-Photos by Richard Clarke
By Ea Nicole Madrigal
There is a revolution occurring throughout the United States. This revolution is not fought with swords and metal armor; instead, it is a food revolution. The revolutionaries are fighting with a small piece of cheese placed delicately at the end of a plastic toothpick. They want you to taste more cheese and change your mind (and palate) about French cheeses in particular.
Last weekend in Santa Monica, cheese lovers and cheese neophytes alike gathered together to celebrate and learn more about the variety of delectable cheeses produced in France. Many of these cheeses may be brand new to some of the American audience, but there are others which are more familiar such as goat or brie cheeses. No matter the previous cheese knowledge, several French vendors filled this “pop-up” event at Central Plaza at Santa Monica Place to inform interested visitors about the deliciousness of French cheeses and their various uses in common American dishes.
The French Cheeses pop-up event in Santa Monica has been just one of many separate similar events that have taken place in a host of U.S. cities over the last year. People in cities such as San Francisco and New York have been lucky enough to not only learn about French cheeses but also enjoy scrumptious samplings. The people of Los Angeles, thanks to this Santa Monica pop-up, now join in a new chorus of French-cheese converts.
The theme for these city-to-city pop-ups is, “Make it Magnifique” (Make it Magnificent). According to event organizer Heather Noll, the theme was chosen for the purpose of introducing and educating people in the United States about the delicious taste, value, and array of practical food-uses for French cheeses. When asked why Americans might be unaware or resistant to try French cheese, Noll suggested that many consumers might simply be intimidated, unexperienced, or even unfamiliar with the French pronunciations (and for some consumers, this might be off-putting).
However, Noll and the other event organizers have a solution to this unfamiliarity. She invites those who want to learn more about French cheeses to visit TheCheesesofEurope.com website where consumers can find a plethora of useful tips and information on a variety of French cheeses they may – or may not – know about.
After personally sampling more French cheese than I ever thought possible, let me tell you: Go try French cheese! For example, Camembert is the most common cheese used in France (and it may also be the most applicable to the American cheese palate). This is a wonderful cheese to start out with in order to introduce you to French cheeses. Some of the stronger and more pungent cheeses usually have aged longer, and they may be somewhat unbecoming if you have not tried French cheese before.
Certainly, as the event expounds, the French are very proud of their cheeses and the long history behind them. For instance, as the representative of French producer Isigny Ste. Mére (based in Normandy, France) informed me, the mimolette cheese has a history that dates back to King Louis the 14th who wanted this particular cheese to be a different color in order to distinguish it from other white cheeses such as brie; so, it became a distinct bright orange cheese.
These historical anecdotes, combined with the undeniably unique and delicious flavors of the French cheeses sampled in Santa Monica, remind us to venture from the ordinary or familiar in terms of food. One personal suggestion based on extensive sampling (and actually it is not a cheese suggestion but I did sample it amongst the array of cheeses): the butter produced by Isigny Ste. Mére. It is the smoothest, creamiest, and softest butter I have ever tasted and ideal for both cooking and tasting! Just remember, in terms of French cheeses, take the simple and concise advice of the French representative of Président Cheese, Cecille Hollman: “Don’t be afraid of French cheese.”