There are some mornings when I round the corner of 18th St. and Guerrero on my way to work, and think I might be in Paris. The scent of baking butter, the sight of dogs nestled against café tables and the sounds of mugs and morning chatter set the scene. Sooner or later, the roar of the #33 bus brings me back to San Francisco, but not before I’ve had a few moments to long for France.
Fortunately, a few steps away, we’re savoring the flavor of cheeses from France this month at Bi-Rite. France’s cheeses are legendary for the quality, range and diversity of cheeses produced. France’s geography includes mountains, grassy cool lands where cows thrive, a giant plateau and plenty of sheep, a Mediterranean climate where goats rein king, and rich Roman roots.
I’m particularly excited about a few cheeses from the Auvergne, France’s agricultural heartland. Fourme D’Ambert in its industrial incarnation can be a boring and insipid blue. Ours, aged by Tours-based affineur Rodolphe LeMeunier has a supple yet creamy texture, and a flavor that dances between fennel, hay, and a sweet, cooked cream finish.
If blue cheese isn’t your favorite, fear not — look to the Andante Selections Cantal instead. A giant drum of a cheese, this 80# wheel is sometimes written off as French cheddar. Though its crumbly texture and lactic character share some common ground with cheddar, its subtle milkiness and grassiness set it apart.
Finally, the dramatic donut-shaped Puits d’Astier, whose rustic and colorful rind hides a fairly delicate paste, is rich and round in a way unique to sheep milk cheeses.
Come by both Markets to taste some of our French favorites!