By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
As part of an ongoing campaign to promote the sales of European cheeses in Mexico and as a lead-in to a month-long celebration of French cheeses at restaurants across the country, the European Union and the French Dairy Industry National Inter-Professional Center (CNIEL) hosted a preview dinner of Mexican dishes prepared with French cheeses at Bowie restaurant on Tuesday, Sept. 18.
Bowie, which specializes in haute cuisine mexicaine prepared with natural smoke flavoring, is one of the 30 restaurants that will participate in the CNIEL’s Second Annual “Quesos de Europa, Sabor a Francia” (“Cheeses of Europe, Taste of France”) festival, a multifaceted promotional event that will take place throughout the entire month of November.
The festival will be held in Mexico City, Monterrey and Guadalajara, and will include special French-cheese-based dishes at each of the participating restaurants, as well as an array of seminars, workshops, pop-up stands and lectures about cheeses.
“France is known for its incredible array of more than 450 varieties of cheese,” explained CNIEL international communications director Laurent Damiens, who flew in for the Bowie dinner.
“But while appreciation and awareness of French cheese is on the rise in Mexico, our sales here are still very limited, less than 1,000 tons a year.”
As a point of reference, Damiens noted that the comparable figure for the United States is 25,000 tons and for Japan is 12,000 tons.
The main focus of the Quesos de Europa, Sabor a Francia festival will be to show Mexican consumers how French cheeses can be incorporated into traditional Mexican recipes to give them a “European touch,” Damiens said.
“We are not trying to change the way people eat or the dishes they consume,” added Charles Duque, CNIEL director for Latin America, who also attended the dinner.
“We just want to show how versatile our cheeses are and how they can be incorporated into any cooking style.”
Damiens said that it is a strategy that CNIEL has adapted around the globe, including in Japan, where local chefs have created a sushi dish with French cheese.
From a financial perspective, the dairy industry is a key driver of the French economy, representing nearly $32 billion in revenues annually, the second-largest sector in that country’s agriculture division.
Last year alone, France sold more than $3.5 billion in cheese to the rest of the world, representing 11.3 percent of all cheese exports worldwide.
But while Mexico is one of the Western Hemisphere’s largest per capita consumers of cheese – at 3.8 kilograms a year per person (compared to 25.9 kilos per year in France) – less than 2 percent of the cheese consumed nationally comes from France.
Damiens said that the first Quesos de Europa festival, held last year, helped to spur a growing appreciation of French cheeses in Mexico.
This year, the cheeses showcased will be camembert, brie, bleu d’Auvergne, comté, emmental, mimolette and raclette de Savoie.
“There are about 15 different types of French cheeses currently sold in Mexico by five French companies,” Damiens said, “but we are hoping that as Mexicans begin to acquire a taste for our cheeses, more varieties will be available on the Mexican market.”
The dinner at Bowie included a four-course meal of smoked guacamole with brie cheese, served with a Mexican artisan beer; a beet carpaccio with molecularized camembert cheese balls, accompanied by a tamarind and a smoked mezcal cocktail; a flaming brisket sope with emmental cheese, served with a Baja California Balero blend of grenache, shiraz and merlot; and a creamy Oaxacan chocolate pudding with bleu cheese foam, accompanied by a Mexican coffee with Ancho Reyes liquor, all prepared by the restaurant’s head chef Rodrigo Carrasco.
Carrasco said that all of these dishes would be served during the November Quesos de Europa festival.
For a list of participating restaurants and other events, check out the webpage https://quesosdeeuropa.com.