I’ve been on a quest the past couple of weeks to find gruyere. Why? I wanted to make gougéres (deliciously tasty little souffle balls). Sure, I could use another cheese, but I figured I’m in France and gruyere is French. Should be easy to find.
With that in mind, I set out for the fromageries in Victor Hugo market. There are probably 4 cheese stalls (maybe 5) in the whole place, each with different offerings. I’m rather partial to the seemingly international stall as they have Cashel Blue (from Ireland – yum), Stilton Blue (from England), Truffle cheese (can’t remember the name, but it’s from Italy and amazing), and a ton of French cheeses I’d never heard of before mixed in with loads of chevres and roqueforts (which I do LOVE).
Then there’s the first fromagerie we tried where we requested un quart of some sort of cheese and the monger looked at us like we were insane. Unlike most of the folks in the market who find our lack of French somewhat charming (or we hope), this lady didn’t know any English and just wanted us to hurry up with our order. I tend to avoid that stall when I’m in there.
There’s also a place called Betty’s where Jim often picks up wine for Sunday dinner (since no other place is open on Sunday). I walked over there yesterday, as Jim had mentioned how friendly and helpful they were. I approached the display case and was greeted, “Bonjour” and I responded, “Bonjour madam!” (I had just read it’s quite important to add the madam or monsieur to the greeting, so I’ve been trying to add it in…and I’ve found I am then greeted with a rather hearty smile [though that might’ve happened anyway]). I began studying the case looking for gruyere. I wondered, could it be called something else. I stared off for a bit and then said, no, it’s French. Why would they call it something else. I then looked at the cheese monger, who was watching me quizzically. I wanted desperately to tell her I was looking for gruyere cheese, but I couldn’t make my lips move. I wanted so badly to know how to say it in French. I wanted her to recommend something else. But, nothing came out. Instead, I bid her goodbye, “Au revoir, madam!” and walked to the next cheese stall. Rinse and repeat. I left Victor Hugo without any cheese.
Once I got home, I googled “gruyere substitute.” You know what it returned? Comté. It returned Comté. Do you know what they have gigantic hunks of at EVERY cheese stall in Victor Hugo and all the grocery stores? You guessed it – Comté. I’ve been painfully searching for gruyere, the French cheese for my gougéres, when gruyere is actually Swiss and Comté is a French alternative (though from what I read it’s quite a fancy cheese with all sorts of naming rights like champagne has as there are all sorts of varietals – fascinating stuff. Read more here).
That French class cannot come fast enough. I just want to be able to walk into the market and have a conversation about cheese. I want to tell them what I’m going to eat (and drink) and have them recommend some tasty options. I want to describe the sorts of cheese I like and be introduced to something brand new.
Maybe what I need to find is a cheese/wine bar. Something where I can get a little taste of everything and learn the names of the cheeses so my eyes don’t glaze over when I’m looking at the totally foreign cases in front of me. I should just approach cheese like I did beer in Philadelphia. Next task, find my cheese/wine version of Eulogy. Where there’s a will there’s a way, right? I wonder if I can do that in the afternoons…I do like a good project.
In the meantime I did make the gougéres (pictured). They are just as amazing as the first time I made them (with gruyere) back in 2007. If you’d like to make them, too, here’s Molly Wizenberg’s recipe that was published in Bon Appetit many moons ago. Enjoy!