Review: Spring Cheese Pop up Sale at the French Cheese Board April 7-8, 2017

Cover Image: ‘Cheese Board’ Île de France Brie, iStara P’tit Basque and Isigny Ste Mère’s Raspberry Fromage Frais © Kaori Mahajan for WhereNYC

Mimolette at the French Cheese Board © Kaori Mahajan for WhereNYC

“I didn’t know you could ferment carrots,” said one guest perusing the orange slices on the table. “Yeah, they’re carrots,” joked the girl working the tasting booth with a French accent.

Rest assured these were no root vegetables, but one of France’s prized cheeses: 6 and 18-month aged mimolette – the Rolls Royce of cheesy paradise. To compare it to a super sharp cheddar would not do it justice. Starting off mellow, slightly salty, it then delivers a mouth-fizzing punch of nuttiness that lingers happily on the palette before the screeching-to-a-halt finale. Proof that cow and bug can work in perfect harmony and happily available in the United States.

Emmental at the French Cheese Board © Kaori Mahajan for WhereNYC

The two-day event at the SoHo’s beloved French Cheese Board, a shrine to the French and creamy, showcased some of France’s most well-known cheeses while introducing some of the Hexagone’s newcomers. While many Americans may have yet to learn more about French cheeses, never underestimate the diverse palette of a New Yorker.

With far more publicity, including a whopping 1,800 views on WhereNYC’s Facebook page, this showcase was far more reaching than previous low-key pop-up events. The French Cheese Board managed to send a thousand tongues wagging, drawing in noticeably larger crowds than before.

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French Cheese Board

The Crown Jewel © Kaori Mahajan for WhereNYC

Preceded a by a special press-only reception, the fighting French pulled out all the punches with an ideal but every-bullet-counts all-star dairy cast. Highlights of the two-day event included the crowd-pleasing Brie from Île de France and the lovely pungent bleu Saint Agur. The first had everything one would expect from a brie pairing beautifully with either champagne or a full-bodied Shiraz or Bordeaux red. For the latter, try it with slices of green apple and a glass of sweet sherry or port wine.

Fans of wash-rind cheeses hunting the elusive, stinky Époisse, normally at its peak after May, would also enjoy Saint Albray, a slightly milder-but-no-less-exciting clover shaped cheese from the Juraçon in Béarn, bordering France’s three other Basque Country Provinces. Speaking of Basque cheese, starting with the nutty sheep’s milk P’tit Basque by iStara is the perfect gateway to the region’s other top-gamers: Ossau-Iratyshaun-the-sheepy Brebis Pyrénées and Spanish manchego, which all pair beautifully with fig or apricot jam and either a glass of Basque chacoli or a hoppy beer.

Brie by Président © Kaori Mahajan for WhereNYC

Beginners to French cheese world should not fear the Triple Crème label as a artery-clogging slow death, but enjoy it as a milder, creamery kind of cheese. Président’s Brie Triple Crème tends to be softer and more accessible in comparison t the Île de France version. While the Saint André was a bit mushroomy, the authentic, creamy Camembert from Normandy was the other crowd pleaser, which pairs well with a fruitier Beaujolais red or a deeper Côte de Rhône. Also flying the Normandy flag was the salted Beurre d’Isigny, which translates to the most unctuous, delightful butter that you’ll ever have. Perfectly seasoned, it is absolute heaven on toasted baguette and drizzled with chili-honey.

St Agur © Kaori Mahajan for WhereNYC

Looking to wedge its spoon in the Greek-style yogurt market, the French Cheese Board gave its ideal breakfast take with creamy, tangy Fromage Frais by Isigny. Those familiar with the comforts of a warm croissant and creamy yogurt of a classic Parisian continental breakfast will love Isigny’s franco favorite, available in Mirabelle or Framboise flavors.

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The celebrated cheese map at French Cheese Board. © Kaori Mahajan for WhereNYC

With an estimated over 1,500 cheeses in France, it is impossible to know where to begin, but the French Cheese Board’s Pop-Up events are an exciting way to experience some of the country’s most iconic delicacies while chatting with experts in the industry. While there has been a surge in beautiful, high-end artisanal cheeses in the U.S., even the new generation of bearded American cheesemakers owe their craft in part to French ingenuity and tradition. At the end of the day, the French still are in the game producing cheese as good as it gets.

For information on upcoming events, please visit the French Cheese Board on Facebook.

Story notes and images contributed by Kaori Mahajan for WhereNYC

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