I just returned from Paris, where my husband and I had a goal of trying as many of the great cheeses of France as possible. My thanks to Chowhounds for advice on dealing with Fromagers.
Method: We created a database of French Cheeses on my Palm using information from The Cheese Primer by Steven Jenkins, and using the HandyShopper freeware program. We categorized the cheeses by type of milk (cow, goat, ewe, or mix) and prioritized from 1-3 (based on rarity and quality.)
We always got a cheese course with lunch and/or dinner and often selected a few cheese from local fromagers to have for breakfast with a baguette and strawberries.
Results: Here is the list of the 20 new cheese we tried, sorted into Exquisite and simply Great:
> Boutons de Culotte
> Crottin de Chavignol
> Fourme D'Ambert
> St. Nectaire
> Brebis (regular and fromage blanc)
> St. Marcellin
> Bleu D'Auvergne
Lessons learned: A French Fromager worth his fleur de sel will scoff at you if you ask if a cheese is made with raw milk. We highly reccomend La Ferme St. Hubert, 21 Rue Vignon, 8th Arr., a restaurant connected to a fromager. We had an amazing 7 cheese sampler plate (13 euros) there and they have many salads and hot dishes made with their cheeses. Some cheeses are sold only by the half or whole wheel, which were too large for us to sample, so we only could only taste some cheeses in restaurants.
In short, there is no such thing as too much cheese, too smelly, or too rare! I hope you enjoyed hearing about our exploits.