The French take cheese seriously and organize many festivals in its honour throughout the country. The International Cheese and Wine Fair that takes place every March in the small town of Coulommiers, an hour drive from Paris, is one the most interesting. The event attracts over 60,000 visitors who come to Coulommiers to sample some of the best cheeses from the area sold by 350 farmers and artisan producers.
Coulommiers cheese is similar to the more famous French classic Brie that is also made in the area. Produced with raw cow’s milk, Coulommiers cheese is matured for 4-8 weeks and has a rich nutty flavour with creamy supple texture. When it is made with pasteurized using industrial method, its taste is more simple and generic, so it is always better to try artisan varieties.
Coulommiers is abuzz during the International Cheese and Wine Fair. You can go to local product tastings, visit a big exhibition of livestock, see various competitions such brie contest or the farm fresh dairy produce contest. One of the most popular events is where the visitors have to guess how much the cow Marguerite weighs, which is open to the public. Contestants submit their guesses and the closest guess wins a prize.
The historic town itself is a delightful little gem with medieval buildings, charming cobbled streets decorated with bright flowerpots and romantic tiny cafes. In the Parc des Capucins, you can see ruins of once spectacular château de Gonzagues et de Clèves. The Capucins Museum of Coulommiers tells the town’s history and has a fascinating collection of artefacts from the past. At the top of the town, stands the majestic 12th-century Commandery of the Knights Templar, one of the best preserved ones of the Ile-de-France region, which takes visitors through the history of the soldier monks.
Photos via Flickr by: Frédéric Bisson, Daniel Marinaud.