Tomme crayyyyeuse

End of exams + quebecoise grandmother with 20% cheese coupon + no plans on a Saturday morning = hit up dat local grocer and see what funky goods he's slingin! We  stumbled upon this exciting and relatively new addition to the cheese world, TOMME CRAYEUSE! 

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You see a marvelous granited croûte with all sorts of ochre-charcoal-egg yolk yellow-foggy white and that says to me "dang that cheese had some adventures while it was affiner-ing!" Crayeuse means chalky, and ideally the interior pâte has a dryer, more crumbly consistency than the exterior and croûte, but ours was relatively just creamy and runny so I hazard a guess that poor Tomme was waiting in the cheese case for a couple of days before we stumbled upon it. Not a big deal because we still got tastes of damp earth, salty cream, wisdom and age. Paired with a 2010 duck pond Pinot noir, lil' Tomme went down like a dream! 

Albuminous return of crottin

3 months of no artisan cheese cravings has demonstrated to me that I don't like to have to look long and hard for good farmstead cheese (which shouldn't be a prob here in oregon but I lazy hence no farmers markets d'habitude for me) and I don't like paying $7 for one stinkin st. marcellin round. Thankfully, when your best friend's mama takes you and the gang out for sunday lunner at one of Portland's best (holler at Produce Row Café!) and orders the cheese plate for the table, well that's when you put on the figurative turophile gloves and dig in to what appears to be a nice, delicate plating of a garlicky soft washed rind cow's milk creation (Cow Girl Creamery I b'lieve), some nice young pecorino, and a sliced crottin that was courteously identified to me by our server as "ottentique," which seems to be a crottin produced by Juniper Grove farms here in Oregon. Unfortunately Google told me that accessing their web page would result in attack by malicious software and expose my computer to risks so I just had to go off of the preview in the search engine. Regardless, MIAM MIAM. Check it out: Image

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The ottentique had a marvelous creamy pâte and and velvety consistency after some mashing. It had a vestige of that butter-on-top-of-jam/syrup-on-mistake taste that I still have no other words for. Not as piquant or puzzling as the San Juan's Quail Croft crottin, but still with the nutty green root vegetable non-bitterness. There was some crystallization as well, and the savory crystals did some good on the palate. Such good.

Once Upon a Young Sheep's Milk

Last weekend marked a big event in the celebration of Memere's 85th celebration with family from all over the states. And what more fitting for the evening after lunch picnic than red, white blends, and cheese platters from PCC guhhhhh. I had a ball of a time eating crystalline allium-flavored Rembrandt gouda (aged gouda is rapidly rising in my esteem), chivey and malleable Cotswald, sweet violetted Beecher's Flagship, and most exciting of all: Pecorino di Pienza. A sheep's milk cheese from Siena, it can be eaten anywhere from 40 days to 18 months. The one I ate was soft, light, and oily aka young aka at least 60 days aged because hello I live in the US. There was another cheese on the plate called Drunken Goat but all my relatives thought that the pecorino was the Drunken Goat because of the strong, fuzzy nose that tickles the tongue and throat so devilishly in the pecorino aka Drunken Goat sounds like it would be real funky but uhhh let down. In any case, the Pecorino had a slightly more aged exterior (duhh rind) that had calmer, sharper notes than the interior. The soft sofa of an interior was milky white, acutely sheepy, bitingly fuzzy, and had a most curious lingering taste of rhubarb bitter. I think/hope that this pecorino was raw milk because the palate was so diverse and I want to think that I tasted those green italian pastures. At least for 3 minutes, I was walking on hillsides in Siena, holding crumbly soil in my fingers, milking italian sheep, and experiencing milk being coaxed into this higher form.

Crottin stateside

photo(43) Sometimes you get real excited seeing a cheese at a market and then you buy the cheese and it feels as hard as the ash-covered/rhomboidal exterior suggests and you say "I hope this cheese was accidently frozen even though I really don't want it to be frozen" and then you unpackage it and let it breathe for a couple of hours and then it's the moment of truth and you cut it open and it separates beautifully and you detect a heady waft and have the littlest of slivers and just like that all is well. This was my experience this morning, as I stumbled upon a french-style crottin at the stand of Quail Croft Farms during a visit to the Friday Harbor farmer's market with the gamins from camp. Our mission was to buy some chèvre for a tartine dish tomorrow, and we came home with garlic-basil fresh chèvre and an enigmatic lump o' crottin, per left photo.

The granite-like, blue/grey/brown exterior poses a challenge to comprehending the enigma inside. The pâte is very consistent throughout, showing and even ripening and just the slimmest of oxidized surroundings. The first wedge nibble made the phrase "threateningly dry velvet" come into my mind, and I think that is a good description of the initial texture. Mushing the morsel around in my mouth yielded a salty, granular paste. Then came tastes of roasted root vegetable or chestnuts, moqc crottin slicesstly in the form of a peculiar mild sweetness that fluxxed from bitingly tart on the front of the tongue to a crumbly blue sour salt feeling in the back. While tasting I had an undescribable flavor on the tip of my tongue that escaped identification until I pegged it as the weird flavor combination that comes when you spread margarine and syrup (the fake corn syrup kind) on a eggo waffle and some of the margarine gets on top of the syrup and it turns into this funky savory weirdness. I thought that this was a common childhood experience but none of my fellow tasters empathized with me hmmmm. In essence, the Quail Croft crottin is a complex piece of aged dairy that exudes wiseness and escapes cliché.

