The inaugural Fête des Fromages, a festival of cheeses, wines and music takes place November 17 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the New Orleans Jazz Museum at the U.S. Mint. The festival will offer extensive artisanal cheese sampling, specialty foods, French wine, cider and beer, cooking demonstrations, and talks about the history of cheese with Chef Alex Miles. VIP fest goers will be able to attend a seminar with world-renowned cheese expert and author Liz Thorpe. Holly Barrett, Festival Director, called in to answer five questions about the upcoming festival.
Tell us—how did the idea for the fest come about?
It was simple! The host of the Fête des Fromages is the French-American Chamber of Commerce, Gulf Coast. Their members all love cheese!
Since this is your inaugural year, what might attendees expect when attending the festival?
We will have over 100 cheeses from all over the world available for sampling. We are sure everyone will be surprised and delighted to find new and interesting cheeses they may not have tasted before! And since we anticipate folks falling in love with cheeses and wanting to take some home, St. James Cheese Company is hosting an on-site retail shop called Le Marché.
What is the role of cheese in our lives and society, and how is that reflected at the festival?
Historically speaking, cheese was a fascinating and fortuitous accident. Chef Alex Miles, from Dijon, Burgundy will be speaking on this topic at the Fête. Americans are increasingly eating and loving cheese; if you think about the selection available in a grocery store even 10 years ago it’s pretty clear we are hungry for more cheese—and more varieties.
What is your own personal favorite cheese?
I have a soft spot for good English cheddar. When I was a poor college student in England a piece of cheddar and a hunk of bread was often my dinner! Now, I love to try every possible kind of chèvre I can get my hands on.
Anything else you think we should know about the fest?
It will be so much more than cheese! There will be some great Louisiana bands on the music stage. Liz Thorpe, the author of The Book of Cheese, will be hosting pairing/tasting seminars. Some great local restaurants will be offering cheesy yummy bites, French wines, craft beers, ciders… And watch local chefs crack 80-pound wheels of Parmesan Reggiano! It promises to be a memorable time.