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French cheeses that taste nothing like gruyere cheese

I'm curious to try out some French cheeses, but I dislike the "swiss-cheese-like" flavor of gruyere, emmental, and comte. Can anybody recommend good cheeses to try out?

Cheeses that I know that I like include mozzarella, cream cheese, brie, very strong cheddar, parmesan. I liked raclette when I tried it melted. It was pretty much just and mild. I haven't tried it unheated.

Thanks

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  1. For warmer uppers, find a St. Andre triple cream or a St Agur blue. The king of cheeses, Epoisses, is in season. Do you have a good cheese store within a reasonable drive? The good stuff is not in corner markets. I drive almost an hour each way. Find a good cheesemonger and visit at a quiet hour when they can share good information and samples. The good ones LOVE their subject and welcome newcomers.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Veggo

      Thank you for the recommendations!

      St. Andre triple cream is 70% butterfat... whoa. I've heard about Normandy's obsession with butter, but I've not yet experienced it. This sounds intriguing. I'l also look out for Epoisses. I am also not a tremendous fan of bleu cheeses, so I may pass on St Agur.

      I don't have a car, but I do live in Paris, so I can probably find these somewhere.

      1. re: arlencox

        Go to L. Dubois in the 5th, right at Maubert-Mutualite metro stop. He is a Meilleur de Fromage of France and his staff knows their product.
        If your Raclette was mild probably French, you really want to try the ones from Switzerland.
        Dubois aged Morbier is quite inexpensive and awesome.
        Not being cruel but the cheeses you mention you like, havarti, jack, american munster, are all super processed product with much fat and for me too gentle flavor. Not saying you should not like them, of course like what you like, but being in the land of au lait cru, try all you can and you should find something you like.
        A factory cheese available at supermarkets in Paris is ossau-iraty in the form of Istara, Petit Basque, Bonaparte, Capitoul, Ardi Gasna, and others, that l would just about guarantee you will enjoy. Gentle but with great flavor tends always to be a crowd pleaser.

        1. re: Delucacheesemonger

          Ossau Iraty is quite possibly my favorite cheese! I highly recommend it.

          I agree, French Raclette is quite mild. I don't use it as much anymore because it gets lost if you use it any prepared dish. Swiss Raclette is a whole 'nother ball game.

          1. re: Delucacheesemonger

            I'm aware that my taste in cheeses is, well, "inexperienced". I will try almost any food once, so I'm not afraid of experimenting a little bit. That said, I just want something delicious. I'll add your suggestions to my growing list of cheeses to ask about.

            1. re: arlencox

              arlencox, I would second DCM's suggestion to go to Laurent Dubois' cheese emporium in Maubert. They will let you taste anything (just be sure you don't leave completely empty handed) so that gives you a chance to try before you buy. If you go by baby steps, you may find yourself liking some cheeses you have on your nono list.

              How do you feel about cheddars? Cantal is a French cheese with a similar texture. Have you tried that?

      2. make friends with your fromager -- there are literally hundreds of cheeses made in France that taste nothing at all like Gruyere.

        8 Replies
        1. re: sunshine842

          Of course there are. However, in my research many have recommended that France's most popular cheeses (comte and emmental) as similar to cheddar and that they have a mild flavor. It is my goal to circumvent this by having cheeses in mind when I explore.

          Given my weak French, I am often given wrong things. For example, my boulanger (who knows me these days) still frequently gives me different breads than I ask for. This is ok because I love all breads. With cheese, however, I want to avoid this, because I find that cheeses are both more expensive and, when wrong, inedible.

          1. re: arlencox

            all you have to learn is "I like..." and "I don't like..."

            J'aime les fromages comme le cheddar, le parmesan, le brie, le St Môret (the French brand of cream cheese) et mozzarella.

            Je n'aime pas les fromages comme Comté, Emmenthal, et Gruyère

            Vous m'aidez trouvez un bon fromage pour moi, s'il vous plaît?

