How to Shop for Cheese Like a Local in Paris
For lovers of the finer things, there’s nowhere quite like Paris. The wine, the bread, the architecture, the fashion, the cheese.
It wouldn’t be Paris without fragrant cheese shops around (nearly) every corner and it would be tragic to visit the city without treating yourself to some fromage. Just keep in mind that, for visitors from North America, cheese shop hours can seem a bit erratic. Most are closed for lunch and all day on Mondays. Make sure to check the hours online before you go.
WHAT TO BUY
Look for the word “fermier” as you’re shopping. Directly translating to “farmstead,” these are the character-filled, small-batch cheeses difficult to find elsewhere in the world.
Don’t be afraid of cheeses that look a bit fuzzy or mouldy. The French appreciate them in their more natural state, especially since it’s common to leave cheese out at room temperature. It will be delicious nonetheless.
Most Parisians shop for cheese to be eaten that day, so no need to feel silly when asking for smaller slices. In fact, if you’re buying cheese for much later than the next day, let your fromager know so they can give you something at a more appropriate level of ripeness.
WHERE TO GO
Wandering around Paris will allow you to discover treasures not widely available otherwise. You’ll find cheese, so don’t you worry. But, if you’d prefer to be a bit more strategic about your shopping, here are some favourite shops:
CHEZ VIRGINIE - 18th Arrondissement
Virginie Boularouah and her father stock and sell 150 varieties of cheese from across Europe at this charming little shop near Montmartre. Even more impressive — every single one of them is made with raw milk and is aged in house from 15 days to several months. Make sure to also try her otherworldly cured meats.
LAURENT DUBOIS - 4th, 5th and 15th Arrondissements
Dubois’ shops are on the must-visit list of every cheese enthusiast and it’s no wonder why. The selection is extraordinary, especially the delicate, pastry-like cheese creations. Think Camembert stuffed with mascarpone and Calvados-soaked apples from Normandie, Roquefort layered with quince paste, fresh goat cheese topped with yuzu, and so on. Dubois, the man behind such artistry, is an “affineur” or expert ager of cheese. As proof, sample his unbeatable Comté (similar to Swiss Gruyère).
ANDROUET - 10 locations
Before Androuet, the concept of a cheese shop did not exist. You only had access to the cheeses made in your region. But, since 1909, this historic cheese seller has offered the best of France and beyond, and even has a few locations where it does its own aging. If you plan on sticking around Paris for a while, pick up a frequent buyer punch card.