One of my first jobs out of University was working for the cheese department in Alfalfa’s market in Boulder, Colorado. Alfalfa’s was the original gourmet organic market, which Whole Foods modelled its stores after, and now also own. I absolutely loved this store, all the imported gourmet foods, especially the cheese!
When the manager of the department left I was offered his position and thus began my apprenticeship into the world of European cheeses. I felt transported to the old country just slicing into those big wheels coming from Neal’s Yard in London, from all over France, Spain and Italy. My favorites were those little French goat cheese gems which came in all different shapes, sizes, different degrees of ripeness and flavors. They would arrive in small hand-made wooden boxes, lined with reeds, each morsel delicately wrapped in waxed paper. You could almost smell the french countryside in those boxes. Little did I know then that I would one day live in the heart of Provence, goat cheese heaven, among the very pastures where they were produced.
In France today the best place to find these beautiful artisanal cheeses are in specialty shops or in the village markets. In Saint Remy we are fortunate to have just such a shop, La Cave Aux Fromages. The owner, Monique Mayer is a board certified ‘Maitre Fromager,’ the equivlant of a cheese sommelier. She has a fantastic selection of cheese from small producers all over France, and in particular from here in Provence. She stores the cheese at the perfect temperature to allow for ideal ripening. Monique says that we should appreciate goats cheese in all of the different stages of maturity, less ripe or ‘frais,’ meaning fresh, or very ripe, ‘crémeux, or creamy. Each winter she travels all over France visiting cheese production sites and checking out her suppliers latest yield.
Monique offers cheese and wine tastings in her stunning 16th century cheese shop/cave, a beautiful setting with a vaulted exposed stone ceiling, located in the center of the historic part of Saint Remy de Provence.
See ‘Gourmet Plus’ on the Alpilles Tour information page regarding booking a cheese tasting with Jane and Monique.