Monday, May 15, 2006

The Point of À Point

So it's impossible to get a good cup of coffee in Paris, but there is one thing the French still do perfectly—serve cheese when it's perfectly ready. À point, they call it.
Last week, for instance, I arrived in Paris, jet lagged. By 7:00 pm, I could hardly keep my eyes open so I ventured no further than my hotel's block and discovered Chez Fernand, a simple place that looked like it had some integrity. While waiting to be seated, I was encouraged to see a very handsome camembert that really spoke to me. My dinner done, I ordered it, and before she served it, my waitress proclaimed proudly that the cheese was perfectly À Point. It was almost as if she were introducing someone on stage.
The wheel arrived, the sides firm, center sunken just right, and when I sliced a wedge out of it, it did not ooze too quickly. It was a young camembert, not aged long but aged perfectly. (Usually camembert is either aged longer, with a hint more yellow and a bit more bite, or younger, which is milky in color and much fresher tasting.) This one was perfect, so I took its photo (see below).

Anyway, you'll want to know what I drank with the cheese—Chapoutier's Croze Hermitage, the perfect compliment and a good value at 16 euros. The next night at one of my favorite places, La Fontaine de Mars, they served my camembert already cut (see below for a photo), which was not chic, but I drank a brouilly, one of their house wines and it was fantastic. I usually don't order brouilly but now I will when I serve camembert at home.

Raw milk camembert is often available at Murray's Cheese, 254 Bleecker St., NYC. 212.243.3289.

Chez Fernand, 9 rue Christine (6th arrondissment), Paris.

La Fontaine de Mars, 129 rue saint-Dominique, Paris.


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