Also something decadent and head-emptyingly wonderful: camembert au four! Aka a round of camembert put in the oven for 30 minutes ish at 350 F ish (essentially until hot and melty) and removed and top croute cut off and hunks of bread dipped in the molten pool of satiny surface-ripened cheese. Perfect for camping trips and camp counselors on 36-hour vacations on Orcas Island. Just perfect.

camembert au four

Taste the world in 4 cheeses

The elation that comes before a meal that you know will challenge and expand and stretch and regale your taste buds = exactly what I felt last friday afternoon. On a break from 3 weeks of work and in a mood to burn money on things that float my very own boat, I put together a cheese feast with some coworkers. We picked up 7 varieties, of which I will write about not Taleggio, Morbier, or Saint Nectaire. The biggest pity is that my iPhone with pictures of all these albuminous protein chunks from the Netherlands, France, Spain, and wisconsin was lost to the Salish Sea, so the only fruit for the brain buds will be concise descriptions of what I savoured.

First was the Pave de Jadis, an ash-covered chèvre from the Pays de la Loire. It was weeping moisture in the way only the heat of 5 PM in late july can coax out of a tranche of cheese. It had a slow to come on, rather fuzzy way of conveying citrus, mild dairy, and mellow grasses.

Second was the Garrotxa, a Catalonian aged goat's cheese. Funky and bleu-chestnut rind colored with fishy tasties in my olfactory part influencing the chalky earth salt taste. A little mold funk made me think that this cheese is confused but in a "share my delirium" sort of engaging way.

Third was the Ballerina, by far the most expensive of our cheeses. It is an aged gouda that has a wonderful dark amber interior and translucent cheese crystals. I am not sure how long the affinage process lasted but I would venture somewhere in between 15-27 months (big range I know). It seemed like a wonderful vessel that someone poured delightful essence of garlic, molasses, salt, and roasted shrooms. The range and developing flavas was just so exciting and I highly recommend this cheese and other friends who like to talk about what they taste for a good time.

Last was Honeybee, another aged gouda. Somehow the sweetness and citrus of a teriyaki chicken skewer were the very first analogies I could find. This cheese finished with such a fun creamy nut sweetness that would have been both a muted dandelion yellow and earthy violet were they to be colors instead of (or in addition to) tastes.

These cheeses were fun to eat. We spent $70 on cheese (and sancerre) and I can't think of a more amusing way I have spent my money in months.

Adventures of a cheese smuggler

Working as a counselor at a french camp in the middle of an ocean may seem like a milieu full of cheese tasting opportunities but I say FALSE and that such opportunities are few and far between. Consequently I have been occupado by entertaining and disciplining children for the last 5 weeks and naht making/writing about/eating cheese except for my glimmery glorious 36-hour vacations. A plus of working at a french summer camp is that half our staff comes from France aka people who will appreciate my efforts of throwing together a cheese pl8 from the slim pickings of the island grocery store. Last last weekend I had the fun pleasure of sneaking cheese back to the island in my backypack and laying out a cheese course for the staff. First cheese to see the light of day was a variation of Port Townsend Creamery's Seastack, the equally tangy and imo more curious Trufflestack. trufflestack Here we have it all nicely wrapped up, completely unodorous and giving no hints of the velvet storm ahead of us. Voilà deplasticked, all mottily white and bloomy rinded. Even sniffs here only have a mild ammonia and waxy mystery. truffastack nekkid I cut into the ver pliable croûte and wedged a morceau of cleanly dry, ivory pâte into my bouche. The tangy and gauzy moist was cousined the entire time with a round, super sympa truffle dynamism. As someone who gets through college by adding white truffle oil to his easy mac on those desperate nights, this truffastack makes my go-to repertoire like so for sure. Bless the land for Port Townsend Creamery and their godsend of a dairy product.

The other cheese on the plate the night was a nice double cream gouda, something buttery and nutty sharp for the other chilluns in the house. By the time we ate it in the evening, it had been sitting out for a couple of hours and had started to sweat and the mellow flavors were out to party. gooda

Watching ratatouille while writing this post = my brain wants to convey the joy of taste and thinks that pixar should open a restaurant. I also apologize for how big these pictures are... I'm not an html expert haha

Father's Day french/cheese style

 

Sometimes it is a sunday and sometimes it is father's day and sometimes you have just recently returned from france and sometimes your father takes you to the wine superstore and cheese monger and then when all of these sometimes have occurred you have a beautiful blog post to write. So this day we visited Total Wine superstore (so huge, so expansive, so tempting, so prolific) and picked up two muscadets, a côte du rhône, a crément, a bordeaux, and a fresh washington rosé. With and after this selection we decided on a west coast fun chèvre and a thrilling leaf-wrapped blue. Hence there are things to be read.

First we have the Valdéon blue: cow and goat's milk cheese. Spanish, striking, and not young. Hence.

valdeon blue

The first thing I noticed of this cheese was the leaf-wrapped rind. Upon further research I see that it is wrapped in sycamore leaves which I understand impart a flavor compound. Biting into the cheese provides an uncannily sweet, creamy, striking, and granular initial taste. Further eatings demonstrate smokiness, nutty aftertastes, and fungal airs. The smoothness and cream nature of the valdeon were surprising and I heartily enjoyed them. I had been used to a biting blue aftertaste but this pungent moldiness, although apparent, has no degrees of pain associated with them. Conclusion: spain you got some good cheeses mang!