            If I could do it in a small town where I was the only Anglophone, you can do it in Paris.

            I know there's a fromager in Rue Cler -- they probably speak English -- your chances are good in the single-digit arrondissements that there is someone who speaks enough English that, combined with your French, will get you through.

            1. re: sunshine842

              Merci. Je sais demander de l'aide. Le problème est l'accent. Je peux lire la français, mais je ne peux pas comprendre quand elle est parlée et ils ne peuvent pas me comprendre quand je parle.

              Je vais acheter du fromage demain.

              I'm not saying communication can't happen. I'm saying that it is error prone.

              We'll see what I come up with tomorrow.

              Merci pour votre aide.

              1. re: arlencox

                Wow. An anglophone trying to get snarky to another anglophone in French.

                I was trying to help, suggesting the exact words that I used when I moved to France...it worked for me, and yet somehow the communication happens -- with funky accents and wonky grammar and everything.

                1. re: sunshine842

                  Haha. I'm not trying to be rude. I appreciate the help and suggestions. Your suggestions are exactly the things to say.

                  I have had rather mixed experiences in Paris. I think it is the city thing. When outside of Paris, I find that fewer people speak English, but people are generally happier with poor attempts at French.

                  1. re: arlencox

                    definitely true -- I have a hunch that many folks (like the one on rue Cler) probably get tired of dealing with tourists.

                    Even getting out of the tourist arrondissements helps.

                2. re: arlencox

                  The folks at Dubois both speak and understand English. You should have no problem communicating with them.

              2. re: arlencox

                1) That's why you go to a cheese shop instead of discount grocery. It's not like you're committing to a five pound block of feta from Costco. You can ask them to slice as little or as much as you like so that when you're trying something new, you can minimize your cost and risk.

                2) Every cheese shop I've ever been to has been filled with extremely passionate people who will bend over backwards to educate you about the cheese and let you sample them before buying.

                Worst case scenario: You put yourself out there for a new experience and to expand your horizons, discover you don't like it, and you never have to eat it again if you don't want. In the grand scheme of life's risks, cheese is pretty tame.

            2. Brie is French. Camembert is another with similar consistency - white rind, creamy interior. In fact that general type seems to be a French specialty.

              http://www.foodsubs.com/Chesoft.html soft cheeses

              http://www.foodsubs.com/Chessoft.html semi-soft like Morbier, Port Salut

              gruyere falls in the semi-firm category, but so does cheddar.

              mimolette is a firm one like parmesan (but colored).

              lots of French 'blue' cheeses.

              11 Replies
              1. re: paulj

                I'm saving my mimolette for a special occasion because it is no longer imported.

                1. re: Veggo

                  damned mites.

                  What would the USDA do with Fromage du Corse?

                  (to be fair, I'm not sure I could stare that one down)

                  1. re: sunshine842

                    Same color and texture as a 5 year gouda - I hope it is dy-no- mite! I have some nice port to accompany it, arrived today.

                  2. re: Veggo

                    igourmet claims to have it in stock.

                    1. re: pikawicca

                      $18/ lb. I wonder when the import ban begins, if it hasn't yet. My wedge from October was $15/lb. The impending ban is what induced me to buy it! Maybe that cheesemonger used to sell used cars?

                      1. re: Veggo

                        The great old ones from 24-30 months sell wholesale in US for @$ 18, at stores mid 30's

                  3. re: paulj

                    Thank you for the suggestions. I've heard of Camembert, but I haven't tried it. It is certainly common in France. I have also heard of Morbier, though I haven't seen it (nor have I looked for it). Port Salut sounds interesting since it is compared to muenster, jack, and havarti, which I also enjoy.

                    I'm aware of the categories of cheese (though I'm no connoisseur). I'm more looking to avoid a certain flavor profile that can exist in any category of cheese. The problem with the internet as a source of research is that 1) websites like to categorize cheese by hardness, suitability for melting, and age, but not flavor, and 2) flavor is very difficult to describe. Everybody has their own version of flavor.

