When chef, author, and television personality Julia Child wished American viewers “bon appétit” at the close of her TV shows, she not only stoked an appetite for her delicious dishes but also for all things French and edible. Her debut cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and her first TV program in 1963 sparked an overall appreciation of French food with the country’s exquisite wine and cheeses leading the way.Nearly 50 years later, our appetite for these culinary jewels is even greater as our education and interest in French artisanal products has grown, as has their availability. At Whole Foods Market, we’re thrilled to be able to offer an early taste of the 2009 Bordeaux vintage that wine experts suggest will be the best in more than 30 years. And, as the global cheese buyer, I am delighted to share with you a selection of the best traditionally produced French cheeses that are perfect pairings for these amazing wines.What makes French cheeses so special? For starters, the French are so committed to their own cheese heritage, it was the first country to create an Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) certification, dictating a rigorous set of standards that guarantee the cheeses are made with specific attributes and methods of their original geographic region, thus preserving traditional and authentic production.
For a country that is smaller than the state of Texas, France produces more than 450 styles of cheeses with 56 of those carrying the AOC designation. We’re proud to support this artisanal effort and are now one of the largest retailers for French cheeses, offering more than 50 styles of French cheeses and one of the most exotic selections.For many years, we’ve nurtured our relationships with French cheesemakers, so much so that we have exclusive partnerships with renowned affineurs, experts who specialize in caretaking the ripening and maturing process of cheeses. One of these valued exclusive partnerships is with one of France’s most renowned affineurs, Hervé Mons, who’s Hervé Mons Lavort and Hervé Mons Camembert are among our featured French cheeses.
Each year, I journey to France to visit production facilities, talk with cheesemakers and producers, and work to develop valuable partnerships to help sustain small producers around the country. In 2006, I was inducted into the distinguished Guilde des Fromagers de Saint-Uguzon, the most celebrated association of cheesemongers and specialists in France. One of the very few Americans inducted into the prestigious guild of cheese trade professionals, this last year I was elevated to the level “Ambassadeur” – the highest and most recognized level of the Guilde awarded to a non-French cheese professional, and the only woman who has achieved this level of the esteemed French cheese organization.
So why does this matter? Well, just taste some of these amazing French cheeses and I think you’ll find out why we work so hard to bring you the best in these small-production cheeses. So go ahead and pour a glass of one of the hand-selected Bordeaux wines from small, family-owned properties that are available for a limited-time-only (all under $20). Then enjoy one or all of these outstanding French cheeses with a crusty baguette. Get ready to discover a few of the reasons that Julia Child is credited with sparking a French revolution.Bon appétit!