Then 2nd course finds our "west coast fun chèvre" that is actually a Cypress Grove purple haze varietal. Look!

cgppFennel pollen, lavender, and sea salt are creatively imbued here to create a tension between pure, unadulterated, velvety chèvre and the powerhouses of lavender and fennel that result in a piney, exotic, tangy, HIGHLY spreadable taste feeling. Sumpin I rill enjoy are the vivacious lavender kernels that can be seen on the outside of the cheese. I rarely find whole lavender blossoms as most producers of lavender thangs prefer to use an oil or some sort of extract. The presence of lavender here adds a texture element that really makes me stop and think about what makes up this cheese. Also it reminds me of the Lavender Festival (July 19-21, http://www.lavenderfestival.com/) because it is so thrilling and uncommon that food producers are able to incorporate the entire lavender taste into their products. Kudos to you, cypress grove.

Another conclusion: America has ver good cheese and I thank capitalism (omg) that we can get good, artisan cheese nationwide. Until next time!

Ricotta fait à MA maison

Yeah that's right - I made cheese! I'm embarassed/ecstatic to announce that this is my very first foray into the murky, rewarding world of cheesemaking. I've been waiting all of four years to make this ricotta, starting when I read an article in Food & Wine and said "Maria Helm Sinskey you are a brilliant chef and more than anything I want to try your sweeter-and-fluffier-than-store-bought ricotta rendition" and VOILA. I've enjoyed spreading ricotta on english muffins with honey and substituting ricotta for cream cheese or sour cream in soups or dips over the years. As a child, manicotti with spinach and ricotta was the double death whammy of taste aversions; imagine my prim surprise at the age of 15 that ricotta was not only palatable but enjoyable! Thus we arrive at the day of today: a sort of renaissance in my life as a cheese lover. All that my recipe require was whole milk (yum), heavy whipping cream (more yum), salt and vinegar. Combine the milk and h.w.c and heat until just before boiling, where you see frothing and steaming and general good things occuring. Per the white expanse of a photo below. milkricotta

Next to do is add vinegar and stir for 30 seconds. Twas amazing to see the milk start to curdle almost immediately; at this point I could imagine the tenderest of curds that I would soon be pressing. Next comes the salt and stirring for 30 seconds. After these two steps, we respect the fermentation process and let our volatile new compound rest for 2 hours, covered with a nice cloth towel to let the curds sweat in peace. Then buhbam we spoon the curds with a slotted spoon into a colander draped with cheese cloth, wrap up our curds, and squinch the top with a rubber band. per the picture below.

ricotta blossom

SSSSLIKE wow how did 2 quarts of milk and a cup of h.w.c turn into a cute as a button blob of curd the size of my two fists? And the answer is of course cheesemaking magic. I let the ricotta bulb rest for another 30 minutes, interspersed with systematic squeezing and pressing to rid the booble of whey. After this 2.5 hours of relatively no work, we ended up with a creamy, light-as-heaven, stunningly pure looking, moist (not soggy) ricotta that I bet you can't find in the stores.

ricawtta

Like so white! I pressed so good you can still see the cheese cloth crease lines on the outside. The curds range from like 1.5 millimeters to 4 millimeters in diameter and spread delicately throughout the mouth. I ate mine on toasted whole wheat bread (wanted to take a picture but it looked like a mess haha) and that was divine, and also on top of a broiled tomato and also with a salmon filet and that was a.o.k. Case in point, ricotta is NOT a side dish and it is the mildest, sweetest diva you'll ever want to put in your mouth. Another fun thing about cheesemaking is that at the end, you have like way too much whey! "What can I do with this whey??"  you think - and then I tell you like anything you would do with regz milk. I set some aside for a pork marinade tomorrow, mixed some powdered drink mix into the whey for a refreshing afternoon sip, and made a red peppa soup with the whey as a base instead of just boring old water. Unfortch most other cheeses take muuuush longer to make than ricotta so there will be more of a patient waiting process for prets much anything else I concoct but never mind, let the cheese MAKING begin! Also Happy Cheese day to everyone yesterday but really why not make it Happy Cheese day everday amirite??

If you are interested in making your own ricotta, here is the recipe: http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/creamy-ricotta Many thanks to Maria Helm Sinskey and Food & Wine because duhhhh

Hometown America

This weekend passed in a blur of hugs, iced tea, various meat entrées, coffee iterations, long-lost friends, farmer's markets, and good old portland charm. The sun came out, chalk-drawings were on the menu for saturday night, and late-night eggs-in-a-nest was definitely a thing. Best part of the weekend: I found a job at a local creamery! I shall be representing a small, fledgling chèvre-based creamery that has some wildly pure products. My favorite was just the baseline chèvre (fresh, tangy, spreadable, unassuming like ricotta but significant like pecorino-romano) dipped in salted caramel.... Talk about decadence like omg. Immediately the idea of an ice cream flavor of goat cheese and caramel came to my mind and to my greatest delight it already exists! Salt & Straw, a portland ice cream boutique (so silly/so good) does a version using the chèvre from the new creamery! Anyway portland is as happy, grassroots, and welcoming as ever and it shall be an amazing year.

