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French Fridays: All about cheese with Taste of Toulouse

Jessica Hammer cheese workshop screenCan’t get to France this summer? How about bringing a little bit of France to you? More specifically – learn all about French cheese from the comfort of your own home!

That’s right – Jessica Hammer, a former cheesemonger and she of the fabulous Taste of Toulouse food walking tours (remember that pastry and chocolate tour I took last spring?) has taken her passion for cheese online and is offering two online workshops that I can highly recommend for cheese lovers and Francophiles alike.

Do you love cheese but struggle with knowing what to pick out when you go to the supermarket or cheese shop? Do you wish you felt more comfortable recognizing different French cheeses and talking about your cheese likes and dislikes? Then the French Cheese 101 workshop is for you!

French cheese tasting plateI took this workshop as part of Jessicas “test group” of people just before the workshops proper launched, in theory to give feedback as to what she needed to address before the courses went live (in reality, we mostly just chatted about some tech things because the content of the workshop was not needing any work at all!).

I took my responsibilities seriously, messaging a local cheese shop to see if they had the right type of cheeses in stock (they did!). Jessica provides excellent, detailed notes for you before and after the class and the shopping list is helpful if you have a local cheesemonger to shop with so you can taste along with the group. Some people in both the workshops I took didn’t have cheese but were just there to take notes so it’s up to you if you eat cheese or not during the roughly 90 minutes. For me, there was no question, AND we were lucky that the cheese store had everything we needed. Jessica provides lots of help if you need it, locating substitutes for the cheeses listed (knowing that many countries don’t sell unpasteurized cheeses) so you can take part. For the tasting workshop, I think it would be a shame to not taste along with everyone but you can certainly learn a lot even if you don’t have cheese!

Cat interested in cheese tasting plate(everyone loves cheese!)

French Cheese 101 is an excellent introduction to the cheeses of France and chesemaking in general. Even as someone who has eaten a LOT of cheese in her life, I found a lot to learn and I loved the very detailed materials Jessica provides, including an excellent Cheese Tasting Journal – so handy for when you have “that cheese that was sheep, or maybe goat, and it was kind of creamy with a washed rind” months ago and you can’t remember what it’s called when you’re at the cheese counter! A really thoughtful bonus and so useful.

This workshop covers:

  • The 7 main styles of French cheese and how to recognize them by sight 
  • The important cheese terminology that will have you talking cheese like a pro – AOC/AOP/IGP, parts of the cheese, and more
  • What’s the big deal about raw milk and how raw milk regulations around the world affect what you can buy in your home country
  • The role of cheese aging and different cheesemaking techniques on the finished product
  • The basics of cheese pairing with wine and other foods – principles that will help you learn what you like and then keep experimenting
  • Techniques for finding good cheese wherever you shop – whether it’s at a supermarket, a fromagerie, or anywhere in between!
  • The most common question I get asked on my tours: Do you eat the rind?!

SO much information but broken down into bite-sized bits (pun not intended) so that it didn’t feel overwhelming but you went away feeling VERY knowledgeable indeed!

As a gift for Neil on Canada Day (which fell in the middle of the week this year and, anyway, all days are the same right now, aren’t they?), I purchased the How to Build a Cheese Plate workshop, because who doesn’t need to know how to do that?

How to make a cheese plate virtual workshopDo you see gorgeous cheese plates on Instagram and wish you could duplicate them? Do you wish you had more confidence in picking out cheeses and accompaniments for parties and then arranging them for your guests to “ooh” and “ahh” over? Do you break out in a nervous sweat at the thought of having to be the one to cut up cheese? Then this workshop is for you!

Well, yes, I do look at people’s cheese plates and wonder if I could replicate them but mostly I don’t have the time and we end up with very minimalist cheese platters. Which is ok but in this workshop I learned how to make a “bountiful” cheese board and now I think I am hooked!

We learned:

  • Strategies for picking out cheeses for your cheese board
  • How to know how much cheese to buy
  • How to choose the right accompaniments for your cheese plate
  • The best way to cut various style of cheeses
  • The two main aesthetic styles of cheese plates and the best situations for each
  • Techniques for constructing and styling your cheese plate
  • The best ways to store and serve cheese

and I made this as we enjoyed a glass of wine…

Bountiful cheese boardI’d say I did ok! This was a pretty nice Canada Day lunch too! In this workshop there were folks making cheese plates and others just taking notes so it works however you want it to. Once again, Jessica was informative without it feeling like she was talking “at” you and she managed to answer all the questions and guide some of us to make the prettiest cheese board ever!

I can HIGHLY recommend Jessica’s cheese workshops for those of us who can’t get to France anytime soon. If you have access to cheese and you have a laptop, you can pretend you are there for a few hours via these informative, fun, and tasty workshops. Though definitely not the same as Jessica’s in-person tours, these are an excellent addition to her lineup and I’m so pleased she’s decided to share her cheesy knowledge with us all!

Check out Taste of Toulouse’s Online Workshops here.

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Disclosure: I was a guest Jessica’s guest in the French Cheese 101 workshop but had already purchased tickets to the Cheese Plate workshop and was planning on doing both anyway. Jessica is also a friend but I only write about products and experiences that are high-quality and that I can personally vouch for. All opinions 100% my own. I have not received further compensation for writing this post and Taste of Toulouse and Jessica has not reviewed the content (nor was she aware I was writing about it).

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2 Responses to French Fridays: All about cheese with Taste of Toulouse

  1. Geoff July 4, 2020 at 20:46 #

    This is a really good idea… there are many people who love cheese, are willing to try new cheeses but simply don’t have the knowledge… I think it’s probably true in any country that produces cheese, but it must be especially so for French cheeses… the range is astounding. Anyway, nice post Mardi.

  2. Mr. Neil July 5, 2020 at 13:03 #

    Superbly done, making something that is really such a wonderful “in person” thing still work online.

    Jessica’s knowledge is prodigious, and her charming personality comes through as well.

    Highly recommended!

    (And if you’re lactose-intolerant, find out what you can enjoy.)

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