Ben McPartland, from the local in Paris recently tried to buy cheese for a fondue. Being in France, he went to his local fromagerie (so lucky!) and asked for a combination of Comté, Beaufort and Appenzel. Here’s what happened when he tried to get Beaufort:

Monsieur: “No it’s too good for a fondue. It’s so tasty. It would pain me (faire mal au coeur) to see it melted.”

Me: “Ha ha, OK that sounds amazing. I’ll have 400 grams please.”

Monsieur: “No, no. It would be a waste. This is a 2015 Beaufort. And at €39 a kilo. It’s too expensive for a fondue.”

Me: “Ah that’s OK I don’t mind paying.”

Monsieur: “No, No. I’ll give you some Abondance. It’s a similar cheese and cheaper.”

Me: Errrr. OK, but can I have some Beaufort too.”

Monsieur: “Are you going to put it in the fondue?

Me: “Errrrrr (I can’t lie), oui.”

Monsieur eventually relented but not before making his customer promise that the Beaufort won’t be grated or melted. The fun part is this saga got twitter’s attention and most of the responses were on the side of Monsieur Fromage.

Even France’s Ambassador to Sweden got involved:

The commenters on mefi, where I spotted this initially, had more diverse opinions. The ones supporting the fromager:

I agree with the cheese monger, if you go to speciality shops part of the experience is getting to lean on their expertise.

I’m on team cheesemonger here, in that truly good cheese is a magical thing and doesn’t deserve to be wasted in fondues.

The cheesemonger indicated that he would rather sell that particular cheese to someone with less money but more appreciation.

and the ones who are more on the “the customer is always right” train:

If I know how I like something because I like it that way, then anyone who tells me I am wrong is not, in fact, correct. They are wrong and stupid.

I don’t have a lot of patience for gatekeeping. I do like that he took the time to explain why though. But honestly if I want to scrub my floors with champagne or feed foie gras to a spoiled cat then I’m going to do so, and there will always be someone else willing to take my money.

The customer is always right, even when they are dead wrong. Be sure to smile and nod when you take their money. You are there to relieve them of their excess cash, not to educate them.

And more quotes, one from an American living in France that sums up the cultural difference:

Being a customer in France means you are asking someone to help you, and so you have to deal with them as a person, not a service robot…This cheesemaker is a perfectly normal Frenchman who thinks that being respected in his work is more important to him than making more money or always having to be “nice”.

French food has been seen in recent years as snobbish and over-complicated. But for every unfashionable roast saddle of rabbit wedged between crisp layers of rösti potatoes and a thin disc of Parmesan there is the delightfully simple fougasse that you buy at a street market and tear off a scrumptious piece as you walk around.


One of the differences between food shopping in a place like France and countries like the US, is that there are specialist shops that sell cheese, meat, bread, wine where most people usually buy their food. Supermarkets exist in France, but are for mass produced goods like tissues and bottled water. Provenance and quality matter a lot. Even McPartland, the Beaufort criminal, admits that he respects the fromager and reiterates that the French are generally more knowledgeable and passionate about their craft. I can understand his frustration though, and may be irritated if I were in his shoes, although I’d like to think I have better sense than to put a €39/kg Beaufort into a fondue. I did some reading and Beaufort is probably the most difficult of the Gruyère-style cheeses to produce, and the 24-month and 36-month ages are especially rare. I’d grudgingly do as the fromager says, make a solemn promise and then go home to try that 2015 Beaufort to see what the fuss is all about.

Of course people can do whatever they want with their food and other purchases, but some common sense should prevail, n’est-ce pas? Other examples that cropped up in various discussions of this #fonduegate: well-done steak, cheese with seafood pasta, mixing a 21-year old whisky with coke, using $100 notes to light a cigar, entering a rare antique car into a demolition derby, buying a Stradivarus to smash it to pieces. Yikes. Shiver. I’ll stop here before my head explodes.

wine, cheese, ramen

winecheese20150804 ramen20150804

Met up with sis and niece for lunch at a conveyor belt sushi restaurant. Walked there quickly, so spent the entire meal being still very hot and sweaty. Didn’t eat a whole lot as a result. Went to visit their new place. I like it very much, open plan living/dining/kitchen (albeit very small kitchen with no counter space). Lots of storage and decent sized bedrooms. Sis needed to get rid of some of her cube shelves so I claimed a few for myself—finally I can unpack the last few cardboard boxes scattered around my place.

