Ah yes... for those that know me well, you would know that this was what I was most excited about when living in France. Cheese! Bring it on! I'm wasn't sure what to expect exactly, but when I stumbled across this fromagerie I'm sure you can imagine how excited I was. I remember just standing outside for a few minutes, bracing myself for what I was about to experience through those doors. Plus the window display itself was breathtaking.
I finally took the plunge and entered, at which time all my senses were engaged. The instant sense was smell. Wow did it smell unbelievable. I never wanted to leave but in time I was ushered on, as I think I was taking far to long admiring them all. Hardly any of the cheeses were wrapped, they were all beautifully arranged in the sections, from hard, soft, sheep, cow, french, imported and the variations went on. I had certainly never imagined it would be this good. It was heaven.
I had immense difficulty however, as like my knowledge on french wine is lacking, my knowledge on french cheeses was also. There was the occasional cheese that we all know, brie, camembert, comte, chèvre etc, but the enormity of cheeses was intense and I knew very little french to be able to read the descriptions, or even communicate with the cheese maker for that matter. After 20 or so minutes and numerous tastings I was forced to make a decision as to which cheeses I would buy... I selected an assortment from ones that were only the size of a 50c piece (the cost similar) to larger softer cheeses and of course chèvre (goats cheese my favorite!). I so wish I could've spoken the language because in a sense I don't feel like I got the full appreciation of such a place, as it was guess work half the time, and a few cheeses I selected weren't really what I was after. None the less, dinner and breakfast that followed was amazing (they didn't last longer than that).
In search of escargot one night, I ventured out with some kiwis who I met (great people and very food orientated also). We ended up in a tiny restaurant/bar in the market area of Antibes. The word was that they served the best escargot. Sadly the night we were there they didn't have any. Typical. So we ordered most of the menu instead and tried a bit of everything. Beef skewers, scallops, duck and to my excitement beef tartare with foir gras.
Sadly, yet again I was left disappointed. It's not that any of it tasted bad, it just didn't taste great. Most of the dishes were accompanied by a fried potato hash brown or wedges- what's that about? The salads weren't dressed and the scallops lacked flavor.
Surprisingly the tartare was tasty, but it was huge and we couldn't finish it all. It was also my first time having foir gras, and I don't think I will try it again. Pointless addition I thought. All that aside the wine was great, the company was great and the people watching was good fun. The bar itself was very intimate and it was nice seeing how the bar staff and kitchen staff interacted. The older man serving us food was often in the kitchen and would also help out behind the bar. He wasn't overly attentive to us, even when we tried to communicate in our French best, but such is life.
A few days later the same friends put me up at their apartment whilst I was momentarily without a bed. In thanks I thought Id treat them to some french delicacies which in France is very easy to do. Secretively I loved shopping for these gorgeous treats, as I hadn't indulged in any as yet, due to not having much of a sweet tooth. I stopped in at a gorgeous patisserie (there were so many to choose from) and selected the prettiest cakes I've ever seen. It blew me away how cheap they were, at a mere 3.50 Euro each. Such work that must go into making each one, I wasn't able to comprehend how they make a profit. Back home we'd pay easily double that.
Packed in a cute box then wrapped up like a beautiful present, it was certainly a treat, and they got devoured very quickly!
As the days went on, I certainly came to the conclusion that for the sweet tooth and dessert connoisseur, France would be amazing... yet on the savoury front, all too often I was left disappointed. I'll stick with fromage and baguette!