Free tastes of French cheese at Cheeses of Europe fest in Santa Monica

Taste 15 European (French) cheeses at a free event at Santa Monica Place on Friday, Jan. 16

The Cheeses of Europe wants to ply Angelenos with free cheese at a Jan. 16 pop-up event in Santa Monica. The object? To turn occasional cheese eaters into bonafide turophiles (i.e. cheese aficionados). You’ll also be able to buy cheese at “discovery prices.”

Held at the Central Plaza at Santa Monica Place, the impromptu cheese fest will offer samples of more than fifteen different types of European cheeses. When I asked for a list, I got back the names of fifteen French cheeses, all cows’ milk. Puzzling, until I found out the marketing campaign is partly financed by the European Union. After all, French cheeses are also European cheeses. 

Some are from big producers, some from small ones. But if your experience with French cheese is limited, here’s a chance to taste Brie, Comté, Petit Pont l’Eveque, Mimolette, organic Camembert, Le Bleu, whipped cheese Paysan Breton and a few more.

The list is basic, to be sure, compared with the selections at L.A.’s best cheese shops, such as Andrews Cheese Shop, the Cheese Store of Beverly Hills, Wally’s and the new Wally’s Vinoteca, DTLA Cheese at the Grand Central Market, even Whole Foods. But this is clearly meant to be French cheese for beginners.

I think the organizers are underestimating Angelenos' interest and knowledge of cheese. Are they thinking all our refrigerators are stuffed with Kraft cheese singles? On another go-round, they might want to reconsider their selections. Given the paucity of this list, I'd be more interested in the churned butter (salted or unsalted) on offer at the event.

The event also includes a photo exhibit showcasing "Les Filles à Fromages" — the girls of cheese. (Check out the photos on the Les Filles à Fromages website.) In addition, Laurent Damiens, communications director for the French Dairy Inter-Branch Organization and reps from various cheese companies will be on hand to answer any burning fromage questions. 

Friday, Jan. 16, 11 a.m. To 7 p.m., 395 Santa Monica Place, Santa Monica. For more information on the Cheeses of Europe, visit www.thecheesesofeurope.com

Follow @sirenevirbila for more on food and wine.

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