A very drunk Englishman once said to me in a restaurant in Vence, "The French have 365 cheeses with only one flavour; the British have only one cheese with 365 flavours."
It would be easy to dispute the accuracy of this statement, but I have to admit that I can see a tiny grain of truth in it. I've always thought that British cheese is underrated in France in the same way that Canada is underrated in the United States: few people give much thought to its existence.
Finally a Paris fromager has decided to change that. I discovered Hugues Foucher the other day while strolling down rue Mouffetard, marvelling as always at the high concentration of cheese shops in this market street. It turns out that only one of these has its own cellars for aging cheese on the premises, and that one is Foucher.
When I saw the Stilton, Shropshire and 24-month-old cheddar on display in a prime spot near the entrance, I stopped in my tracks. This shop used to be a branch of Quatrehomme, and I hadn't noticed until now that it had changed hands. Foucher explained to that he became a fromager entirely by accident when his uncle, Alain Quatrehomme, asked him if he would take over these premises.
"Now it has become a passion," he said, showing me his glassed-in cellar at the back where he lovingly turns, prods and squeezes the cheeses until they have ripened to perfection. He sells only cheeses made from summer milk, meaning that at this time of year he stocks rare 30-month-old Comté and oozy Vacherin from near the Swiss border.
Unusually, Hugues operates this shop just about single-handedly, which might be what gives him the freedom to do exactly what he wants. When I asked him about the French reaction to his British cheeses, which he orders from Neal's Yard Dairy in London, he said the Parisians did take some convincing at first. "Not any more, though," he laughed.
I could understand why when I tasted the Stilton-like Shropshire, which is orange veined with blue, and the nutty, creamy-yellow cheddar. These are cheeses that could stand up to the likes of an aged Comté or a roquefort artisanal. The French might be proudly chauvinistic, but their tastebuds don't lie - which is why there was a steady stream of customers as Foucher and I chatted.
It was a pleasure to meet a Paris shopkeeper who loves what he does and is not afraid to challenge French tastes. I'll be finding many excuses to visit Hugues again.
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My husband and I also discovered this lovely cheese shop while walking up rue Mouffetard. For non-Parisians cheese shops can be slightly overwhelming. Foucher is manageable and has an incredible selection of goat cheese - I couldn't help but try at least one every time I passed this shop. I didn't realize that the owner was the person who quietly helped me and graciously communicated with me in French despite my minimal ability in the language. Thanks for this post - I hope that encourages more people to try this wonderful shop.
we went to Fromagerie Foucher last year and loved his cheese. Now we come back to Paris and find his shop taken over by a mediocre franchise. Do you know what happened to Mr. Foucher? Has he opened a shop in other part of Paris? We know there are other shops but his holds a special place in our hearts and palates!
Bryan, I have been unable to track down Hugues Foucher, it's a shame! You would probably enjoy Fromagerie Quatrehomme in the 6th, it's one of my favorites.
At long last I can tell you how we both got on in Paris as per your itinerary. Well, you are superb and we followed it to the letter and it went perfectly - thank you!
Velly restaurant was superb and the food magnificent, varied and market fresh together with being value for money. Fantastic location which we made use of by walking up to the Sacré Coeur that evening after supper. What we loved was to see the fishmongers, boulangerie etc all still open well after 8pm. The French take such pride in their food, even the smallest item.
The Grande Epicerie blew my mind and Fauchon and we had the most wonderful lunch at the Café Du Marché.
I could go on and on but you know what you are talking about and because of you we achieved everything we had hoped for and more.
Most of all we had been to Paris before but stayed around the Champs Elysées and were disillusioned to say the least. This time we saw the real Paris and because of you will return very soon. I'll be in touch....
Thank you again so very much"
Sally Proctor, London, England