As Audrey Hepburn apparently said, ‘Paris is always a good idea’. Even better if it happens to be hosting an agricultural show which according to Patricia Michelson of La Fromagerie and various other cheesemakers, is a must see.
With hopes of learning more about farming and cheesemaking equipment, Rose and I booked the Eurostar and set off. It took a relatively short metro ride to get to Paris Expo and we were able to buy our entry tickets to the Salon d’Agriculture pretty easily. We acquired lunch and looked at some cows, picking up leaflets on Montbeliards as we went and perused the map trying to find the Salon de Fromage.
Apparently it’s all been a bit easier to find and get into in other years but this year it took full on detective work to find the cheese bit of the show. This is partly because it’s for professionals only and perhaps the guards last year just got fed up of turning away members of the public but all the same it was due to a good degree of exploration of the site and some fine ad lib blagging on Rose’s part and translation on my part that we got in.
We had business cards for Rose’s old business and luckily because we’d planned on talking about it on the train we had a plan showing the design of our dairy. We first profered the business cards. No good. We called people we knew who were in there. They weren’t answering their phones. Rose got out the plans of the dairy and began talking the security guard through the process in franglais. At this juncture, he realised we were
c) possibly slightly deranged
and sent us chasing after a nice lady in a green jacket who officially lead us past the security and to the desk in the hall where you presented your business cards and were allowed to register as a visitor. Not entirely sure why it had been so cloak and dagger to get to that point but never mind, we were in.
Inside, we wandered around lots of stands of cheese in its many and varied forms. We stopped by An Bord Bia’s stand and looked at their cheeses, unfortunately just missing a chance to say hi to the Furnos from Cashel Blue. We found Guffanti’s stand and tried their Taleggio and different types of Gorgonzola. They were really good. We, of course, said hello at the Neal’s Yard Dairy stand and in the course of conversation that networker par exellence that is Jason HInds managed to direct us to a good paper supplier and to a nice cheese affineur called Mark who loved the idea of people going into making cheese and has offered to take us to visit some Reblochon producers in May or June. We also ran into Jonny Crickmore who had come over on a very early train with Julie Cheney and who were both just leaving but we just had time to chat and compare notes on milk testing and things to look at in the cheese show.
After that as we partook of a nice glass of wine (well when in Paris…) at the show’s wine bar / restaurant we took stock, talked about website, packaging, labelling and other things that had absolutely nothing to do with vats and stainless steel but were very productive nonetheless. And as we rounded the corner on a final tour of the show we managed to finally track down my sister and the inimitable Jon Thrupp who were chatting away to their Beaufort affineur. They were mid meeting so there was only really a chance to say a quick hello but it’s always nice to run into friends and family even if it is only brief.
Having successfully found paper, Reblochon hosts and had a chance to chat cheese with Julie and Jonny, we set off for the Gare du Nord so Rose could catch a train home. I stayed on in Paris for a very quiet night in (it had been a very early start) hence the photo of the Moulin Rouge from my taxi and returned to Blighty the following morning slightly regretting not having more time to do a good visit to the recommended Fromageries and buy up all the washed rind cheese I could.
Paris is great. I could have stayed all week!