Last Sunday, the 27th of September was one of those days made-to-order for the Paris tourism office: clear and sunny, crisp in the morning warming up as the day progressed.
This was the much-heralded day of “Paris Sans Voitures,” or Paris with no cars. Perhaps not quite NO cars, but mostly car-free in the center of the city. It was slightly surreal – and quite enjoyable – to cross the Place de la Concorde dodging mostly bicycles, not to mention strolling up the center of the Champs-Elysées. Enjoyable as well were the feeling of emptiness and the absence of noise. While this first foray into carlessness was limited to the city’s center, it is hoped that the Mayor, encouraged by the positive reaction to the experiment, will extend the ban to the entire city the next time around.
Sunday was also the last day of the Fête de la Gastronomie, with Fashion Week starting a few days later. The junction of food and fashion –two of France’s luxury products – was thus the occasion for Fromage Fashion Week, an event promoting the crème de la crème as it were of French cheese makers. Ten Meilleur Ouvrier de France (award-winning artisans) in the cheese category banded together under the sobriquet “Cheese Brothers” to organize an over-the-top cheese buffet.
But first, there was a fashion show: models wearing creations by Geoffrey Mingot paraded along a red carpet laid out on the sidewalk outside the Sofitel Paris Faubourg on the rue Boissy d’Anglas. As befits a fashion show, it started some 35 minutes late, but as the weather was glorious, it really didn’t matter that much. Whether intended or not, it was a funny parody of a fashion show, with each model carrying a large piece of cheese: Roquefort, Reblochon, Camembert, etc.
After another patient wait, we were at last let loose in the hotel’s restaurant “Stay” for a cheese brunch. This was heaven for cheese lovers. There were perhaps 40 or 50 different cheeses on offer, something for everyone’s palate. Some of the most amazing: Gaperon fermier, Camembert au Kiwi, Persillé de Tignes, Bleu de Termignon and a rather unusual creation: the Bleu d’Iroise, a cheese ripened at seven meters under water. In particular, we also loved an incredibly creamy Mont d’Or and a brie flavored with truffle oil.
The brunch ended with a show by performers from the Crazy Horse. We’re not sure what the dance had to do with cheese, but it was fun anyway. Outside, the cheese displays remained untouched by those strolling along the street. Perhaps because they looked too good to eat?