October is the beginning of the season for Vacherin, which in some books is described as a "strong winter cheese." To my palate, it is sweet. And, in fact, it is often served in restaurants at room temperature, with a spoon, as a dessert cheese. Made in the Jura region of eastern France, Vacherin requires weeks of aging before it is wrapped in a thin layer of spruce or cedar bark and shipped to market.
Cheese shops throughout the city are anticipating the arrival of Vacherin. When I ask (prematurely) for Vacherin at Barthelemy, a quaint cheese shop off the Boulevard St-Germain, I am told rather brusquely by the woman behind the counter that the Vacherin isn't expected until the third or fourth week of October. "It needs WEEKS to ripen," she tells me. I explain that we'll be in the city until the end of October, at which point, she softens and smiles at me. "Well," she says, "you should have said so before. While you're waiting for the Vacherin, why don't you come again on the eighth? We're having a little degustation, and you can try some other excellent cheeses, some pain d'epices, and some port." Thus the city awaits the arrival of one of its finest cheeses.