SA Life

Get CityMag in your inbox. Subscribe
May 9, 2024

Follow your nose to France’s greatest comfort food

From the exquisite beauty of France’s Rhône-Alpes region comes a cheese that in all honesty stinks. Dear readers, we present raclette…

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
  • This article was produced in collaboration with Raclette Igloo Experience.

It’s difficult to come up with one all-encompassing Australian equivalent when it comes to the experience of eating raclette cheese.

We’re not known for acrid smelling edibles, but we love Vegemite, which is a bit whiffy yet yum. We also love cheese toasties. And we’ll gather religiously around a barbeque for hours, knowing it’s about much more than delicious food. There is the pleasure that comes from spending time with friends and family.


Raclette Igloo Experience
Friday, 10 May to Sunday, 9 June
See lunch and dinner times here
Festival Centre Plaza
Adelaide 5000
Bookings here

Combined, all the above offers a rough approximation of an authentic French raclette party where DIY melted cheese on a central grill, potatoes and charcuterie star. Now think about having that experience in an igloo…

Vincent Hernandez is the event director for the Raclette Igloo Experience, which is taking over part of Festival Plaza for a month. He says raclette is one of those meals everyone in his native France looks forward to.

“It’s a simple dish, but the cheese itself is stunning and all the ingredients are absolutely delicious and there’s the whole theatrics around it,” Vincent explains.

“A raclette brings an experience of being with people, laughing, talking and sharing the moment – it’s always something that brings joy.”

Note here ‘raclette’ refers to the grill in the centre of the table, but it’s also a traditional semi-soft cheese made in the Rhône-Alpes region of France. Made from cow’s milk, its stinkiness (thankfully) dissipates as it melts, giving way to oozing goodness with a slightly salty, sweet and nutty flavour.

For the Raclette Igloo Experience, Vincent and his team have engaged another French expat, Aurore Ghigo, to source the perfect raclette cheese. Aurore represented Australia in an international cheesemonger competition in 2019. The competition included blind tastings to identify multiple cheeses, including their ages and origins, and she came home ranking in the Top 10 globally.

She says raclette’s pungent smell comes from the rind, which is washed with a brine solution deliberately infused with bacteria. “It smells like men’s socks basically,” she says, helpfully adding “but it’s very nice with a bit of sweetness”.

Aurore shares that eating this cheese is addictive. “Cheese is a bit of a drug; you get pleasure out of it.” This is scientifically proven – it has to do with the casein breaking down and attaching to dopamine receptors and then dopamine gets released and you feel happy. Which explains why it’s a clear winner as a comfort food in France.

Not unexpectedly, there are also studies into the meltability of cheeses. Raclette, says Aurore, is the perfect cheese as “it’s crafted to melt correctly and not split leaving a pool of oil” when it’s poured over the potatoes or sliced meats.

Smelly cheeses are widely eaten in France and Aurore thinks Australian palates share that sophistication thanks to some of us having European origins and our shared love of food. Raclette is also something kids love, both for the taste and the fun of DIY cheese melting. Aurore’s daughter’s favourite food is raclette.

Vincent says the idea for holding individual raclette parties in igloos was to create an intimate setting, but also to reflect the fact that raclette is the classic après ski party.

As a child, Vincent would go on skiing holidays in the French Alps and it was there, aged eight, that he first ate raclette.

“My uncle rented a very big place in the mountains and there were probably 20 of us and we had a very big raclette party,” he says, then adds, “Actually, I ate so much I was a little bit dizzy the next day!”

In Adelaide, there’ll be beautiful, transparent igloos under lights, each accommodating six to eight people around the table with a raclette grill. Outside, there’ll be French music and fire pits to gather around and roast marshmallows after the raclette.

Accompanying the main event of raclette cheese, charcuterie, potatoes and pickles, there’ll be mulled wine.

Juliette Duperrier, a project manager on Vincent’s team, says having mulled wine is part of the raclette experience.

“It gives that Alpine vibe and adds to the whole mood. It makes you feel like it’s snowing outside even though it’s not,” Juliette explains. “Those good cheesy smells and mulled wine transport you to a classic après ski session.”

She’s also French – from the alpine town of Chamonix – and remembers the first time her parents served raclette.

“I would have been a child, probably five or six years old … It was, oh my god, what is it? How can people can eat that? But what really struck me with raclette was it’s delicious, even though it has a terrible smell.”

For her, raclette parties are about making good memories. “It’s something you do with friends or families. It’s an event.”

Adelaide’s Raclette Igloo Experience is on for a limited season, 10 May to 9 June. Bookings here.

Share —