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.
Saint-Marcellin is 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 a 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 in Lyon, 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. Dovetailing with the Saturday public market, the festival celebrates all things related to Saint-Marcellin cheese. There are cows. There are lumberjacks. 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 – Citizen of the World
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 wonderful festival 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.
About the Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.