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RESTAURANTS

Paris restaurant ranked ‘best in world’

A Paris restaurant run by chef Guy Savoy was named the best in the world Wednesday -- according to the French-based guides aggregator La Liste -- but Japanese restaurants came out on top overall.

Paris restaurant ranked 'best in world'
Photo: Guy Savoy
Double Emmy-award-winning US television chef Eric Ripert came joint second for his New York fish restaurant Le Bernardin, sharing the honour with the minuscule Tokyo restaurant, Kyo Aji.
   
Kyo Aji helped ensure that Japan triumphed again in the country rankings, with 116 of the top-rated 1,000 restaurants, three more than France, with Chinese chefs coming third.
   
But restaurants in Italy came out best on value for money.
   
Savoy's restaurant in la Monnaie, the old French national mint on the Left Bank of the River Seine, is famous for its artichoke soup with black truffle and filo pastry mushroom brioche and “cold steamed” blue lobster.
   
His 18-course “Innovations and Inspirations” menu costs €490 ($520) without wine.
   
It was the top-rated French restaurant last year coming in fourth place in the La Liste, which was set up as a “more scientific and reliable” rival to the British-based 50 Best Restaurants ranking.
 
Guy Savoy. Photo: AFP
   
Savoy — who trained the volcanic British chef Gordon Ramsay and remains his mentor — controversially did not make the 50 Best this year.
   
Nor did Kenichiro Nishi of Kyo Aji, whom La Liste called “the undisputed master of kaiseki”, the traditional multi-course Japanese dinner.
   
French-born Ripert, 51, a Buddhist who picked up his Emmys for his PBS show “Avec Eric”, already holds the maximum three Michelin stars.
 
Tragedy 
 
La Liste bills itself as a “guide of the guides”, pulling together reviews from almost 400 guide books, newspapers and online sites from TripAdvisor to the New York Times and the prestigious Michelin rankings.
   
But tragedy struck the first winner Franco-Swiss chef Benoit Violier, who killed himself a month after winning for the Hotel de Ville at Crissier near Lausanne in Switzerland.
   
Savoy, 63, a three-Michelin-starred chef, comes from humble origins. His father was a municipal gardener in the small town of Bourgoin-Jailleu near Lyon in eastern France where his mother ran a fast-food “buvette”.
 
A meat dish at Savoy's restaurant. Photo: Guy Savoy   
 
He later trained as a chocolate maker before being taken on as an apprentice by the legendary Troisgros brothers for their restaurant in nearby Roanne.
   
La Liste's founder Philippe Faure, the head of the French tourist board, has accused the 50 Best of consistently “denigrating” French restaurants in its listing.
   
While 50 Best has repeatedly denied the charge, no French restaurants have made its top 10 for the last few years.
   
Faure said his listing was compiled impartially from a rigorous mathematical analysis of hundreds of guides and thousands of reviews.
   
La Liste has now also launched a smartphone application in six languages aimed at international travellers for its 1,000 top-rated restaurants in the world, plus the 10,000 eateries which its analysis found to be the best value.
 

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FOOD & DRINK

Reader question: Exactly how many different types of cheese are there in France?

One thing everyone can agree on is that France has a lot of cheese - but exactly how many French fromages exist?

Reader question: Exactly how many different types of cheese are there in France?

Question: I often see a quote from Charles de Gaulle talking about ‘246 different types of cheese’, but other articles say there are 600 or even 1,000 different types of cheese and some people say there are just eight types – how many different cheeses are there in France?

A great question on a subject dear to French hearts – cheese.

But it’s one that doesn’t have a simple answer.

Charles de Gaulle did indeed famously say “How can anyone govern a country with 246 different types of cheese”, but even in 1962 when he uttered the exasperated phrase, it was probably an under-estimate.

READ ALSO 7 tips for buying cheese in France

The issue is how you define ‘different’ types of cheese, and unsurprisingly France has a complicated system for designating cheeses.

Let’s start with the eight – there are indeed eight cheese ‘families’ and all of France’s many cheeses can be categorised as one of;

  • Fresh cheese, such as cottage cheese or the soft white fromage blanc
  • Soft ripened cheese, such as Camembert or Brie
  • Soft ripened cheese with a washed rind, such as l’Epoisses or Pont l’Eveque
  • Unpasturised hard cheese such as Reblochon or saint Nectaire
  • Pasturised hard cheese such as Emmental or Comté
  • Blue cheese such as Roquefort 
  • Goat’s cheese
  • Melted or mixed cheese such as Cancaillot

But there are lots of different types of, for example, goat’s cheese.

And here’s where it gets complicated, for two reasons.

The first is that new varieties of cheese are constantly being invented by enterprising cheesemakers (including some which come about by accident, such as le confiné which was created in 2020).

The second is about labelling, geography and protected status.

France operates a system known as Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC or its European equivalent AOP) to designate food products that can only be made in a certain area.

As cheese is an artisan product, quite a lot of different cheese are covered by this – for example a blue sheep’s milk cheese is only Roquefort if it’s been aged in the caves in the village of Roquefort.

There are 63 listed AOC cheeses in France, but many more varieties that don’t have this protected status.

These include generic cheese types such as BabyBel and other cheeses that are foreign in origin but made in France (such as Emmental).

But sometimes there are both AOC and non-AOC versions of a single cheese – a good example of this is Camembert.

AOC Camembert must be made in Normandy by farmers who have to abide by strict rules covering location, milk type and even what their cows eat.

Factory-produced Camembert, however, doesn’t stick to these rules and therefore doesn’t have the AOC label. Is it therefore the same cheese? They’re both called Camembert but the artisan producers of Normandy will tell you – at some length if you let them – that their product is a totally different thing to the mass-produced offering.

There are also examples of local cheeses that are made to essentially the same recipe but have different names depending on where they are produced – sometimes even being on opposite sides of the same Alpine valley is enough to make it two nominally different cheeses.

All of which is to say that guessing is difficult!

Most estimates range from between 600 to 1,600, with cheese experts generally saying there are about 1,000 different varieties. 

So bonne dégustation!

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