Can Springtime in Paris Get Any Better? Just Add Cheese

Cheese education made fun with visit to organic dairy farm and legendary Parisian cheesemonger

As one of the World’s gastronomic capitals and foodie destinations, I jumped at the opportunity to join the Academy’s first foray into cheese tourism

We set off bright and early from London St Pancras on the very efficient Eurostar, tucking into pastries and prosecco, very generously provided by two of our guests, husband and wife duo and current Level Three delegates, Alison and Jeremy.  Both avid cheese enthusiasts, having passed Levels One and Two of the Academy of Cheese’s certifications, their excitement for the day ahead was evident and contagious, bubbling over to their fellow turophiles, along with their prosecco.

Cheese Tour Attracts Cheese Mongers & Wine Buyers

The carriage was filled with cheese chat as everyone acquainted themselves with each other.  And what an eclectic bunch of folk we were: our small group of 12 consisted of a combination of cheese enthusiasts and industry professionals, hailing geographically from the top of the UK (Aberdeenshire) to the bottom (Kent).  We had cheesemongers, cheese writers, wine buyers and novice cheesemakers in our numbers. We even had a cheesemonger all the way from Milan meet us off the train at Paris Gard du Nord!

Group of Academy of Cheese members and staff meet outside Paris Gard Du Nord Railway station

But this wasn’t just an excuse for a jolly with fellow cheese lovers, the day’s full itinerary was intended as an educational trip to support the Academy’s principles of learning. And whilst yes, there was a large amount of cheese consumed throughout, I understand most of the guests came away enlightened, whilst feeling just a little bit privileged (if anything like me) because of the exclusive, behind-the-scenes tours of two very different French cheese establishments.

Organic Dairy Farm with A Respect for Traditional Cheese Making

On arrival in Paris, the notorious Périphérique lived up to its slow reputation, whilst the private, air-conditioned mini-bus kept us cool on what was turning out to be a gloriously sunny spring morning.  Our guide for the day, Ecole du Fromage’s Head of Education, Noémie Richard, kept us entertained with information about our first destination:  La Ferme de la Tremblaye, an organic dairy farm, one hours drive out of the city centre.   

We learnt that the dairy has three conditions it operates by, which are to use milk exclusively from the farm; all production and ripening is done onsite and traditional methods must be respected. Going one step further, their cheesemakers guarantee that all the milk used is milked the same day.  Noemie also whet our appetites with details of the unique cheeses the dairy produces.

Tour of the Maturation Rooms Reveal Bloomy Rind Development

The rapeseed fields of south-west Paris stretched out before us and the landscape turned more rural as we approached the entrance to the dairy. Once there, we were greeted by Head of Sales, Olivier, who ensured we followed their strict safety protocols before entering the dairy. Having missed that morning’s make, we were given an extended tour of the pressing and maturing rooms, each with their own delights and aromas!  It was fascinating to see the bloomy rind development on their camemberts and bries, at different stages of their maturation.  The fresh, downy, fluff-like velvet of their young raw-milk camemberts was so tempting to touch: I took a moment to empathise with Charlie’s predicament in the chocolate factory.  

Upon de-robing from our hygiene coats, hats and beard protectors, we were first shown around the milking parlour and then had the delight of meeting a large barn-full of frolicking goats; the milk from which they produce two blue cheeses and a camembert.

Cheese Boards Laden for Lunch

Lunch exceeded my already high expectations, consisting of several boards laden with the farm’s range of exceptional cow’s and goat’s cheeses.  My personal highlight was the Jersey blue: the first ever blue cheese to be made exclusively with milk from Jersey cows. It’s fudgy texture, rich and buttery, with a piercing of just enough blue, was paired delightfully with a bottle of light pinot noir.

Leaving this impressive dairy with a belly- and bag-full of the farm’s cheeses, purchased from the on-site shop (I can never resist), we boarded the mini-bus and headed back into the city.  With all those ripe, raw-milk camemberts on-board, our chauffeur must have been very thankful for the efficiency of his air conditioning!

“It was very interesting to visit a French dairy, a modern self-sustaining farm in a simply wonderful agricultural context. I brought home new inspiration to use in my daily work.”  

Loanna Giroldi, Proprietor, Tome & Tomi Cheesemongers, Modena

Next Stop: Laurent Dubois, Parisien Cheese Legend

Oh, what a treat: spirits were high as we meandered along the banks of the Seine, catching glimpses of the Eiffel Tower, en-route to legendary Parisian cheesemonger, Fromages Laurent Dubois.

We were met by Laurent himself and, with the expert translation from Noémie, were given his short biography. Born into a family of cheesemongers, Laurent was the first cheesemonger to win the acclaimed award, Meilleur Ouvrier de France (Best Craftsman of France) in 2000, thanks to his pyramid of flavours composed of 120 cheeses. Over twenty years later, he owns three cheese shops in Paris and a cheese restaurant on the 8th floor of Printemps du Goût.

With glass counters beautifully displaying the prettiest cheese creations (imagine fruit-filled camemberts, petal-coated sheep’s and spice-dusted goats cheese), this cheese boutique is thoughtfully laid out, with towers of cheese of over 120 varieties stacked high.

We learnt how Laurent will only display what he intends to sell that day. The French cheese-buying habits, so different to those this side of the channel will, more often than not, involve a daily trip to the cheesemongers to pick up some cheese for that evening’s meal. This means that those cheeses on display are at the peak of their condition; if a customer intends to hold onto the cheese for a while, the assistant will be reluctant to oblige: a case in point when I had to convince the monger that I was planning on eating my soft goat’s Banon on the Eurostar home (of which I did).

A Lesson in Affinage

Of the three shops Laurent owns, we were lucky to be in the one with the temperature-controlled cheese cellar.  With aspects of the Academy’s teaching focussed on Maturation and Grading, we were delighted to be invited down the narrow winding staircase to this facility and hear how Laurent and his staff wash and brush the cheeses regularly before packaging them up to sell in his shops. 

Our visit was rounded off marvellously with a private tasting of the most perfectly aged Saint Nectaire, Pont L’Eveque, Fromage de Chevre and Comte.  It was clear to see that when a cheese is aged to perfection, its flavours are elevated to a status “magnifique”!  I left with the impression that if cheesemongers were awarded Michelin Stars, Laurent Dubois would be shining bright.

After a short journey back to the station, we boarded our train weary, yet jubilant.  This had been a unique and immersive day, not only taking in a French organic dairy farm, but rounded off with a visit to a high-end Parisian cheesemonger.  Full of exclusive insights into French cheesemaking, cheese retail and traditional affinage techniques we returned home seriously indulged from some truly exquisite cheeses.

“This was a wonderful event; the planning and organisation were meticulous and the day ran like clockwork.  All this, in the company of enthusiastic Academy members – a truly memorable day”

Hugh Tinsley, Academy Level Two Alumni


Rachel loves a good cheese and wine session. Her love of all cheeses, artisanal or otherwise, has grown from her early years of working on the cheese counter at Fortnum & Mason.  She has a personal mission to taste as many cheeses as possible and to encourage this passion in others.