Overtures of Spring pt. 2

It's been a while! City and country-hopping rill drains ya. I haven't been having as much cheese as the golden months of February-April and moi hypothesis is that the attractibility of cheese experienced a major reduction in my mind because it knows it can't eat any of this in le states = an unconscious weaning to serve the weaning process. On the other hand, 2 weeks of travels have yielded some cheese eatings. D'abord, we tried some Tête de moine at Beillevaire in Nantes. Not too overwhelming, just a hunk of round medium-hard cows milk cheese per below. tete de moineExcept FALSE because that hunk is sitting on its special shaving apparatus developed in the 1980's to aid the cutting of the cheese in orda to develop the special scents and sweet agey flavors that people have come to love about T.d.M. To cut the cheese, one must but a triangular sort of knife around the peg coming out of the cheese and twirl it around, yielding thin byootiful scrapings of the cheese. Et Voilà. We have a fleur of t.d.m and boy are they fun to eat. Creamy, stays in the mouth for the long time, reminded me of a younger/milkier parmesan. If it wasn't so beautiful I would cook wonderful things with it (but you can also get blocks instead of fleurs so more practical yes). Moi friend Carol who also likes cheese said that she would be all about gifting me a T.d.M cutter for my birthday and I'm okay with that.fleurtdmPuis on voit Gaperon, a surprising cow's milk cheese that my spitfire of a host mother picked up for me one of the last weekends I was in Nantes. Parentheses: so tragic that I'm already referring to Nantes in the past tense... For so long it was my dream-life and now its a dream-past and wahhh closing parentheses. The Gaperon has herbs and peppercorns in it, and was so initially tangy and wet-pasty that I was convinced to be eating a chèvre. However it is big and hard bloomy rind like chèvre doesn't have and in the end we realized it was in fact from a cow. It had a salty, herby, almost bitter creamy taste. I was quite full that evening and did not need to be eating more cheese and love Anne with all my esprit so I had some gaperon wedges and did not enjoy them to the fullest. It would be a good lunch with a baguette toscane, a light red, and some sweet ham. Very spreadable and unique for def. Brainflash: the taste was like a tempered version of Boulette d'avesnes aka good idea because that sheee was SO BITTER maybe twas a mistake but I say ehhh. gaperon

Next to have been eaten was our friend Machecoulais. I went into the cheese store looking for something soft and delicious like the ginestarié that just about changed my life, so the fromager suggested this cheese. It came in a cute little basket like the Saint Félicien so that was a good sign to start with. A washed-rind cows milk cheese, it can be described as a very runny, fruity tasting camembert. I detected those tell-tale cauliflower notes and so ehh disappointing. The next day when I tried some on campus it seemed mellower and less rubbery. Either way its a pretty cheese, different from a reg bloomy rind cow cheese. machecoulaisAnd then there was the fresh Rocamadour that I have already written about but this iteration was an oozy goozy addition to a cheese plate in the beautiful French city of St-Antonin-Noble-Val. This restaurant, Le carré des gourmets, was admittedly a gastronomic place, and as such paid great attention to leetle details like taking their cheese out of the fridge long enough before they served it to ensure its room temperature-ness and not dryness. The rocamadour, which was drizzled with a green-tasting, green-looking acerbic olive oil (aka so good), had a velvety, almost foamy pâte. The rind had a nice amount of contained moisture and like if cheese could taste living because it was so fresh and grassy and amply doux, this rocamadour could be it. Once again I see my affinity for chèvres is developing uncontrollably and my obvious salivation is probably obscuring the text on this page, but I do not apologize. As I will be returning to the US of A in a matter of 3 days, the next part of my adventure will include finding a creamery or cheesery to work for... Lofty dreams!

Overtures of spring Pt. 1

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??) pizza tartiflette 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. french n cheese

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. saint marcellin chèvre

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. PITCHOUNET

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!

Montmartre and cheese and lots of culture

Glorious glorious spring break number 2! The sun was smiling down on all of Paris during our trip, the jardin de Luxembourg was brimming with life and green expanses, and the jambon gruyère baguettes were croquant and cremeux. We started off our first day in Montmartre wandering, seeing the beautiful cobblestone streets that will me manque oh-so-terribly when I return to the US. After looping around the quartier, we ended up at the Fromagerie Quatrehomme in the 18th arrondissement. The offshoot of Marie Quatrehomme's original shop on the Rue de Sèvres, it is a cave of quite some magic. quatrehomme

I walked in and heard some American tourists asking if the camembert was strong or what a good tasting cheese was and I felt immediately thankful not to be wearing a red flag of cheese/France unknowledge... I set out to look for the house specialty of 30 month aged Comté and was swept away by the beauties of Valençay and Banon on the other side of the shop. Because we were only eating for two, I picked up the Comté and Valençay and VOILÀ the resulting cheese plate/crappy hostel lights

hostel

The Comté... In fact I read about this one on another food lover's blog and like that was some good advice. Like SUCH A FUN CHEESE. As you can see in the photo above with the big yellow hunk, I cut it into thin tranches, watching the crystals shave off onto the plate and feeling l'eau dans la bouche. Almost opaque in spots, you can tell that this is a cheese that has seen things. I had immediate tastes of savory and garlic and such a pleasing crunch in some spots. Then there was a flavor development into the realm of a well-stocked plate of spaghetti bolognese; my mouth was left with a comprehension of age and onions. Absolute, hands-down, undeniably the best comté that my life has ever had. Thank you and to whoever is reading, I EXHORT you to search out and aged comté of this caliber. Preferably at this shop.

