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The best of French in New York – Stinky Cheese Festival

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Stinky, glorious cheese is as synonymous with the French culture as the baguette. So much so that its simple daily consumption became a family rite of passage for yours truly.

At the tender young age of five, upon my first trip to France, it came to my attention that I was lactose intolerant. This would normally be no big deal, an easily dealt with dietary restriction. Except for the fact that, as the daughter of a chef and a member of a French family, lactose intolerance was regarded as impossible.

I was told to stop believing some American doctor’s fairy tale and to just eat the cheese. “N’importe quoi,” they said – “Mais c’est delicieux” – and more importantly, it’s French! So I ate it. And eventually after many years of French pride, patience, and a little bit of pain, my body adjusted and trained itself to accept French cheese, in all its forms – the stinkier the better.

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Now, years later, living in New York City as a proud Francophile with a stomach made of steel, I am easily excited by any cheese-focused events – and what better event to indulge in the French culture and its many cheeses than the NYC Stinky Cheese Festival.

Organized by the Tour de France Group, and now in its sixth year, the Festival takes place every year from 1 to 10 March. All nine of Tour de France’s signature restaurants throughout New York City offer new and innovative dishes with specialty stinky cheeses as the centerpiece.

As each restaurant in the Tour de France group represents a different region in France, different cheeses are highlighted at each location.

Highlights from the Festival menus…

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French Roast Uptown – Panko and Almond Crusted Camembert, Grilled Filet Mignon with Taleggio Polenta, and Poached Pears with Gorgonzola Cream.

French Roast Downtown – Grey Goose Vodka Martini with Gorgonzola Stuffed Olives, Raclette and Potato Galette with traditional pickles or Fontina and Spinach Ravioli.

L’Express – Pike Quenelle Gratinée, Yucca Frites with Blue Cheese Fondue and Croque Cordon Bleu with Grilled Chicken Breast, Jambon de Paris and Blue Cheese.

Le Monde – Epoisse Cheese Tarte, Traditional Raclette, and Saucisse de Poulet Au Fromage featuring chicken sausage enlivened with Stilton and Raclette cheeses.

Maison – Stilton and Watercress Soup, Pont L’Eveque Risotto, and Feta Cheese Parfait with Preserved Figs and Watermelon.

Marseilles – Alsatian Munster Aligot with crispy pork belly and pickled mushrooms, Short Rib Bourguignon with Semolina and Epoisse gnocchi, and Blue Cheese Ice Cream with profiteroles.

Nice Matin – Eggplant and Fontina “Parmesan” featuring Fontina Val D’Aosta, Gorgonzola Beef Filet, and Limburger Stuffed Chicken Breast.

Pigalle – Gruyère Croquettes, Leek and Rocquefort Tarte, and Artisanal Cheese Board.

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For food lovers and francophiles like myself it might take more than ten days to consume all of what is available – I have to try them ALL – but the sheer presence of a Stinky Cheese Festival in New York City is something to celebrate.

All images courtesy of the Stinky Cheese Festival.


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