fran-cheese1

Charles Duque has the best job ever.

Apparently my college career counselor was asleep at the wheel. Charles is the Director of the French Dairy Board – Americas. His job – to talk about cheese. A job EATING CHEESE ALL DAY LONG AND I DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT IT.?!?

The French Dairy Board’s goal is to represent the many cheesemakers in France and market their cheeses and butters worldwide. Charles is based in New York and 3 years ago became the Director of the French Cheese Board – Americas. He’s spent the past few days in the Triangle introducing folks to French cheeses in hopes of gaining a larger audience for them.

Orrman’s Cheese Shop in Lafayette Village set the stage for the tasting. Tucked into a cozy corner adjacent to the Eiffel Tower, ahem, is this well appointed store. Our French cheese guides explained the points of origins of the cheeses, how they were produced and aged and the variations between the cheeses we sampled. They then stood back and watched as we  oohed, ahhhed and ooh la laad over the cheeses.

fran-cheese2The cheeses were delicious and certainly could sell themselves. So why pray tell did the French need a cheese ambassador? Charles explained many folks seemed fearful or intimidated by French cheeses and the goal of the Board is to demystify the cheeses. Was there a reason to fear French cheeses? The FDA thought so. Two issues in particular gave the agency pause: raw milk and mites. Many French cheeses are made from raw milk. More interestingly though is the issue of mites. Mimolette, a hard rind French cheese, gets by with a little help from its friends. In this instance those friends are mites. The French simply accept this as part of the process, brush the mites away and carry on with consuming. The FDA said, not so fast. Enter the great quarantine – a dark period in American – French relations. But just as quickly as the cheese was quarantined it was back again but the damage had been done. It seemed many Americans were hesitant to try French cheeses other than the party stalwart Brie.

cheeseWe were able to sample a variety of French cheeses including the Mimolette. Deep orange with a nutty flavor reminiscent of Gouda but with a complexity that was swoon-worthy there was not a thought of mites as we happily munched. The conversation soon turned to “meltability” and uses for the cheese. Macaroni and cheese was suggested to which Matthew, one of the French cheese guides, responded, “Interesting, I like to hear what people would do with the cheeses. We’re Frenchy. We just eat the cheese.” So, like the French we simply ate the cheese