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Mar 14, 2013 11:17 AM

Barthelemy cheese shop in Paris

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!

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  1. 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.

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

      1. 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

          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

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

        2. 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

            "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

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

              1. re: PhilD

                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. 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

              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.