CULTURE

A French cheese master’s gastronomic suggestions

It’s all about cheese these days at the Premiere, the Inter-Continental Athenaeum Hotel’s rooftop restaurant, as French cheese master, Claude Lauxerrois, takes guests on a culinary journey to December 7. «Milk is life, we cannot live without it. And all dairy products have all the vitamins you need. Cheese helps the bones and the teeth, for instance,» said the maitre to Kathimerini English Edition. It also tastes good. In France, people consume on average 24 kilos of cheese per person per year, compared to the Italians, who consume 19 kilos, but this includes cheeses used in cooking. Besides its fine qualities, cheese brings people together – what could be tastefully cozier than an evening of fondue or raclette on a cold winter night. And while no French meal is complete unless a platter of cheese makes it to the table before dessert, the choice of cheese always reflects the host. «France is the only country with the production of 365 different cheeses, one for each day of the year,» said Lauxerrois, who himself produces the Explorateur, a soft-textured white cheese that is a big hit in Asia. Lauxerrois sold his specialized shop in Coulomiers, France, three years ago to focus solely on his role as unofficial ambassador of French cheeses abroad. This year alone, Lauxerrois has gone from Burundi to Nigeria and Tahiti, while commitments in December will take him to Beirut and Kuala Lumpur, among other places. He has been unveiling the rituals of cheese sampling throughout his travels the last 17 years: It all starts from the eyes, followed by the nose, ending in the mouth – not unlike winetasting. At the Inter-Continental, diners will have more than a few choices to make: Lauxerrois will be standing next to a buffet featuring 29 cheeses of supreme quality, ranging from soft to mild and hard cheese. Besides the well-known Camembert and chevre (goat cheese), guests will be looking at rich Vacherin from the Savoie region, golden crusted Cantal on its way to maturity, as well as creamy Livarot and Roblochon, to name just a few. The culinary idea is to reach a taste crescendo, with milder cheeses followed by stronger, with interludes of fresh salad in olive oil. (The price per person, including dessert and wine is set at 45 euros.) For anyone hesitating to go the full cheese monty, Lauxerrois also suggests a cheese platter at the restaurant’s lounge bar or can propose a cheese just before dessert. Cheese will also be available at the hotel’s brand-new Zoe cafe. At the Premiere, cheese platters will be accompanied by a selection of Greek wine (white, red and rose). «Greek wine is very good,» said Lauxerrois. «It is sun-kissed and you can feel the rocky soil. It should be consumed early, not more than 3 to 4 years old.» For more information and reservations, tel 210.920.6980.