                    1. re: arlencox

                      A quick web search on 'cheese flavors' gave me this graphic

                      http://visual.ly/16-flavors-cheese-fl...

                      Apparently you don't like 'nutty' flavor. Lots of sources describe 'swiss' cheeses as 'nutty'.

                      You can buy the graphic as a placemat
                      http://sean-seidell-art-science.mysho...

                      1. re: paulj

                        Cool graphic. I'm still trying to figure out what pineapple flavor means in cheese. Only gruyere and parmesan have that quality.

                        1. re: arlencox

                          That is a cool looking graphic. Interesting that it separates jarlsberg and emmentaler from gruyere, and that it considers both gruyere and parmesan "nutty." I'd put jarlsberg squarely in the nutty category, and I've never tried a quality parmesan that I'd call truly nutty -- I'm thinking more fruity, at least on my palate. But as the OP says flavour is super subjective. And I'm with the OP on not loving what I dub the Swissy cheeses, BTW. Though I will make an exception as harryharry notes for a good bit of cave-aged gruyere :-).

                          As far as other French cheeses to try, there are some fine suggestions here already for the OP. Perhaps also check out Pont l'eveque (I have a strange affinity for square surface ripened cheeses), or maybe St Nectaire for an alternative to Reblochon. Chaumes is also worth a look for an interesting wash rind option.

                          1. re: grayelf

                            Don't give the line connecting 'nutty' to gruyere to parmesan much importance. Look more at the individual cheese circles. Gruyere shares 'waxy' and 'sweet' with parmesan. It shares 'nutty' with the other 'swiss' cheese. Parmesan shares 'waxy' and 'sharp' with asiago and and romano, but differs on the 'sweet/sour' dimension.

                  4. Just to throw a wrench in.... I usually can't stand gruyere (or anything "swiss" related)- but I really like cave aged gruyere - it has those crunchy calcium crystals and, at least to me, has a totally different flavor... excellent.

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: harryharry

                      I've tried that a couple of times with comte and emmental and it hasn't been great. I haven't tried cave aged, though. I did really enjoy a 3+ year aged "crunchy" cheddar in England once. The crystals add a uniqueness to the texture.

                      1. re: arlencox

                        Reblochon, delice de bourgogne, st.marcellin are all marvelous and something like brie. There are hundreds of goat cheeses both fresh and aged and French feta is very good.

                        1. re: teezeetoo

                          Reblochon is not exported, sadly.

                          1. re: Veggo

                            But our lucky poster is in France.

                            1. re: Veggo

                              I'll add it to my list of things to check out!

                              Thanks for the suggestions.

                              1. re: Veggo

                                If you really want it (and don't mind paying 10 Euros a half-pound, plus shipping), you can get it directly from France via fromages.com.

                          2. Mont d'Or is in season right now, and it is FABULOUS. You can just find it at the Monoprix or any grocery store. Tuck slivers of garlic into it, top with half a cup of white wine, and bake until bubbly. Hurry! :)

                            Oh, and St. Felicien is amazing too. For that one I do go to cheese shop or the cheese guy at my Saturday market.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: murray6789

                              Many Monoprix sell with the small Mont d'Or a dish for baking and dish is free., it comes out great that way.

                              1. re: murray6789

                                These are two of my favourite cheeses, although I like them plain. OP is so lucky :)

                                Also, for OP's information, I don't care much for gruyere or comte too as an eating cheese.

                              2. If you are a book person, you might enjoy getting these books, or similar ones. I bought the french version in France and then the translated version when it was released in the US, well because I do things like that.

                                Could be very handy for you to use the french version (or a similar kind of book) to point out new cheeses you'd like to try:

                                http://www.amazon.com/French-Cheeses-...

                                http://www.amazon.fr/gp/offer-listing...

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: souvenir

                                  This book is still the best French source seen, many better books but the pictures make this the most user-friendly.