Say Cheese! The Cheeses of Europe tour, a series of successful pop-up café cheese tastings that have been a hit in San Francisco, Chicago, Seattle, Miami, Austin and New York, is finally coming to Los Angeles.
On Friday, January 16 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. all you fromage-o-philes will have the chance to sample fifteen different types of French cheeses alfresco at the south end of the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica. And yes, this event is free.
Samples will include Fromager d’affinois, Comté, Petit Pont l’Eveque, brie, 12-month Mimolette and everything from funky blues to churned butter, all available for purchase at special sale prices. (You can also look up a list of retailers that sell the cheese at the Cheeses of Europe website.)
If cheeses are as intimidating to you as a wine store that has exclusively French wines, then here’s a little cheat sheet for some of the cheese you’ll have the chance to taste this week:
Fromager d’affinois: A double-cream soft cheese made from cows milk. Basically, in style, it’s just like double cream Brie with a soft bloomy rind on the outside (that’s the edible white exterior) and a creamy paste that’s rich, buttery and spreadable when at room temperature. If pairing with wine, consider a California chardonnay to bring out the true buttery flavor.
Comté: Sometimes called Gruyére de Comté, is made from cow’s milk in the Franche Comté region of France. The dusty brown colored rind is not edible, and the paste is generally of a semi-firm consistency. It’s usually a medium flavor – not too powerful or stinky – but it can have a touch of a pungent nuttiness to those sensitive to aroma. If pairing with a wine, consider an earthy blend like a Cote du Rhone, or a bright pinot gris.
Petit Pont l’Eveque: A creamy cow’s milk cheese from Normandy with an edible washed rind, Petit Pont l’Eveque is a soft and very rich with a full-bodied flavor sometimes inching into the stinkier side of things, depending on the ripeness of the cheese. If pairing with wine, consider something a bit on the robust side, like a younger nebbiolo or Rioja Gran Reserva, or even an aged Burgundy.
Mimolette: The cheese that was nearly banned, Mimolette is known for its bright orange paste and mild flavor – oh, and the mites that live in the rind. Yes, you read that right — cheese mites. Cheese mites are microscopic little critters what live on the surface of cheeses and eat the molds that grow there. While for some cheeses these mites are pests that are wiped form the cheese rind, for the melon shaped Mimolette, they’re encouraged. And in fact, they’re why the cheeses is so delicious. Mild and semi-firm, this cheese, unlike orange cheddar or American cheese, is naturally orange. Nutty and a almost a little sweet, this is the perfect cheese to have on any cheese tray. When pairing with wine, consider any light bodied wine like a pinot grigio, or even a delicate pinot noir. But truth be told, beer is probably the best thing to wash this one down.
Cheeses of Europe's free tasting event is on Friday, January 16, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the south end of the 3rd Street Promenade, in Santa Monica. For more information, visit thecheesesofeurope.com.
[Editor's note: a previous version of this story said that you could order the cheeses directly through the Cheeses of Europe website. You can only view a list of retailers that sell the cheese on the website. We apologize for the error.]
Matt Miller is a freelance writer and wine specialist with certifications from SWE, CMS, WSET. He tweets at @lawinewriter Want more Squid Ink? Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook.