cheese is less than great), equally Barthelemy specialises in perfect Roquefort, and their Comte won't match Dubois. I seem to recall Marie-Anne Cantin is the Chevre queen.

                            PS - I think the owner is the lady who sits behind the cash register at the end. In the shop you take your "bill" to pay at the till rather than paying the server.

                          2. PhilD Mar 14, 2013 04:39 PM

                            I lived around the corner from the shop for a couple of years and found it to be great. Contrary to others advice they are very helpful and will always offer a taste of a cheese if you are undecided (but obviously not from the small whole cheeses). Yes, the owner sits regally behind the till but the servers are very pleasant.

                            My advice is to let them know when you want to eat the cheese i.e. at lunch, or dinner or lunch tomorrow and they will help select a cheese in perfect condition for that meal. We tended not to focus on a particular variety but instead would ask for "a goat, a soft cows milk, and a blue" or other combination of styles. That ensured we would be offered interesting and new (to us) styles without narrowing down choices by saying Brie etc. It's a shop that matures its cheese in the cellar and as cheese is seasonal the varieties on offer vary with the season and what is ready - thu best to go with a very open mind.

                            The shop is tiny so good not to hog the space, go in with some ideas (as above) and don't procrastinate over decisions - the grand dames of the 7eme will get impatient if they can't served....! And remember your bonjours etc - manners are vital.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: PhilD
                              John Talbott Mar 15, 2013 10:43 AM

                              "Contrary to others advice they are very helpful."
                              Sorry Phil; I don't want to give the wrong impression. My comment was not about Barthelemy, indeed our local Mauricien-run Barthelemy store has "the" most friendly Mauricien venders. I was referring to my experience, largely at Quatre-homme where when asked "what's in season, what's good?" I've seen them give a non-answer, but in a very nice way.

                              1. re: John Talbott
                                PhilD Mar 15, 2013 05:53 PM

                                "....indeed our local Mauricien-run Barthelemy store" - Barthelemy has branches...? is that new?

                                1. re: PhilD
                                  John Talbott Mar 16, 2013 01:13 AM

                                  Not new at all, when I moved in in 1989 the cheese shop on Rue Duhesme was called Barthelemy et ses Mauriciens and all the employees were Mauricien. The street/alley was renovated some 7-8 years ago, shops moved around, expanded/contracted/etc and the new signage has no mention of Barthelemy but the Mauriciens remain and are descibed in a blog called 1000 et 1 Vies as former employees of B. Since the cheese looks and tastes the same to me as in 1989, I assume it comes from the Mother ship but have no proof.

                            2. Parnassien Mar 14, 2013 01:40 PM

                              Since you are relatively unfamiliar with French cheeses, I'd start off with a visit to the Salon du Fromage Hisada on the rue Richelieu... large selection at the cheese buffet (lunch-time only)... 18€ or so for all-you-can-eat... go at noon before the crowd butchers the wedges.

                              Offering samples is not a frequent occurrence at fromageries, especially the more famous ones. If the place is crowded and you don't speak French, not likely at all. But if there is no one else in line and the vendeur/ vendeuse capriciously decides you are not the enemy, maybe. You will probably have more luck with samples at cheese stalls at street markets (but not the very busy Saturday or Sunday ones).

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Parnassien
                                mangeur Mar 14, 2013 02:33 PM

                                We are not at all above asking for a sample. However, we usually have a pretty good idea of what we want and are just making comparisons between two versions of the same cheese family. And we are planning on buying a meaningful amount.

                                I would also suggest to Diane that they jump on the #63 bus on Blvd St. Germain, go to Maubert Mutualite and shop Dubois. Very kind staff and, of course, extraordinary cheese.

                                Diane might like mimolette and many of the young tommes.

                                1. re: mangeur
                                  PhilD Mar 14, 2013 04:41 PM

                                  To add to mangers comments: sampling for buyers is fine, sampling for grazing tourists will get very short shift.

                              2. d
                                DaisyM Mar 14, 2013 01:15 PM

                                The camembert that I've had in Paris is on a whole different level then what you get in the US.

                                1. John Talbott Mar 14, 2013 12:49 PM

                                  I'm not principally a cheese-guy but I think you'll find cheese much cheaper here than in the US and very few break the bank. Barthelemy is very good and should give you good stuff if you specify what you want. I'm a bit confused because cheeses like cheddar can go from very mild to very strong. As for sampling, it's not Zabar's, so I've rarely been offered samples except on the street where I live during summer or at the Galeries where they're featuring something. One thing I would counsel against is asking what's good now; after 55 years asking this question, I've learned that it's rarely answered very helpfully. May should be good for camembert, St Marcellin & goats; not strong, not blue. And hey, experiment.

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