I've been following the Facebook updates for Culinary Getaways, and Sherry Page, travel and foodie extraordinaire, is yet on another exciting Culinary Getaway, this time a week in Paris and another week in Provence.
Sherry had shared pictures of their chocolate tour in Paris and I've been salivating in envy seeing the group's experiences of attending macaron class, eating gorgeous buttery pastries and enjoying exquisite dinners. Oh, if I had the time to join them!
Seeing the pictures, I'm reminded of our visit to Carpentras, a small village in the South of France. I have fondly nicknamed this place, "the village with the red shutters," because gorgeous Provençal crimson shutters adorn just about every window of the old cement buildings in town.
Our group headed to La Fromagerie du Comtat, a splendid cheese shop run by one of the most charming and enchanting personalities that I encountered on the trip, Claudine Vigier.
Within Provence, Claudine is one of the most talented fromager affineurs or cheese agers in the region, winning several accolades and international awards for several of the cheeses she develops. In fact, Claudine has even been invited by the Vermont Cheese Council to share her techniques of developing cheeses. She was recently named Milliere Fromager de France, in a contest organized by the French government. But you would never know such accomplishments if you met Claudine in person. Her sweet, down-to-earth and modest personality would never allow for such boasting, and so I shall do it for her in this post.
Claudine grew up in the countryside and nostalgically recounts her time spent bringing fresh milk from the pastures to her home when she was as young as seven. She describes it as an enlightening, nurturing and spiritual experience. The collection of various milk pails, both antique and new, all with charming character are evidence of her inspiration to become a cheese ager.
A scan across the shop will show cheeses of all kinds, most all unpasteurized, deep, rich and nuanced in flavor, and oh-so-delicious!
Underneath the shop is Claundine's cave, where a majority (60%) of the cheeses are brought in very young from local producers and are aged and cared for by Claudine. Depending on the cheeses, she does everything from massaging cheese wheels to dipping them in various wines, imparting a touch that takes cheeses in the rough to levels of greatness. I asked Claudine that how she decides how to treat each cheese. She answered simply, "I respect the cheeses." I have to believe that Claudine has an innate talent for understanding and an exemplary way of developing each cheese to its fullest potential.
One of the notable cheeses Claudine developed is a rich young soft cheese that is dipped in a sweet muscat wine, Beaume de Venise. This refined cheese exhibits a depth of creaminess with overt hints of drunken sweetness from the Beaume de Venise, and a wonderful wholesome nuttiness that makes it great to pair with any desserts.
In addition to the cheeses, Claudine designed a gorgeous cheese knife with an olive wood handle, which is serrated on one side and made by Forge de Laguiole, an acclaimed knife maker. The design of this unique cheese knife was inspired by a bridge she encountered in the center of France, which she calls futuristic, pure and simple. I brought one back for my husband and this remains one of the more special souvenirs from Truffle Week.
Before we left La Fromagerie du Comtat, Sherry imparted a gift to Claudine, a Culinary Getaways apron personalized with her name. As I was taking pictures of her, I told Claudine of the ease of which it was to photograph her, she's just so photogenic. Claudine responded, "It's because you are taking pictures of my soul." Even translated, the French make everything sound so enchanting.
La Fromagerie du Comtat is located at 23 place de la Mairie 84200 – CARPENTRAS. Tél : 04 90 60 00 17
If you would like to see some the amazing experiences on some of these Culinary Getaways tours, please visit its Facebook page. Sherry integrates great recipes, advice on picking farm fresh produce, methods of preparation and offers insightful interviews with a broad range of culinary figures. I hope you can visit!
Chez Bruno, The Ultimate Truffle Experience
Truffle Hunting in Provence
Truffle Lunch Jardin du Quai
French Cooking Class in Avignon
First of Many Truffle Dinners