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Cheese before dinner in France?


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I was going to PM Pti on this query but since my threads generate so little passion, I thought of "going public" with it.

In the US of A, we think nothing of serving goat cheese, Monterey Jack, Brie, etc before dinner and in Italy I've had very high grade Parmegiano and in Greece, feta, with cocktails. But I cannot recall once ever having had cheese in France before a meal, except served by Americans at New Year's Eve, etc.

Tomorrow night I'm hosting a VIP eGullet veteran and her husband for an apero and as I was running through my head what to purchase, my thoughts turned to cheese. Back story: this kind lady hosted me and a passel of my French friends/colleagues for an incredible "real Canadian meal" of peameal bacon sandwiches, fiddleheads, wonderful butter tarts (from my childhood), Niagara and other red wines, fruit, salad and both Quebec and Ontario cheese, and I owe her one.

Ever done?

If so, what?

John Talbott

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Well, there's always Apericubes. Not that I'm actually endorsing serving these, of course.

Thank you for the nudge Therese, now that I think about it, as 18 year olds bicycling down the Loire, we (French and Americans) did eat La Vache Qui Rit before meals.

John Talbott

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With the exception of gougere type things, I haven't served cheese before a meal for a long time. There are so many other options and choices that I wonder why you wouldn't want to run with some of them.

Are you trying to reciprocate in a typically American way or one with a French accent?

(The other night our guests were very enthusiastic about simple apple slices topped with foie gras. Couldn't have been simpler, was light yet festive. Considering the cost of a good cheese, it was actually inexpensive to boot.)

eGullet member #80.

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Apéricubes are great!

Some flavors are better than others: tomato, ham, onion... They're the quintessential popular French apéritif snack (with the boring apéritif crackers). The advantage is that they're small and do not spoil your appetite.

Apart from that, cheese before meals is not a regular habit in France (but diced Holland cheeses or comté, gruyère, etc., on cocktail sticks do exist, there is no rule there, it's just that it's not very common).

A little-known fact: cheese has not always been the pre-dessert course in France; before the end of the 17th century it was the final course, and fruit (like pear) was eaten before it to refresh the palate. Hence the expression "entre la poire et le fromage" which means "sometime before the end of a meal".

Edited by Ptipois (log)
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With the exception of gougere type things, I haven't served cheese before a meal for a long time.  There are so many other options and choices that I wonder why you wouldn't want to run with some of them. 

Oh I intend to (Bellotta-Bellotta is French isn't it? Just kidding). But as I was thinking back to what she served us, I realized that the local cheeses were something I had not expected.

John Talbott

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Well, there's always Apericubes. Not that I'm actually endorsing serving these, of course.

Well, after being stood up by my first invitees, I had two of my French/Romanian neighbors over tonight and I served and ate Apercubes for the first time. As I said before, I'd been introduced to La Vache Qui Rit some 54 years ago but this fusion of cheese and herbs/olives, etc was approached by me with extreme caution; they scarfed it up; as indeed I did after one. As we were discussing what was most important event today (D-Day vs the disintegration of the Soviet Empire) we feasted on this truly great French apero treat.

John Talbott

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I'm so sorry you were stood up John. I was looking forward to hearing about the french meal. I thought of you when I made fiddleheads again last week, hope all is well. What did you end up planning on besides apericubes?

Barbara Laidlaw aka "Jake"

Good friends help you move, real friends help you move bodies.

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I'm really surprised you well-versed, highly respected gastronomes like those. I have had them on two different occasions and look forward to not having them again...

But I'm not plugged in (branché) and I don't consider me or my buddies "highly respected gastronomes ". We simply eat, therefore we are.
I'm so sorry you were stood up John. I was looking forward to hearing about the french meal. I thought of you when I made fiddleheads again last week, hope all is well. What did you end up planning on besides apericubes?
Thanks Jake, I was hoping to reciprocate for those great fiddleheads, peameal bacon sandwiches, butter tarts, Niagara and other red wines, fruit and both Quebec and Ontario cheeses. To answer your question, I had some Champagne, Chat. de la Chaise white, Buzet red, country and foie gras terrines, spicy radishes and Amurican peanuts. Believe me, nothing went to waste.

