Let me count the ways I love thee, Cantal. I remember my first bite of you in the early 1980’s at Le Ambassade restaurant in
. You were in their regional specialty from the Paris district called aligot, a luscious blend of potato & cheese. Let’s just say it was love at first bite. I have since rendezvoused with you at several of Auvergne ’s Michelin star restaurants…you were on their cheese carts. Now I am in the village in which you are born…and I feel you close to my heart. France
While the above love letter may be a little crazy, it’s true…I am crazy in love with Cantal cheese, and to prove it, I’ve just driven several hours on hair-pin roads over mountains that were once volcanoes to get to this fairly remote part of central
. I am in the France Auvergne, in the town of , the epicenter for the region’s famous cheese. Salers
I’m here to experience the birthing place of Cantal. One of the oldest cheeses in
, Cantal is made from cow’s milk. Even the cows are special…they are a special breed by the name of Salers, named after the town in which they were originally bred. The cheese from their milk has a fat content of a whopping 45%, but because of its richness, a little goes a long way. France
In many ways, time has stood still in the
(after driving here, I can understand why). The land of Cantal village of Salers was awarded the prestigious honor as one of the “most beautiful villages of .” Now I understand why. Many of its medieval streets are narrow cobble-stoned lanes...thankfully, too small for cars. Vistas from the village are pure eye candy---bucolic picture-postcard views of green-carpeted mountains dotted as far as the eye can see with Salers cows against a crystal-clear blue sky (there's no pollution within hundreds of kilometers). France
But, Cantal is not the only cheese for which the region is famous.
Auvergne produces the largest number of "PDO" cheeses ("Protected Designation of Origin") of any other area in . (In case you haven’t been to France , PDO guarantees character and high quality of cheese.) Only 38 cheeses among the hundreds in France France are granted this status, and 5 of these are from the . Auvergne
Like any lover, I’m not going to reveal the details of my affair today with Cantal. Suffice to say, it was worth the harrowing drive and more. And, I’ve now added another reason to the “I love thee” list.