Jan 7, 2014

Where to Buy Outside of France: Saint-Marcellin


Saint-Marcellin is a small cheese from southeastern France, in the Rhone-Alpes. It's a small disk of a cheese that is usually made with cow's milk, but it can be made with goat's milk as it was originally made. It can be raw or pasteurized, and either fermier, artisanal, or industrial. It can range from an affinage of 2-6 weeks, which makes this a cheese that ranges from a soft, fresh bright white cheese to one that is dry, hard, and pungent -- and, of course, everything in between. It's hard to image with all these choices that it's all just one official cheese.


Saint-Marcellin looks like a brain, and it is a very smart cheese to buy. It's creamy, very mild, and almost impossible to hate. The texture is creamy more in the sense of a goat cheese (which makes sense since it originally was a goat cheese) or cream cheese (for an American reference point), and not in the sense of a runny Camembert or Brie. So even the cow version combines the lovely texture of a goat's cheese with the mild, sweet, buttery flavor of a cow's cheese. The crust is soft and easy to eat, too.

THE STORY: The Best Places to Buy French Cheese Outside of France

I realize you don't all live in France. And with that in mind, I've tried to find some of the best French shops in the US (and a few other countries where I can see a lot of readers live) -- many of which have online stores and will ship cheese right to your door. But you, my readers, need to help each other out. If you know of a great cheese store that stocks imports from France located near you, help your fellow cheese-lovers by adding it to the comments (or, if you're one of those people who hates commenting publicly, just e-mail it to me, and I'll add it on, which will probably make this a slowly evolving post).

You still won't be able to find every cheese I talk about, especially because the US won't allow young cheeses to be imported (and yes, of course that will be a future posting), and because the average nothing-special small-town cheese shop here in France offers 10x more French cheese than the most incredible cheese shop you've seen in your own non-France home country. But you'll be able to try some of the more classic and/or more aged French cheeses -- or even use this as a reference point to talk with a smart cheesemonger and find local substitutes.

Obviously, it's harder to find good cheese in some countries than others. My poor sister-in-law wrote to me from New Delhi asking how to make two cheese platters out of Camembert and Brie (in a can) along with Indian-made Gouda, Swiss, White Cheddar and fresh Mozzarella balls (small grape size). So I guess some of the readers, and for some of the cheeses, you'll just have to wait till your next trip to France.

Because I'm biased, I'm starting with my two favorite local San Francisco shops. And, just to be clear, I'm not including excellent cheese shops like Cowgirl Creamery, because I'm only focusing on cheese shops that really specialize in French imports, as opposed to local-made cheesy goodness. Also don't forget that both Trader Joe's and especially Whole Foods do a decent job in their cheese department:

San Francisco:

Say Cheese
24th Street Cheese

New York City (many come from this great list at the Gothamist):

Fairway Market
Stinky Brooklyn which has eight French cheeses (currently), for example:
     Brebirousse d'Argental, Brie de Nangis, Bucherondin, Fourme D'Ambert, Morbier,
     Tomme Crayeuse, Chabrin, Ossau Iraty
Artisanal Bistro
Bedford Cheese Shop
Murray's Cheese


Formaggio Kitchen award winning, huge selection
Boston Cheese Cellar
Bees Knees Supply
American Provisions

Los Angeles:

The Cheese Store of Silverlake
Andrew's Cheese Shop
The Cheese Store of Beverly Hills

Santa Barbara:

C'est Cheese -- the store that took the name I wanted. Blast them! But that's OK, because I'll get cheese from them when I'm back in the US.

Washington DC:

Righteous Cheese

Minneapolis-St. Paul

Surdyk's -- the most impressive selection of French cheeses (well over 50) that's conveniently listed online. Many of these are cheese I have covered, including Brin d'Amour, Comté, Munster (which they mis-spelled Muenster, and which we know is a faux ami), Morbier, and Port Salut, and many others that I will cover.
France 44 Cheese Shop -- ironically, not named after the country, but rather the address on the avenue (France Ave) on which it happens to be located. Great pun for a gourmet import food store!

Chicago (from helpful list at the Chicagoist and from my girls' French former babysitter):

Pastoral Artisan


Paris Grocery

London (several from London Time Out):

Frenchclick (online site for all of the UK)
La Fromagerie
Paxton & Whitfield


Matthew's Cheese Cellar
Sheridan's Cheesemongers


Saint-Marcellin is a cheese that you will be able to find fairly easily at many of these shops, even in the US. And since it varies so wildly even within France, you'll be please to know that practically no matter what you end up with, it will taste authentic. I buy a mass-produced industrial version for myself, so that I figure I'm tasting just about what people outside of France will experience. Mine is raw cow's milk.


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