John Talbott

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I'm really surprised you well-versed, highly respected gastronomes like those. I have had them on two different occasions and look forward to not having them again...

But I'm not plugged in (branché) and I don't consider me or my buddies "highly respected gastronomes ". We simply eat, therefore we are.

Good to hear it! I didn't mean to imply you were hip (though you do live in the north of Paris... :) ); I was referring to you and to P'tipois here, not actually to you and your guests at home. You have now both sung the praises of Apéricubes, which I find (I'm trying to be tactful) not a good way to fill up a little while having predinner drinks.

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Good to hear it! I didn't mean to imply you were hip (though you do live in the north of Paris... :) ); I was referring to you and to P'tipois here, not actually to you and your guests at home. You have now both sung the praises of Apéricubes, which I find (I'm trying to be tactful) not a good way to fill up a little while having predinner drinks.

I am nonplussed. Have you tried all the flavors?

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Have you tried all the flavors?
I know your comment was directed to Sharon but I cannot resist.
As I said before, I'd been introduced to La Vache Qui Rit some 54 years ago but this fusion of cheese and herbs/olives, etc was approached by me with extreme caution;

But I also had the oignon fondant, chevre and whatever else is in the Provence selection. Call me Goute d'Or Trash, bobo, plebian, but I found it not bad. Now the livarot after dinner from Quatrehomme was quite special, but we're talking apples and oranges here.

John Talbott

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Don't get me wrong - I love trashy foods too (Boursin anyone? or curry flavored potato chips from Franprix?), as well as a good maroilles from Androuet.

But I say yuck to Apéricubes (eaten at my boyfriend's parents' home in Laval, Mayenne and at with a bunch of 30-somethings at a friend's weekend home in Villers-sur-Mer, Normandy - in both cases scarfed down by others present).

Not sure if I've tried all the flavors, but not sure it's worth going back to check...

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Don't get me wrong - I love trashy foods too (Boursin anyone? or curry flavored potato chips from Franprix?), as well as a good maroilles from Androuet.

But I say yuck to Apéricubes (eaten at my boyfriend's parents' home in Laval, Mayenne and at with a bunch of 30-somethings at a friend's weekend home in Villers-sur-Mer, Normandy - in both cases scarfed down by others present).

Not sure if I've tried all the flavors, but not sure it's worth going back to check...

Boursin — trashy?

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Call me Goute d'Or Trash, bobo, plebian, but I found it not bad.  Now the livarot after dinner from Quatrehomme was quite special, but we're talking apples and oranges here.

Apéricubes are neither Goutte-d'Or trash, bobo, or Montmartre punk, or Montparnasse hobo; they are possibly plebeian (and why not), and they're nothing to be ashamed about and need no justification. They're one of the great inventions of French industrial food ("industrial" not meaning "low quality").

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  • 1 month later...

So there we were at our table d'hote in the heart of Bresse, one that prides itself on serving local wine and using local ingredients and what are we served with drinks? Apericubes. That's right, Apericubes. But don't flinch. The Laughing Cow factory was only some 20-30km away in Lons. Local and traditional are in the eyes of the beholder.

Seriously, we found or heard about Apericubes everywhere: at the chambre d'hote, from two of our favorite deskmen in Paris, from French friends. Those addictive cubes are ubiquitous. My husband even hauled home an assortment! :unsure: (Me? I like poivre verte best! :wub: )

eGullet member #80.

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I serve a cheese before with apertifs or wine but to my local friends who do not travel to France. When my French friends visit, I serve it after the salad.

Myself, I love chese especially chevre and manage to try to fit it in all meals, omelets at breakfast, sandwiches. salades, Goats are my folks :laugh::wub:

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly....MFK Fisher

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