Julian Lucas

Places to visit

Julian Lucas - your guide to eating on theotherside

Local variations
Sire de Crecuy
Cheese shops

Washing Maroilles cheeses
The square-shaped Maroilles cheeses are
repeatedly brushed with salty water
Boulette d'Avesnes
Boulette d'Avesnes - a cheese
covered in paprika, not a sweet!
Boulettes d'Avesnes
Cheeses are matured in cool cellars
before the cheese-master decides
they are ready to sell.
Above: Boulettes d'Avesnes

Artisinal producers
As with other food and drink, there are the mass-produced products you buy in the hypermarkets - and then there are the small "artisanal" producers. They use local fresh ingredients and traditional techniques to produce something distinctive that helps preserve local crafts, and the culture and heritage of how the area used to eat - its gastronomie using les produits du terroir - the local produce.

France's finest speciality cheeses
With cheese, there are 22 named French cheeses entitled to use an officially-run quality control system known as "appelation d'origine controlée". Amongst the list of famous names like Brie, Camembert, Port Salut and Roquefort is one from Nord/Pas-de-Calais - the Maroilles cheese.

Maroilles has been made since the 12th century - they make it in squares from local cows milk. It's soft and moist with a tangy flavour and quite a string smell. The Abbey of Maroilles near Avesnes used to collect its dues (tithes) from local peasants in cheese, which the monks then matured for at least 3 months in the abbey cellars. During this time each cheese is individually brushed with salt water so the orange rind and special flavour develops.

Today the monks' tradition is carried on by one local farm, the Ferme du Verger Pilote - which (for best flavour) uses only the unpasteurised milk from its own herd of 120 Friesian dairy cows.
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Local variations of Maroilles
Elsewhere in Nord/Pas-de-Calais they make local variations of this famous cheese:
Le Vieux Lille or "Maroilles-gris" is soaked in local beer while it ripens. It ends up with a soft grey almost slimy appearance and an extremely strong smell. Sometimes called "Vieux Puant", "old stinker" - it's an acquired taste!
La Boulette d'Avesnes is made from reject pieces of Maroilles, mixed with black pepper and tarragon, and rolled in hot red paprika to the shape of a cone - it's a strong firy taste!
Le Dauphin - a dolphin-shaped Maroilles with added herbs and spices.

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Sire de Crecuy
Ripening trays of Sire de Crecuy

Sire de Crecuy
Made on one farm near Fruges in the"Sept Vallées" area, this is not an "appelation d'origine controlée", but highly-rated as one of the great farm cheeses.

The rounds of cheese made from unpasteurised cows' milk are also "rind-washed" - that is, regularly brushed with salt water while they mature for 2 months in the farm's cellar.
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Cheese shop cellar - managing the ripening stock is a key part of giving you a new “cheese” experience...

Specialist cheese shops - fromageries
Philippe Olivier's shops keep carefully-managed cellars where cheeses from local suppliers are slowly ripened until nearly ready for eating. The shops' stock reflects a masterful knowledge of the different types of cheeses made from local milks, and how to prepare and serve them for best flavour and taste.

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Places to visit:
List of specialist cheese shops

Make an appointment to visit the cellars of Philippe Olivier's shops at:
43 rue Thiers, BOULOGNE. Tel: 00 33 3 21 31 94 74
3 rue du Curé St. Etienne, LILLE.
22 rue vieille Poissonnerie, VALENCIENNES.
101 rue de Metz, LE TOUQUET
30 Bd de L'Impératrice, ETAPLES
rue Louis Martel, ST-OMER.

List of cheese-making dairies you can visit.

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Related background information




Eating out in northern France
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