We dropped off my niece for a playdate and went to happy hour. I’m still coughing badly but since I’m not on any medication I reckon I was okay to have wine. There’s a new craft beer place but we didn’t go there, definitely no cold drinks whilst coughing. We also ordered a cheese plate, 3 varieties but not very generous.

Quick dinner at a ramen place, they had 3 types of ramen—regular pork, miso and ox tongue. Unusual to see ox tongue ramen so we both ordered that. The ox tongue was great, very tender without the unpleasant gamey taste. The broth lacked depth of flavour though, seemed to be mostly chicken based, which couldn’t compare with the thick slow cooked pork bone base in other places.

norwegian brown cheese


We were having a sort of cruise loot dinner. Smoked salmon from Alaska and the brunost, or brown cheese, we got from Bergen. Brunost is made by boiling milk, cream, and whey slowly for several hours until the mixture solidifies. The heat gives it the distinctive brown colour and flavour. I agree with descriptions that say it’s like savoury fudge, or even a very savoury dulce de leche. The guardian said,

this is our version of Marmite: you either love brown cheese or you hate it

I can see why it’s an acquired taste. The colour is unexpected, and the deep brown of this block we got could be off-putting to some. Then there is the rich texture that sticks to the top of your mouth. And then the sweet and savoury tastes seem to flip and interchange. Apparently the Norwegians use it in stews, sauces, even with chocoate in cake, in addition to eating it on bread.

I’ve yet to meet a cheese I dislike; or an unusual food I hesitate to try. It’s definitly like marmite, and since I love marmite, I couldn’t get enough of the brunost.



Went especially with sis and gis to this bar at happy hour, braving the friday night crowd, so we could have their 500g burrata. Gis loves the burrata at pizza express and this one was much larger, although IMO less tasty. What is burrata? Read about it at the kitchn. It’s not mozzarella, although it’s similar in taste and texture. To my not so great palatte, there’s a small difference but that’s it. Expensive too.

cheeses at borough market


I took mm to borough market, we both loved it. It was crowded though. We bought a tray of clementines for £1.99, a couple of speciality beers for me and 5 different types of cheeses — a couple from a small cheese maker from West Sussex, a Caerphilly and a Jura and Camembert. The last store also had this moldy soft cheese, may be next time I’ll give it a try.

where’s the mascarpone

image from flickr user daviderickson under cc

I couldn’t find any mascarpone in the supermarket. It’s ridiculous. First off, cheese is in 3 different places at my local Jewel — “speciality” cheeses next to the deli counter, cream cheese and yuck cheese slices near the butter and cottage cheese/ricotta/sour cream where the milk is. Stupid.

To me, mascarpone is a BASIC ingredient. But I guess to Americans who are used to non-food like cool whip, canned frosting/icing and spray cream (the thought of all these make me puke), something like mascarpone is just way beyond their comprehension.

So I had to buy regular whipping cream. It’s so frustrating.

Why did I need mascarpone? It will be revealed tomorrow (hopefully).

baked bread cheese


Andersonville has its own farmer’s market, it’s the sort of community that will seem incomplete unless it has one. It’s started 3 weeks ago, and takes place on Wednesdays between 4-8pm. Although quite small at only one block (plus my frame of reference is Union Square in NYC, so everything pales against it), there are plenty of local vendors selling fruit, veg, bread, meat, tofu, flowers, and cheese.

I bought this juustalepia cheese after spying the stall person grilling pieces of it on a small round grill and, most importantly, free samples. It came in 3 flavours — original, garlic and spicy. I stuck to the original one.