Also interesting note: if a comté is scored at less than 12/20 overall by the french cheese police, it cannot be called comté and is instead sold as gruyère in France! Cheese hierarchy exists = woah conspiracy theories abound.

The Valençay, seen in the background behind the Comté, was a calmer addition to the plate. I felt/tasted/saw a beautiful ivory interior, dry texture in a clean and cool way, and flavors reminiscent of pretzel flavored salt. I had really been hankering to try it because it has a cool charcoal-covered exterior and comes in a cool 3D trapezoid shape (legend has it that it enraged Napoleon so he cut off the top and voilà we have the lasting shape to this day). I wasn't as blown away by the Valençay as I have been recently with other unpasteurised chèvres; I think I really like them moelleux and grassy and fresh or pungent, dry, and peppery almost. Hmm particular tastes.

K so then it was out of Paris and into the South, where we visited the beautiful towns of Dax, Labatut, Bayonne, Biarritz, and St. Jean de Luz. It was in St. Jean de Luz that we stopped at Maison Adam, a purveyor of fine local goods including ham, cheese, pastries, dairy products, and pepper. The front of the store is an invitation to culinary whimsy and high quality, complete with a wall of aged piment d'espelette (spicy delicious peppers that are the local speciality of Bayonne). I also bought a bottle of piment d'espelette olive oil and sel de piment and I am oh-so-excited to spice up my cuisine back in 'murca. photo(21)

In the shop I was delighted to see a wall full of aged sheep's cheeses; I picked up a wedge of "brebis fermier" which is prets much the run-of-the-mill sheep's cheese of the region (and by run-of-the-mill I mean delicious and artisanal and delightful) and also a wedge of REAL Ossau-Iraty to bring back to the states with me because that dank is worth its weight in gold in my palate (and by worth its weight in gold I mean 32.60 euros/kg haha). adambrebis

So in Biarritz later that night, after our beautiful apéro of Jurançon sec and jambon de bayonne, I sliced up my recent purchase and ate some tranches watching abstract short-films on an artsy independent channel. I was more engrossed with my cheese and quite easily because 1) there was a strong sheep dairy taste all throughout my mouth and 2) more fun flavors than I had anticipated! The cheese was medium firm and yielding, grainy in a delightfully-crystal-hinting manner. The tastes started off tight and pert, like a young gruyère, but developed into fuzzy piquant multi-faceted protein flavor. Weird? Not if you were to taste it. What was tho interesting was that although yes the rind was drier and earthier than the interior of the wedge, there was a distinct hint of blue/ammonia along the exterior. The flavors changed cleanly and distinctly and I thoroughly enjoyed the taste transitions. Good stuff Brebis Fermier. You can see the artfully arranged slices below; I ate them all.photo(16)

Also in St. Jean de Luz I was given a little slice/sample of Fromage Mixte = sheep and cow milk; I found it to remind me of a creamy monterey jack with hints of sheep's dairy. Lighter in color and softer in hold as well. Moyenne in flavor/quality but would make a good mac and cheese or melted on top of chili mmm the husky sheep scent would make a crowd go wild. Until next time then, cheese lovers!

Avenues of Cheese

No, I have not eaten anything new in the past 24 hours (with regards to cheese of course). Yes, I still want to post things on the blog because the exploration of cheese is slowly and surely taking over my romantic soul. Yes, I do want to move back to France as soon as I have my bachelor's and work at a crèmerie somewhere in the nearby countryside and speak French with the locals and live a calm, different culture. Being here in France is really just like second life to me now - I take for granted all the magic that is here and I know it, so coming back is a necessity. Why not do something absolutely novelesque in my young years when I can afford to take advantage of my no responsibilities/obligations/connections? Aka yeahhhhh Anyway I was driving back from a beach day in Préfailles (beautiful beautiful rocky savage beaches and seafooooood) when I realized there are plenty of cheese-related tidbits that I can be passing on to the 2.3 readers of this blog!  So Tidbit 1: As you may know, I briefly changed the name "cheeseisgod" to "Sweet Dreams Are Made of Cheese" before I realized that the domain name itself didn't change and that was confusing blah blah but nevertheless this is a great little cheese/a capella rendition of "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" by the Eurythmics: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=25RuXkkM9T0

Like vraiment lol; 37 seconds of cheese dedicated singing = something I am toats down with. Then comes Tidbit 2: You can get a free wisconsin cheese guide/poster by following this link and just entering your address! http://www.eatwisconsincheese.com/cheese/requestguide.aspx ... I just received mine a couple of days ago and it has about 30 different varieties on it and at the very least like its a piece of free paper with cheese to look at. I saw this offer on another cheese blog about 3 months ago so pay it forward friends!

Tidbit 3: Camembert-pomme tartelettes! We ate these last saturday for dinner and mehhh I had a Baraka burger (dirtiest burger in Nantes... quarter pounder cheeseburger with HASH BROWNS LIKE WHUTTT) right before dinner so was not too too peaked but still managed to get one tartetlette in the belly. If I had been hungrier like my oh my so much consumption! Unfortunately I did not take a picture of ours but this is a prets good approximation (thanks Google images (does that count as a citation/oops this is a parentheses in a parentheses)) of what the magic was. Fondante, strong like camembert, buttery, sucré, oooooh you don't even know if it's a dessert or plat principal. I strongly suggest you give this a try, and most of the online recipes seemed like similar versions enough to what I had. Even if you don't try it, at least you know it exists!

