(Family Features) - They say that France is one of the most romantic places in the world. For Valentine's Day, bring a touch of France to your celebration with a romantic picnic featuring succulent specialty cheeses from France.
France produces a remarkable diversity of cheeses made from goat, sheep and cow's milk. There are hundreds of French favorites to choose from, making it easy to find a special, mouth-watering selection for a romantic occasion.
Acclaimed cheese expert and James Beard winner Max McCalman, author of "The Cheese Plate," and "Cheese, a Connoisseur's Guide to the World's Best," suggests a romantic plate for two that includes French favorites Camembert, Comté and Roquefort. "Paired with Sauternes, a French dessert wine, this is a very romantic plate for two, featuring three of the most popular cheeses produced in France," said McCalman.
Camembert. Camembert is a world-renowned cow's milk cheese from the Normandy region in northern France. This quintessential French cheese has a soft, white, bloomy rind, a luxurious ivory interior, and a buttery, grassy flavor. McCalman says "The taste of a ripe Camembert is reminiscent of wild mushrooms. It's soft, lovely and very sexy!" If you can't find it, ask for Pavé d'Auge, Pont-l'Evêque or Neufchâtel.
Comté. Comté is produced in the rich mountain pastures of the Jura mountains. Its firm and supple texture, with tiny holes, has a nutty, slightly salty yet sweet taste. It is claimed that there are more than 83 distinct flavors in Comte, including apricot, chocolate, butter, cream and grilled bread. Jura wines are a classic pairing for Comte. Also Alsatian and German Rieslings (or Pinot) as well as Bordeaux blends Merlot, St. Emilion, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. If you can't find Comté, ask for Beaufort.
Roquefort. Famous through the ages, this blue cheese is made from ewe's milk in central southern France. Known for its rich, mild creaminess and soft, spicy, tart flavor, this cheese must be ripened in the caves of Mount Combalou for 3 to 9 months. If you can't find it, ask for: Bleu des Causses, Fourme d'Ambert, Bleu d'Auvergne, Bleu des Basques or Bleu de Gex.
- If the weather is warm enough, find a quiet and romantic spot to dine. A park, garden, rooftop or balcony all are good choices.
- If it's too cold, indoor picnics can be very romantic. Put a soft blanket and cushions on the floor by a cozy fireplace or a bank of flickering candles. Soft music is a nice touch, too.
- You can find fully-fitted picnic baskets with plates, utensils, cloth napkins, cups, and an insulated cooler compartment. Some also include salt and pepper shakers, tablecloths, wine bottle openers, insulated wine cooler compartments and thermoses.
- In addition to wine and cheese, have a loaf of delicious bread, some fruit such as grapes, apples or pears and a variety of olives. Then finish off the meal with chocolate covered strawberries.
To find more of Max McCalman's ideas for seasonal Fromage Plates, everyday entertaining and unique pairing ideas with wine, liquor and coffee, visit www.cheesesoffrance.com.