A cheese masterclass with one of northern France’s most celebrated cheesemakers in one of Lille’s best addresses? Sign me up!
The announcement of a marché des producteurs – a farmers’ market, I guess we’d call it in English – at the Clarance Hôtel in Lille caught my eye. This was a first for the hotel, the blurb said.
There would be honey producers, beer makers, cured meat sellers, bio vegetable growers…
We felt it our duty to come and support it. After all, the Clarance was one of the places that made us fall in love with Lille in the first place.
Fast-forward 18 months and nous voici.
One of the other things we like about Lille is its plethora of cheese shops. The most famous of them all is the Fromagerie Philippe Olivier.
Its owner is 35-year-old Romain Olivier, the fourth generation of the Olivier family. He gave the masterclass at the Clarance – all about a local speciality, Mimolette.
Known also as the boule de Lille, this cheese as developed in the 1600s when France was at war with the Netherlands. Importing Dutch cheeses was outlawed and northern French dairy farmers were encouraged to come up with a pressed cheese to replace popular cheeses such as Edam.
The result was Mimolette.
Borrowing from its Dutch inspiration, Mimolette used the same Mexican annatto seed to achieve its orange colour. (Spain controlled the Netherlands at the time, remember.)
“Mimolette isn’t well known outside northern France. Perhaps it’s one for us to consider when we open our cheese-and-wine bar in Dordogne”
We tried three types, each of different maturity: two months, four months and 24 months.
The first was firm but supple and lightly oily, and the second a little firmer and piquant. The third really hit the spot for us – stronger, nuttier and crumbly.
The rind is marked, thanks to a harmless mite which burrows into the croûte.
Surprisingly, Mimolette isn’t very well known outside the north of France. Perhaps it’s one for us to consider when we open our cheese-and-wine bar in Dordogne next year…
A taste of the north in the south. Why not?