Tidbit 4: Camembert Chantilly! Like seriously this is something that would be "rien n'est plus simple à faire" according to the wise words of my wise host father Daniel. You can find the recipe here: http://rusticooking.over-blog.com/article-pommes-caramalisees-a-la-chantilly-de-camembert-115514680.html ... I will be making this as soon as I am back in the states and camembert me manque tellement and as this will be in a chantilly form I don't necessarily need some D'Isigny Sainte Mère camembert to calm my palate. By really world?? Camembert chantilly? I think this could go with buttermilk gaufres or chocolate blueberry pancakes? Savory profiteroles? Shooters with chantilly on top?? Ooohoo vraiment avenues of cheese.

Tidbit 5: Cheese tasting poster with 16 principal flavors My friend Charlie who is a chem major and tryna get his masters in food science so he can do that the rest of his life posted this on my wall and I thank him dearly. I wasn't sure if I agreed entirely with the distinctions, but then I'm the one with the palate, not the doctorate in food science. http://www.popsci.com/files/cheese-poster.png?utm_medium=referral&utm_source=pulsenews Here you can see what cheeses are related to each other, what flavor traits they have in common, and how much. I find it pretty american-centric, but at least 6 french cheeses are represented so good stuff. At the very least its amusing to see such a thorough definition of what tastes are present.

Okay so yes enjoy the tidbits, I leave for Paris in the morning where I hope to visit the legendary shops of Quatrehomme and Androuet and Laurent and ohhhh can't even wait. A plus!

 

"Lazy days" don't exist in the french countryside

And thank goodness! Today brought tours of summer homes, hillsides full of green, sunlight through the clouds of plush, and honest meal-times. We nommed on grilled chicken breasts à la campagne, garlic crème fraîche à la campagne, fire-roasted potatoes à la campagne, radishes à la campagne, pain rustique à la campagne, éclairs à la campagne, rosé à la campagne, white wine à la campagne, kir à la campagne, cab sauvignon à la campagne, and of course of course of course a cheese course à la campagne. Et voilà. cheese à la campagne First we have our hunk of beaufort in the upper left of the plate (aka the only thing that doesn't look like a raisined chèvre ball). This comes from the Savoie region and is generally just used in Fondue Savoyarde because it's so damn unctuous and buttery and expensive too so people like to think like they're helping their wallets and cholesterol levels by masking it among other hard mountain cheeses but I say NOT HERE BEAUFORT! NOT IN MY COUNTRY HOUSE! So needless to say we nommed gooood on this wedgy; le beaufort is medium-hard like de udda mountain cheeses and shared some similar taste characteristics. Me myself moi I tasted a sharp/pointy creaminess, savory butter notes, and pungent (like half of the cheeses I describe) butteriness that gave it a different dimension than other hardish cheeses like comté or bethmale or gruyère. Needless to say good stuff and I think that would make a fine grilled cheese with a sweet cranberry-peppercorn rub on the bread because I do firmly believe that beaufort has enough taste and charisma to stand up to a griddle, heat, and other strong flavors.

Then I ate little bits of both of the chèvre balls (one with golden raisins as I have previously described and one with reg raisins) and interestingly enough the reg raisin had tastes of molasses and umami so like intriguing. I was rill rill full after having had my meal "à la campagne" so I didn't bouffe too hard on the chèvres. Here in France it's really another day another chèvre which is not to say du tout that I take that for granted or think that chèvre is "common" because simply not true.

Coupla days ago we also started eating a new, mild friend named Fleur d'Aunis. Soft and havarti-like in consistency and texture, it hints at being spreadable without being runny. As the rind is orange and like def not just a pâte fleuri we would say that this cheese is of the washed-rind persuasion. Nutty, creamy, pretty tame on the flavor scale, it is nevertheless a cheese to have on hand for a party or cheese tray or a night alone because after eating a wedge like that you'll definitely know that something is in da tummy. K ciao I'm off to Paris and I have much much plans to see the most famous fromageries and really just any and every fleur d'aunisfromagerie I can find so in a couple of days there will be a goldmine of Parisian treasures! Who knows, maybe I'll even go David Lebowitz on all y'all and find some brie noir and love it/hate it/who knows but PARISIAN FROMAGERIES BE STILL MY HEART lata playas.

