Your One-Stop Shop For French Gourmet Goods

Le Fermiere honey yogurt (2-pack for $6.99) in pretty ceramic jars.

See that creamy, dreamy yogurt above?

People drive miles and miles for it. Because once you’ve had full-fat French yogurt, there’s no going back.

The bare-bones Gourmet Corner store, 873 N. San Mateo Dr. in San Mateo, is one of the few retailers in the Bay Area — if not the only one — where you can find it. Surely, no other establishment has the variety of French yogurts that this one does.

Find a good selection of French cheeses.

That’s because proprietor Hugues de Vernou knows his stuff. Well, he’s French, for one thing. And two, he’s been in the food import/export business for more than two decades. For years, he ran the Made In France/Village Imports business that sold European gourmet foods wholesale. It was most famous, though, for its occasional public sales, which would prompt foodies to line up for hours to load up on imported cheeses, wines, olive oils, and canned goods at bargain prices.

Owner Hugues de Vernou

De Vernou sold that business last year. In December 2008, he opened this store in what was once a car dealership. In two rooms, totalling 5,000 square feet, you’ll find an array of French products for sale, including chocolates, cookies, foie gras, dried morels, mustards, dried green lentils, jars of duck fat, canned hearts of palm, frozen escargot, and duck confit. De Vernou recently got his liquor license, and now sells wines, too, $8 to $25 per bottle (you get a 10 percent discount if you buy by the case).

Plans are to expand the store even more, to add a selection of prepared foods, and even a barbecue outside in the summer, when the floor-to-ceiling bay doors can be retracted to create almost an open-air market feel.

“So far the response has been good, considering we only sent out a few emails to tell people we were opening,” De Vernou says. “It’s all been word of mouth. People have been driving from as far as San Francisco to buy things here.”

For frying the best potatoes.

Among the items I couldn’t resist and had to have were: a  bottle of 2007 Domaine Auchere Sancerre ($18.50), a jar of Perigord duck rillettes ($2.80), a tiny container of concentrated fish fumet ($5.75), a bottle of La Bodega sherry vinegar ($5.80), a four-pack of Liegeois chocolate pudding ($7.49), and of course, yogurt.

French sea salt.

So why does French yogurt taste so sublime? Why does even the Yoplait in France taste so much better than the version in the United States? De Vernou says the answer lies in the milk. “French yogurt is made with milk from Normandy,” De Vernou says. ”It’s the best milk there is.” (Full disclosure: De Vernou is, of course, from Normandy.)

He describes French yogurt as tasting more like dessert. Indeed, the full-fat yogurt is so rich, thick, and filling, it does tastes more decadent than healthful. It has a gentle tang, and just an incredibly luscious, fresh, milky taste. I could easily have a cup of it with some fresh fruit for dessert. The yogurts, which come in various package sizes, sell for about $5.99 to $6.99. They come in a variety of flavors, from the simple citron and vanilla to the more unusual fig-banana (my new-found favorite). They are flown in every two weeks from France.

The Gourmet Corner is open seven days a week: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday; and noon to 7 p.m. Sunday; (650) 340-6370. It’s definitely a French find.

Everything you need for a French feast.

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  • One of the things that made Made in France great in the old days when they were on 6th Street in SF was the prices. By the time they moved to Brisbane, the public no longer got the wholesale price. There were still deals, but they were getting harder to find. Also more and more of their products were available at the “corner store” so it was isn’t worth the drive to trek up to MIF. By 2008, the only items I was buying were vinegars, capers, green and green peppercorns. There were a couple of good wines at good prices, too.

    Made in France used to carry the 5-kilo tubs of Baleine salt, coarse and fine, but they always seemed out the last couple of years, and I haven’t found another supply of these. Hugues said that he would look into getting some, but that was in December and i haven’t heard back from him.

  • Sounds like such a neat store. We used to have a similar one in a little town of Middleburg Virginia but they went out of business. We are however lucky to have Wegmans near us and they have a lot of really nice gourmet products.

  • ah man i miss real yogurt. youre so lucky you have a mini-Grande Epicerie Bon Marche. ah and all the little yogurt pots that you can keep, and re-use! i can’t wait to actually “see” san fransisco, im going there and buying yogurt. ahhh i bet they have chestnut cream too!

  • Love stores that import authentic products like these-gourmet or not. It’s awesome to add a great flair to a dish with a little something special.

  • Natasha: Have not had the pleasure of visiting a Wegmans, but have heard so many good things about the store.

    Mallory: It’s true about the cute little yogurt pots. I’m already thinking I need to buy more so I can come up with a complete half dozen of them.

  • Thanks for the tip, I’ll check it out the next time I’m in the area.

  • That yogurt looks incredible. I’ve taken to making my own yogurt because most commercial brands here are aweful (maybe with the exception of Brown Cow). Have you ever had Liberte Mediterranee? It’s pretty good. I also love Japanese “bulgaria” yogurt which you can’t get here in the states.

  • This looks so wonderful! I wonder if I can find in New York…

  • Helen, I heartily agree. It’s the same with pork. Pork without fat, well, just ain’t worth eating.

  • We’re planning a trip up to San Mateo in the next month or two to do go Sushi Sams. I’ll have to make my husband stop here to check it out!

  • Hugues is such a nice man. I catered Citroën Club Luncheon at his store recently, using all of his wonderful products. Here is the link to my clients page if you want to check it out:

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  • This shop looks good indeed. I agree, once you’ve tasted authentic goodness, it’s difficult going back. I set my own yogurt, though low fat, but nothing like it!

  • I just called, they no longer sell the yogurt since 1 year ago!!! BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! I was sooo excited too. 🙁

  • Sheena: Oh no! I’m surprised since that was such a big-seller there, too. Are you in the Bay Area? If so, there is also which makes fabulous organic French-style yogurt in cute little glass/ceramic containers.

  • foodgal,

    so are you saying THE GOURMET CORNER does sell the French yogurt in glass jars???

  • Itdi: It sells French yogurt in ceramic jars — at least it did the last time I was there.

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