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|Jean-Francois at the Counter|
Mr. Antony is known for supplying only very well-rated French restaurants with his wares, including a world-famous four-year old Comté. He limits his clientele to a few select chefs, including Alain Ducasse, Pierre Gagnaire, Alain Passard and Alain Senderens. The walls of his humble little shop are lined with framed letters of thanks from numerous dignitaries, including President Sarkozy and his wife, Carla, and documentation of numerous honors he's received during his three decades in this line of work. There is a rumor that the town of Vieux Ferrette (population 561) built a landing strip just so various Middle Eastern sheiks could fly in to buy their elevated cheeses, and then fly home. I don't doubt the story.
Among other things, we bought an excellent, almost caramely aged Mimolette with a slight corona (not pictured). We also purchased: (1) a downy rind Camembert made from raw, unfiltered cow's milk, shown in the upper left of the photo; (2) a sharp unpasteurized sheep's milk Valencay, fairly crumbly and probably still fairly young; (3) a nutty, raw milk Reblochon with a uniform moldy rind; (4) a stinky, very runny and highly enjoyable Epoisse; (5) what I think was a Saint Nectaire; (6) a Maroilles; and (7) a well ripened, assertive Munster.
All of these cheeses, except the Mimolette, were made from raw milk and about a million times more flavorful than cheeses sold by the same name in the United States. Part of the difference is attributable to the fact federal law in the U.S. prohibits raw milk cheeses younger than 60 days from being offered for sale. (These restrictions may become even more stringent: The Food and Drug Administration is currently reviewing guidelines for raw milk cheeses and some fear it may ban raw milk cheeses altogether.) Many cheese lovers believe that unpasteurized cheeses better express the terroir; Mr. Antony has famously compared pasteurizing cheese to castration. It would be a real shame if ordinary Americans never have a chance to experience these sorts of delights. I am certain that anyone who has tried an Antony-aged cheese would never voluntarily eat a Kraft cheese product, ever again.
Final note: If you can't take any cheese with you (i.e. because of irksome import restrictions into your home country), note that the fromagerie has a tasting room, where you can reserve a spot at a six course cérémonie de fromages with Mr. Antony on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.