Picnics and Surprises

This week was tough because I had to force myself to stay away from the fromagerie because in fact I found a second in centre-ville Nantes called "Fromagerie Lecoq" which is fun and a good alternative to Beillevaire but unfortch only open 9:30-12:30 and 15:30-18:30 so kinda not convenient whatsoever for lunch time shenanigans :/ But litrally so easy to drop 10+ euros at the fromagerie aka just a moitié wedge of some wheel cheese and then a little chèvre dropping or something of the sort. The expenses this week have come to just about 20 euros on cheese and gosh darn its not even thursday. Not mad though, who would ever be mad about spending more money on cheese than actual victual food stuffs NOT ME! We started this week off with a trip to Fromagerie Lecoq that was eagerly anticipated on monday but had to wait until Tuesday so in the meantime we contented ourselves with a regular "pâte a tartiner" like rondelé or boursin, this time think it's croisé and au poivre. Good stuff with my pain aux céreales and saucisson au porc. But then tuesday came and the second thing of that day was trip to the fromagerie; different smelsalersls, more spicy and earthy than the dairy, cool feel of Beillevaire. When I was there I picked up two cheeses, and the first to be eaten back at IES was the strong gold Salers. It really reminds me of a gold ingot, but in this case a crumbly-hard-until-it-yields-in-your-mouth-golden-paste of a precious metal. My friend Blair tried a little morsel and said that it felt "sparkly" on the tongue and "old tasting but not in a bad way" which I toats empathize with. I had previously described the aged cantal as fuzzy and def detected the same feeling in this old grump of a 9 month old semi-hard cheese. Like I said, the salers reminded me of a cantal, but of a less intense, more mellowed/molasses-y varietal. Crystallized, piquant, sweet-dairy tasting, salty, acidic with no burn, and ending with a flash of pepper. As I worked my way to the outside, I noted that the interior of the wedge had a more buttery veneer to the taste than the outer-regions. Maybe less oxidization = fresher tasting? Good stuff, that salers.

Then not 3 minutes later the unveiling of the quiet, cheerful giant: CABECOU (cabécou)!! Friends, friends, let me tell you... I should have put a quarter in the pic for a size comparison, but the entire little poop is just about 3 centimeters in diameter; not a lot of material to work with! The rind you see is what really fascinated me. As a "croute naturel" (I think) cheese, the rind is soft and surrounds an entirely different material. The rind itself is soft cabécouflavorful and not chalky and reminds me of pie dough - like you could probably pop this in the over and tell someone you "en crout-ed" it and they would toats believe you because the rind is so phenoms. Anyway then I actually at the cheese and my oh my pungent, savory, hinting (just mildly) at rancid, I felt heady flavors with a tang at the beginning and then age in the form of moldy and then cream at the end. That was what was rilll gr8 - the aftertaste that really lingered of fresh whole milk, even cream. The moisture and discrete flavors, combined with the creaminess and tang associated with pungence, made this a palatable but altogether new friend. Thanks Lecoq!

K so then it was today and Brett had to supply the friends with cheese for the picnic because enfinnnn it was a beautiful day in Nantes that called for cheese, muscadet, crusty bageuttes, and vegetable entrées. I went to Beillevaire and said "Madame, I am looking for 2 cheese for a picnic. One soft, moist, calm, but surprising; the other strong, salty, hard, formidable, and full of taste" and what I got was quite an amazing match to what I described. We first nommed on the miracle that is Ginestarié (like what is that name??) that is visible just to the left. ginestariéThis chèvre has the thinnest-most-not-real rind/croute ever, and the whiter sections in the photo of the cheese are where the rind actualz melted onto the Beillevaire wrapping. Like moelleux or WHAT. And Madame Beillevaire was right; I first had a little morceau of the Ginestarié and my oh my flavors of lasagné, lemony tang, grassy earth, soft bedding of pepper, and soft velour of ricotta. Those flavors and the glistening texture made this actually cold tasting - my fellow picnickers Carol and Holly can gladly corroborate that farfetched conlcusion. But yes, a surprising, refreshing, cool-feeling chèvre that made the picnic. This is a definite re-buy. If all y'all can find some of this in the rest of the world, doooot. Except not if it's wrapped in plastic and suffocating because my new philosophy I developed today says that "its better to spend more for a little good quality cheese, even if one doesn't like it, than to spend less on bad quality cheese because then you're really just stuck with rotten dairy." One day I'll refine that quote but y'all will recognize it from the formative days.

And last but not least was the fun times of L'Etivaz that comes from the beautiful nation of Sweeeeserland. L'etivazThe cheese actually started sweating in the picnic hot afternoon sun, so we got to see a demonstration of how much liquid moisture fat they is in some good quality dank. This cheese is the strong salty one that I asked for, and umami came to mind for taste: roasted nuts, pork, warm bitterness, even seafoody. Actually all of these flavors occurring in different parts of my mouth at different times; such a merveille. The crumbles happened with the cheese and so when we ate it it felt grainy in an ephemeral way such that the cheese became a feeling and the feeling became a flavor and my oh my it is too late to be writing about cheese. Sorry for the ramblings and elusive descriptions. Good stuff abound and goood stuff to come!

One time I ate every cheese

A weekend ago I had a picnic in a castle's ramparts with friends, rosé, red wine, homemade quiche, veggie appetizers, and 2 cheese friends. I wanted to write about them but I waited (maybe foolishly) until 5 days and 3 cheese later. Maybe bad idea but picnic = not bad idea and too much cheese in a blog post = not possible. So lets get down to business chronologically. First off, we have our new acquaintance and close friend Brillat-Savarin. Take a good looksie. brillatsavarinBrainy and veiny, would someone choose to eat dis normalement? Answer= yes I would and yes i did. With an inside whiter than the outside (tankfurry..), I had feelings of velvety dryness, sensations of holistic mold, and a supportive tang to the taste. I would even dare to say that my tongue found a hint of fish curry in the B.S (haha). Maybe even some peanuts to go along with the thai theme! Overall a yum. Maketh the tasteth budeth happeth.