Better known as juustoleipä, or Finnish squeaky cheese, it’s a hard cheese grilled or toasted to give it its distinctive charred crust. To me, in taste, texture and squeakiness it’s just like halloumi, of which i’m a big fan. I heated small cubes in the oven and served it with a salad of grilled asparagus, romaine, orange pepper and tomato. Yep, just like halloumi. I’m sure to get some more next visit.

Why 2 pics? One used the Nikon and the other the iphone. Not photoshopped. I’m quite impressed with the iphone.

cheese fight

For just over a month, Sars and Keckler has been running a cheese showdown contest on tomato nation they call NCheeseAA. They started with pairs of cheese and asked for readers’ votes. There were the more familiar like brie and cheddar; and more obscure (for me) like mimolette and ossau-iraty.

And now it’s down to the final two. Mozzarella vs British Cheddar. I do appreciate that they specify it’s the British version, cos it is the best. Looks like there’s an overwhelming vote for it, and both hosts agree in their assessments.

Sars says: I have nothing against mozzarella, except that it’s not a cheese that can really stand on its own: to shine, it needs to go on something, or in something, or with something. British Cheddar, by contrast, is a great snack with an apple; goes great on veggie chili; and is delicious all by its lonesome.

Keckler says: I want Cheddar.

Me, I voted for Cheddar too.

french cheese


The last day in Paris I went to the Monoprix on Champs to get some cheese. Though someone said I could get it at the airport, I figured (correctly) that it’ll be more expensive and the selection more limited. Besides, I had no intention of taking the cheese with me as hand luggage. I was awed, seeing the range of selection in the store fridge, and Monoprix isn’t exactly a gourmet deli. I got a great variety and selection too. I stayed away from too stinky cheese cos I had to pack it in my suitcase. Nor could I buy the too soft and perishable stuff. I gave Mum the camembert, these are what I have in my fridge. From top left: petit Pont-l’Évêque, Comté, Tomme de Savoie, Appenzeller, Morbier, St Albray, Salers. Okay, the Appenzeller doesn’t fit in, but what the hell, I love Appenzeller and miss it like crazy so there.

I have quince paste from Australia, perfect.

yogurt cheese


The yogurt cheese I made on Christmas Day came out perfect. What is yogurt cheese? It’s yogurt that has its liquid removed so it has the texture of cream cheese, but none of the high fat content. Most recipes make yogurt cheese by straining it in a colander with cheesecloth or, creatively, coffee filter. What I found was a piece of damp kitchen towel worked just as well. I covered the mixture with another kitchen towel and left it alone in the fridge overnight.


The end result was really fantastic, so thick that it didn’t fall off the spoon. I used greek styled yogurt this time so it was extra creamy. It’s a great substitute for cream cheese — good for toppings or mixed with herbs and spread on a bagel. I used it as a topping for some strawberries and added a tiny drizzle of honey for final effect.

Next time I’ll make more and then make a cheesecake. I think it’ll be quite special.

europe trip day 02: cheesey stuff

So, you’re taking your gf to Switzerland, you’ve lived there for a while and have visited tons of places with your friends. She’s only been to a few. You want to impress her and bring her to a nice place for a day trip, meaning no more than 3 hours drive from Zurich. Where do you go?

Gruyères of course!

Beautiful cobbled street, castle with a view to die for, photogenic houses and of course, cheese, cheese and more cheese! We saw the cheese making process (a bit sterile cos of the semi-automation if you asked me) and had our first Swiss meal together on this trip. She had macaroni cheese and I had bratwurst. Yum.

We walked around the castle, which, truth be told, is a bit empty but is a nice way to spend an hour or so. It was still strange to see the Giger Museum at the entrance, now they have the alien bar opposite, it’s so weird to find alien art in the middle of a medieval castle, but yet it’s so Swiss. Hmmm.

Had tea outdoors, enjoying the sunshine and clean air. Too full to try the meringue and cream though.

On our way back we stopped at the Coop at Bulle and bought ingredients for dinner. Grilled veg, stuffed peppers, good wine, good company.