There is cheese and there is cheese. There are the Big Name cheeses that you find in the supermarkets which people have grown to trust because the quality is standard. These are of course HUGE manufacturing companies that have top class quality control processes. You have your Kiri, your President (the brie, the camembert and the emmental), your La Vache Qui Rit, your Babybel, your Caprice des Dieux and errrr... **shudder** the Kraft.
However, if you ask a real French foodie what the best cheeses are, he is not going to point you to these supermarket brands. He will name you the artisanal cheeses from some small and discreet producer run by people who have handed down and refined their cheese-making skills through the generations.
These are the cheeses "du terroir". It means the are specific to the locality and cannot be bought anywhere else in France. It is a bit like No One Makes Laksa Like Katong Laksa. Or, No One Can Beat the Steamed Pomfret at Ah Orh (Sin Ming). It is the difference between Toast Box laksa and Katong Laksa.
The food snobs will tell you that these are cheeses that taste of the wind, water and soil of a specific locality.
Artisanal cheeses are what get French foodies excited. So, when I saw them at La Petite Boutique, my heart skipped a beat. I know I dress like a slob and drive a beat-up car, but food... oh... whatever goes into my mouth... Let us put it this way huh? If one loved clothes, handbags and cars, there is no limit. You could lose an inheritance that way. Food... there is only so much you can fit into a stomach. Anyway, when I stared at the cheese selection at La Petite Boutique, memories came flooding back of the crémerie near my place where I stayed as a student in France. I spent many happy hours there. The proprietor threw me a challenge one day because I refused to try his blue cheese. He asked me to go in there once a week to buy 1 cheese of his choice and that before the summer arrived, I would fall in love with blue cheese.
I did. Come to think of it, what a good way to get repeat business.
In Singapore, we do not have respect for the quality provided by single proprietors who constrain quantity in order to deliver quality. Just because a service provider or a producer is small, Singaporeans assume that quality is not as good as big chains.
In fact, if you know where to look, the best products and services can often be found in discreet corners where the owner (to maintain quality of service and produce) refuses to expand because he/she considers what he/she is doing a lifelong vocation.
Think Jiro for sushi.
In Singapore, we do not appreciate quality over quantity. People eat in aircon chain restaurants where food is sometimes so poor it is close to inedible. A lot of our food is pre-prepared at centralised factories and assembled on site.
Malaysians have access to fresher and better made food at more interesting prices.