I have found a new happy place. A place to go when you are feeling down and you want to be reminded about all that is wonderful about the world. It is called the affineur room at La Fromagerie in Marylebone. You can smell the room even before you enter the shop. It is here that the cheeses are stored immediately prior to sale and their care fine tuned to such an extent that they are perfectly ripe when they are purchased. You don’t get this sort of love and care when you buy your cheese from a supermarket. Even if the cheese had started out the same quality, by the time you got around to gobbling it down it would not be the same cheese without being aged and cared for in the same way. La Fromagerie affineur John Peglar describes the process of being an affineur as: “to touch the cheese, have a think about it and give it a little love.” For not just this reason, he is my new foodie crush.
Inside the affineur room
I visited La Fromagerie last week for an event hosted by Vive Le Cheese, a campaign run by the French government to encourage interest in French cheese. Let’s just say that I am one person who doesn’t need much encouragement. La Fromagerie itself is a charming store stuffed to the gills with hunks of cheese, jars of olives and little kitchen knick knacks that you never knew you needed like honey stirrers. I was like a kid in a candy store. The night started with cheese and wine matching led by blogger and wine writer Katrina Alloway. We were given paper to take notes and I kept on accidentally taking notes about the food rather than the wine. Old habits die hard. Butternut pumpkin soup was spicy but silken while the Reblochon fritters it was topped with were soft and mild. But what I should be telling you was that the Pouilly-Fumé, De Ladoucette 2007 with it’s dry, acidic taste was the best match out of the four wines we tried. A Roquefort soufflé had walnuts scattered inside to add texture and crunch to the airy soufflé and was served with a spoonful of spiced pear chutney. It was best matched with the Crozes-Hermitage, E Guigal 2006 which provided the perfect creamy balance to the rich soufflé.
Then it was into the affineur room, my happy place, stocked floor to ceiling with cheeses to learn about the process of ageing and caring for cheese. John told us that La Fromagerie supplies 90% of the Michelin star restaurants in London including Gordon Ramsay’s restaurants, The Ledbury and the famous cheese trolley at Chez Bruce. His tip for the cheese to buy at the moment is goats cheese as John says that the grass that the goats are eating right now is beautiful and they have just had their kids. As for looking after cheese at home, John recommends wrapping it tightly in double wax paper (not cling film as that makes the cheese sweat) and placing in tupperware then keeping it in the door of the fridge.
After all that temptation in the affineur room we raced onto the French cheese tasting with the equally dreamy Jean-Bapiste Manin. We tried the Saint Marcellin which is always easily identifiable in shops thanks to its terracotta container. It was a gentle, classic cheese that left a slightly tingly feeling on the throat. Emmenthal Francais Grand Crue is often used in fondue and Croque Monsieur. It was nutty and slightly chewy. The Saint Nectair was speckled with grey velvety moulds and had a grassy, earthy flavour that transported me to the French countryside. A favourite was the “connisseurs’ blue cheese”, Fourme D’Ambert which was incredibly rich and strong. It was a real rib-sticking cheese and just the kind of cheese I love.
More of the affineur room
In the end, I had eaten so much cheese that I could eat no more. It was almost a form of cruel and unusual punishment to be surrounded by so much wonderful cheese and to meet foodie legend Patricia Michelson, the owner of La Fromagerie, but to have to excuse myself to go home. Sadly, due to my gluttony and over excitement about La Fromagerie it was not safe for my own health for me to stay in my happy place any longer.
Details: 2-6 Moxon street, Marylebone W1U 4EW (Ph 020 7935 0341) Tube: Baker Street
Damage: Usually pricey but free for me on this occasion.
If you liked reading this you might like reading about the cheese trolley at Chez Bruce or the ultra cheesey tartiflette at Les Mouilles in Morzine in the French Alps.
Gourmet Chick attended La Fromagerie as a guest of Vive Le Cheese. Other bloggers in attendance included Mathilde’s Cuisine, Food Stories, Kavey Eats, Food Urchin, Cheese and Biscuits, Hollow Legs and Dinner Diary.