by Elisabeth Ryan
While we focus on Irish produce for the month of March in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, let’s not forget our french and international friends and their amazing cheeses.
Seamus Sheridan and I were lucky enough to get the chance to zip away to Salon du Fromage in Paris the last week in February – ah Paris in the springtime! Aside from all the lovely cheeses and other cheese related exploits, the highlight of my trip was; as always when visiting Paris, the simple pleasure of drinking Coffee on the pavement outside the simplest most local and admittedly grottiest looking Café I could find (they always have the best coffee).
Salon du Fromage is an annual trade show for cheese, and though primarily French cheese is on show, lots of our other international friends were there. Bord Bia had its first ever stand in association with a number of Irish cheesemakers; Cashel Blue, Little Milk Company, Cooleeney and Cahills. Other cheeses such as Carrigaline,Durrus, Ardrahan, St. Tola and Corleggy were also on Display along with our very own crackers and chutney! We also had the honour of both a visit to the show from the Irish Ambassador to Paris Rory Montgomery, and then the further excitement of attending a reception in the – it must be said, extraordinarily fancy – ambassador’s residence on the D4 esque Avenue Foch! It was all gilded mirrors and constantly refilled glasses and erm, well; cocktail sausages – yes really!
I got the chance to sneak away from the show one of the days to visit a french cheesemonger customer of ours in North East Paris; Fromagerie Beaufils. I proudly navigated 3 metro changes to get there, and it was worth it to see our crackers and chutney gracing their shelves, as well as a specially painted blackboard featuring Chutney Irlandaise. Christophe and Emmanuel there looked after me admirably, and I got the chance to see their maturing rooms, and came away with a mutitude of recommendations of artisan cheeses for us to source. Check out their website, and scroll down to see our featured products!
Seamus and I had the pleasure of wearing two hats for the duration of the show, as we attended both to meet with some of our existing export clients and of course to find some new ones, as well as to met up with many of our current suppliers and with the brief of sourcing some new cheeses!
As well as many contacts made and hopefully sales leads which will come to fruition in the fullness of time, we have already acquired a new Belgian cheesemonger customer (Kaasmeester Callebaut) who have already received their first order as well as a French distributor for our chutney and crackers who will be receiving their first order in the next couple of weeks. I also had the pleasure of catching up with our UK distributors of our crackers; Neal’s Yard as well as the inimitable Will Stud from Calendar Cheese in Australia and Jason Gale the new MD – I feel an Australian business trip coming (Kevin and Seamus Sheridan – are you reading this, pleease can I go? !!!)
A real pleasure of the show for us and what has left me feeling so enthused was the chance to meet up with the producers whose cheese we sell. All the usual suspects were there, from our friend Giorgio Cravero, our Parmigianno affineur, a man with the sunniest personality that makes one happy immediately on being in his presence to the somewhat stern and very French Monsieur Goux from Marcel Petit Comté! We met with Luc Dongé our Brie de Meaux producer and made some adjustments to the way our wheels of brie will be selected.
I shall end upon a little story, indicative of the type of meetings had with all of our producers. At the show i arrangd to meet with Pascal Jacquin, aided by Sarah Furno from Cashel Blue as translator, and learned a little story about St. Maure de Tourain (a Loire valley, ash rinded mini goat log which we sell) Mr. Jacquin incidentally also has a special connection to Ireland, as he spends several months of each year in his house in Kenmare! I’ve always been interested in the ettiquette of the straw in the centre of St. Maure – so I asked him how they deal with it when cutting, and he told me as follows;
“First”, and here a finger was waggled strongly, to emphasis the point,”you must never cut in to the skinny end, always open at the fat end, it is impolite otherwise”
“Second”, and a dramatic demo of his words ensued, “we remove the straw with a flourish when opening the cheese” he then pointed out us that each straw has the name of the Apellation and the producer branded on it as is required by the AOC, this being the reason for such dramatic flourishing as the straw is then offered as proof to the consumer that the cheese truly is a Sainte Maure de Touraine.
As a result of our trip, we hope to also bring you some new and exciting cheeses in the near future.
A success all round – Vive la Difference!