Enfin it is the weather to picnic unabashedly and drink rosé at all hours! Which also means that it was May 1st recently, the day of unions (jour des syndicats, or as my host father likes to say, le jour de saint dicat hahaha which is funny). The day was spent well, with a grasse matinée and robust french coffee and laughs at a friend's 18th century home. And also a tartiflette pizza, pictured below. Melted reblochon and copious amounts of emmenthal and all-in-all I call this a successful translation of a traditional french cheese dish into a universally-loved pizza form. We got some fried potatoes on top and a lardon-onion-cream sauce en bas and mmmm just so tartiflette-y! I'll definitely be bringing a round of reblochon back to the states (if I can??) Then nom nom more cheese related foods: Martha Stewart's addicting mac-n-cheese with Beaufort, Emmenthal, and Gouda. Here is the original recipe, which I highly recommend: http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/01/29/addictive-mac-and-cheese/ It is mildly mildly complex, but entirely worth the effort. It may have been more difficult for me as I was converting everything between cups/ounces into grams and centiliters... Next time is in the US and I am quite facile with cooking implements there. Also secret hint that is the best: drizzling melted SALTED butter over your stale bread bits turns them into crisped salty cream bombs after you bake your mac. Something not too be missed. Also the original recipe called for white cheddar (for which I substituted the beaufort and gouda) and gruyère or pecorino romano (for which I substituted the emmenthal which is whatever); I think pecorino romano on top would be a fantastic addition because then you have a dry crispy exterior, as well as the melty fondant-ness of the cheddar or whatnot.
Working our way backward: Sunday was picnic day at the Jardin des Plantes in Nantes! Beautiful lucky summer weather combined with actually finding a lawn you can sit on (because the french don't like to actually USE their pelouses) = an idyllic day + 2 new cheeses = hedonist's delight! I stopped at Beillevaire earlier in the weekend and picked up 2 beauties, the first of which was the Saint Marcellin Chèvre. A small, soft disc with some darker blue veins running around the soft rind. Instead of the creamy spread of regualr Saint Marcellin or Saint Félicien, this chèvre was blue hints + immense saltiness + goaty grassy origins. Loose interior pâte and creamier exterior. A surprise! Et voilà.
The other cheese of the day was a Pitchounet, a raw sheep's milk from Haute-Garonne in the south. I was originally looking for a Pavé de l'Aveyron but I'll have to settle for coming back to france for a cheese tour (or working here?? If anyone has an idea for finding seasonal work in a cheese shop/creamery in Portland or France I AM ALL EARS!) I'm eternally on a quest for a young sheep's milk cheese, so this youngster of 3-4 weeks was a step in the right direction. Sweet ewe taste, yielding pâte, salt and some tang were my impressions. A hypothesis of mine is that sheep's milk is best young as possible or aged to refined elegance. We'll need further investigation to corroborate.
Here ends part 1 of the most recent cheeses of my life. What is surreal is my imminent departure from France... Today was the last of my exams and possibly the final time I will be on my campus. 4 months ago gave me no hints that I would ever be emerging from this wormhole of immersion and language and doubt and CHEESE, so now that the end is really near I am not sure what is to happen. I am eager to be back in my first home but sincerely wish that remaining in France was also a part of the equation. The crux of my time here was essentially me living my life, albeit 1500 miles away and with a set of people I had never seen before and may never see again. Okay enough waxing poetic à la prochaine!