Saint-Marcellin cheese is so special that the namesake town has an annual festival to celebrate. Join us at the Fête du Saint-Marcellin, a celebration with all the pomp and circumstance that only the French can do.
Have you heard of Saint-Marcellin cheese? You may recognize it from local cheese shops or from the cheese counter at American food markets like Whole Foods or Wegman’s. It’s the cheese packaged in the small inch deep clay pot. Its white flour like rind gives it a similar appearance to a small piece of brie while its pasty consistency easily yields to a butter knife, providing a spreadable consistency that’s perfect for a sliced baguette. Overall, the cheese is an inoffensive, mildly flavored, pasteurized cheese that you can serve to family and friends in a pinch at party or small gathering.
One problem: the Saint-Marcellin cheese you see in an American food store is not the legendary Saint-Marcellin cheese sold in France. In fact, it’s not even close.
Produced in the town of the same name, Saint-Marcellin is a raw milk cow’s cheese aged for a minimum of 12 days. Once ready for sale, the cheese possesses a firm cake-like consistency; however, the cheese’s paste slowly liquifies and matures with age. An older, properly aged round of Saint-Marcellin is an oozy wonder with the kind of flavor complexity that only comes from a raw milk product.
Legendary Chef Paul Bocuse loves this cheese as do many chefs throughout the Rhone-Alpes region. Many in the area celebrate the Saint-Marcellin cheese as the best local product. Thanks to luck and the generosity of a new friend, we got to join in the celebration at the annual Fête du Saint-Marcellin.
Fête du Saint-Marcellin Cheese
The Fête du Saint-Marcellin is quite an event. Dove tailing with the Saturday public market, the festival celebrates all things related to Saint-Marcellin cheese. There are cows. There are lumber jacks. There are wine samples. And, most importantly, there is cheese.
As was our experience in Lyon, the town of Saint-Marcellin welcomed us with open arms and warm hearts. We connected with Sébastien Maucarré, sommelier and owner of Les Carmes in Saint-Marcellin. We also met Monique Blanchet, a journalist who interviewed us on behalf of Le Dauphiné Libéré.
Michel Thévenot – Our Lyon Friend & Fixer
When you travel, it’s important to accept the kindness of strangers. Sometimes, in places like France, those strangers may not even speak your language, or very little of it, but these are times when you have just ‘let life happen.’ During our time in Lyon, we were fortunate to gain the friendship of Michele Thévenot.
Many journalists hire ‘fixers’ to guide them through the foreign landscape and provide the kind of access that only a local can provide. Thévenot does not speak much English, but, through the magic of technology, we were able to communicate and understand each other. Living just north of Lyon, Thévenot sells ‘Bon-Bons’ and possesses the kind of passion for food that’s typical of the Lyonnaise. In other words, he’s a great guy.
As shown in our video, Thévenot was our personal tour guide. He drove us to the town of Saint-Marcellin, guided us through the amazing Saturday public market and facilitated our attendance at the wonderfulfestival of Saint-Marcellin cheese. Without him, we would not have navigated the festival so well, much less known about it in the first place.
Thévenot proudly proclaims himself to be a “citizen of the world.” In our humble opinion, the world could use more citizens like Michel Thévenot.
Stay tuned for part two of this series when we return to Saint-Marcellin to visit a local cheese dairy and learn how the legendary cheese is made.