23 July 2010

More about Normandy Neufchâtel cheese

They say Neufchâtel is one of the oldest cheeses in Normandy. That's what I read in a blurb in the brochure the hotel leaves in every room. It says Neufchâtel cheese has been made since at least 1035. It was granted the Appellation d'Origine Contrôlé (A.O.C.) label in 1969.

After checking out of the hotel Thursday morning and having a look around in the town's church, CHM and I drove out to the edge of Neufchâtel to buy some cheese at the Monnier farm. It is just up a gravel road off the highway that leads to the town called Forges-les-Eaux, across the road from a SuperU supermarket.

Florence and Philippe Monnier make cheese
on their farm outside Neufchâtel-en-Bray.

There are cows grazing in a pasture between the road and the farm complex, which is made up of two long buildings on either side of a kind of courtyard, with flowers and some greenery. At the far end of the courtyard there's a white sheet-metal building where the cheese is made and aged. Madame Monnier (I presume it was her) was working in there, in a white lab coat and a hairnet, and she was happy to sell me some cheeses.

The best-known Neufchâtel cheese is this heart-shaped one.

We went into the back room, where there were hundreds of cheeses drying on stainless steel racks. The Monniers make two styles of Neufchâtel: briquettes (flat rectangular shapes) and cœurs (the better-known heart shape). It's the same cheese. The Neufchâtel cheeses I can buy in Saint-Aignan are the cœurs.

This is the shape that Florence Monnier called a briquette.

I bought three Neufchâtel cheeses to bring back to Paris (and take back to Saint-Aignan this afternoon). Madame Monnier charged me three euros for the three cheeses. CHM and I cut into one of the briquettes for dinner last night, and it was really good. CHM said he thought in was better than the cheese we had at the Brasserie Chez Jean-Pierre in Neufchâtel Wednesday evening. It was fresher and creamier.

This is the Monnier farm's courtyard. I think the building
on the left must be the barn. On the right is the farmhouse.

We spent yesterday afternoon in Rouen, where CHM met with the curator of the city's Musée des Beaux Arts and donated to the museum's collections a pen-and-ink drawing of Joan of Arc that his grandfather did in 1899. The curator, a man I would estimate to be 40 or maybe 45 years old, was very impressed with the work. He examined it carefully and said it was magnificent.

Here's the blurb about Neufchâtel and the cheese
from the hotel brochure. There are lot of mistakes
in the French, but tant pis.

Then the curator took us over to the Tour Jeanne d'Arc, which is supposed by many to be the place where Joan was held prisoner before being burned at the stake in Rouen's main marketplace in 1431. Up in the tower hangs a painting of Joan of Arc that CHM's grandfather did before he died in 1905. Last year I posted a photo of one of CHM's grandfather's paintings that hangs in the chapel at the Château de Blois.

I have many pictures from our afternoon in Rouen, and I'll try to post some over the next few weeks. I always enjoy going back there. I lived in Rouen for nine months in 1972-73, when I worked as an English-language teaching assistant at the Lycée Corneille there. Before going to the museum, we had lunch in a brasserie next to the cathedral with my friend Marie, who lives in Rouen and is an English teacher.

Like the rest of the trip, the day was a big success.


  1. Wow! That is cheap cheese!

  2. Oh No!!!!

    Ken's gone to Rouen. We'll never see him again!!

    I always get lost in Rouen. Not just "where are we" lost, but "are we still in the same universe" lost.

  3. Susan, cheese is what they call a commodity in Normandy.

    Simon, I used to live in Rouen. The place holds few mysteries for me.

  4. The cheese looks fabulous. The Neufchatels I've occasionally seen in the US have been pale imitations.

  5. I love your posts about cheese :)


  6. Will chm allow you to show us a photo of his grandfather's drawing of Joan of Arc?

  7. The Joan of Arc painting is remarkable. Just beautiful. Is it from 1910-1920?

    I'm guessing that Neufchatel will be more than one euro at my local Trader Joe's.

  8. Ken, what was the name of the brasserie in Rouen where you stopped for lunch? Back in my student days in Rouen in the late 60s (who could forget the climbing road up to the fac in Mont Saint-Aignan and the infamous batîment provisoire to which we were relegated?), we would occasionally frequent Au grès d'Alsace, a brasserie just off the rue Jeanne d'Arc, if memory serves. They had a great choucroute garnie.

  9. Love the photos of the cheese farm! I'm glad you've had a good trip and got to eat lunch with Marie.

    I'd love to see the art donation that CHM made also.
    I hope your trip back home goes well. I think Walt has made some ice cream for you.

  10. I am really impressed with CHM's grandfather's paintings. I wasn't expecting him to be so good. CHM must be very proud.

  11. Superb! Thanks for sharing about the cheese... but what a farm girl I am! I was hoping for pictures of his cows! I'm running to my cheese making book to see if its something I can make with goat's milk.

    Thanks thanks thanks!

  12. Bonjour Ken (and... Evelyn) ;-)

    Pleased to know everything went well after dropping CHM and you close to the entrance to the "Square Verdrel"/ex-Jardin Solférino :-)

    I enjoyed the lunch we had together at "Brasserie Paul" and seeing both CHM and "toi"/you again, even for a short time ;-)

    Say "hello" to CHM ! Bises to both Walt and you ! Marie/Mary from Normandy

  13. When I was a young girl :-), I was given "des tartines" (bread and butter) with "de la bonde de Neufchâtel" on them as a "goûter" by the lady who owned the house my parents used to hire during the summer holiday !


    Nowadays, you can also find and buy lovely little "fromages de Neufchâtel" which are also heart-shaped (they only weigh 50 grammes)

    Hmm, un bon fromage de Normandie ou d'une autre province, une bonne baguette de pain et un verre de bon vin ;-) Marie/Mary from Normandy

    PS : Simon, may I ask you what you mean when you write "are we still in the same universe" lost" ?

  14. Bonjour Marie, j'étais content de pouvoir te voir et de déjeuner avec toi Chez Paul.

    Simon dit, grosso modo, en français : Chaque fois que nous allons à Rouen, nous finissons par nous perdre. Nous ne nous demandons pas simplement "Où sommes-nous ?" mais "Sommes-nous dans un autre univers ?"

  15. Hello Bob F., we had lunch at Chez Paul, just next to the Tour de Beurre of the cathredral. I didn't know the restaurant you mention, but then I didn't have enough money to go to restaurants when I lived in Rouen in 1972-73. I do love a good choucroute garnie though.

  16. Forgot to post this link :


    and say to Bob F that "Le Grès d'Alsace" no longer exists... If I remember well, it was 45, rue aux Juifs, close to the corner of "rue aux Juifs" and "rue Thouret", just in front of our superb Law Court yard, a lot of lawyers used to have a drink or eat a "choucroute", which corresponded to the very name of the "café" : "Grès d'Alsace" ;-) The café which replaced it was called "Le Bristol" but it's going to be replaced by "Les Initiés", lol, "tout un programme !!! Amicalement :-) Mary/Marie from Normandy

  17. Ken, I had understood the expression itself, but was wondering what Simon meant exactly when using this expression to Rouen... Does he mean that he has the impression of finding himself in another century, for instance ? Bises :-) Mary

  18. Hi ! I should have written "when using this expression about Rouen"... Non ;-) ? Marie/Mary


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