then next we tried iddle biddle baby Crottin des Alpines. crottindesalpinesOmg brainy and veiny again! Quelle coincidence! But this goat cheese was a different creature entirely. I asked for the "moelleux" instead of "plus sec" so our relatively young C.d.A was moist and yielding. Cutting through the rind was intensely facile, and my mouth brought to mind savory definitions, goaty origins, and feelings of frozen velour. Not your errday chèvre by any means. There are plusieurs types de Crottin so if you spot an opportunity to taste, by all means get that! But make sure you talk well with your cheesemonger before to figure out what your tastes gon be like. Or just have a surprise but still talk with your cheesemonger to 1) talk with a cheesemonger 2) talk about crottin 3) make sure that you're getting some good dank

And then there was the rocamadour. Soft, ingratiating, goaty, and multi-textured, we had first the rocamadour in a dish called aumonières that you see here regaling on a plateaumoniere in the dining room all wrapped up in pâte brisée and just a lil brulée-d. All tressed in ham and wrapper, I got a gooey ooey dinner taste. And then o la vache I had a wedgy of rocamadour after the deeenner. Below I think you can see bien a round of rocamadour (so coot and lil ri8???) and then its counterpart rocamadourof partly eaten. I had equally rocamadourcutgood times with each. So jenky of design status but I'm not a wordpress master ehhhh but sorry you'll have to guess what exactly im talking bout.

Then nexttt we have chèvre au mangue but I'm not gonna write bout dat bcuz its just creamy mmm with mangos and tropical fruits such as passion fruit all lined up around dat cremeux exterior. Good simple crowd pleaser without selling out - not easy to do. And then enfin we have the St. Félicien round 2. Still as creamy and droopy as before, still in a cute little wooden hamper, but this time around I have a whole new philosophy of cheese which is eat as much as you need to detect all the nuances and complexities of what exact dairy product you are sensing. And i mean exact as in respect the varieties in production and instruct your palate in what you think hope know you are tasting. stfelicienstcolombeMan brainy again! We are all about brainy cheese this post. But once you cut into dat gyri-filled rind you are rewarded with a supple nest of aged cream. Distant, pungent, coulante, and so close to a jar of cream, this St. Félicien is not to be taken lightly. Aged to youth, packaged up, and sent to my house, the SF gave my taste buds and mouth sensors a roller coaster in how the heck is there so much flavor in a protein-bound liquid? INEXPLICABLE. Talk to you next time.

 

 

From age to age...

Happy hump day everyone! We've made it through monday, tuesday, and most of wednesday consequently a sensory vacation is much deserved. My mid-meal smileysaucissonsandwich of pork sausage and butter says "be happy you have food to eat."  This iddle sandwich with happy sausage features was a great way to finish the day. The sausage was generous, doux, softly meaty, strong but yielding, balanced pork-ly, and with subtly sweet pepper colors. High quality stuff right there aka better than the $1.30 chorizo I buy at carrefour city - this sausage (which is not cheese I realise and this blog is not called sausageisgood because ehhhh) was refined, not overly oily or fatty, and did not remind me of anything Upton Sinclair ever wrote about. Also this sandwich came after several of a pâté persuasion; I had a good carnivorous time with these toasts such as the pâté heated by the toast turned into a velvety dynamo of melty flavor. Hints of sweet onion too. Very fine texture, made even more fine by the fact that it's melted pâté on pain rustique mmmm I love putting french words into english sentences. Anyway then also last night I had a tasting feast to myself. I got home a little late for dinner because I had been clear across the city getting a hair cut from the host mother of one of my fellow study abroad students. Hence I walk in the door and this beauty is a-waiting me on the kitchen table (thanks Daniel for cheese conquering this weekend):plateHere we have cantal vieux (big yellow block), époisses (orange wavy round), cranberry chèvre (looks like cranberries stuck on a chèvre ball), camembert (duhh the camembert), and chèvre tropical (the orange chèvre ball - mango, papaya, and apricot - still haven't tried it but I'm excited for pure simple indulgence). I set myself to work with my salad entrée and plat principal of pâté and sausage sandwich as described in the earlier paragraph. I got through those courses with immense and mounting anticipation for the dairy fantasies that awaited me, all the while shooting glances and imagining what tastes were in store for my tongue buddies. When the time came, I started with the cantal vieux. Aged over a year, the rind is actually blackened by oxidization and mold has started to appear in the center of the cheese. Daniel had told me that the cantal jeune (young) and cantal vieux (old) are entirely different cheeses and yes I do concur. cantalvieuxI carved off a little of the interior corner and inspected my gold nugget. Strong dairy parmesan scent, firm grasp, texture is almost crystalline with flaky layers. I spotted a deep cream color that could even be mistaken for butter. The cheese crumbled in my mouth and I tasted an instant acidity and felt a warm fuzziness spread all around my tongue and mouth. There were seafood notes (weird yes but curious enough in a small portion to be interesting and not offputting) and warm peppery senses. Paired with the cab sauv on the table was a gift from another world - the strong savory cheesiness melted away the tannins and lushness of the wine. MMM. After a couple more bites the cantal tasted like a sharp, piquant white cheddar.

Then I had another morcel the day after and I tasted more floral fragantness (very faintly o' course, kinda farfetched) and fuzziness. I had a bit of the rind and what surprised me was the major differences between the rind and the interior: the exterior was dry crumbly (fat all oxidized?), salty, roundly fishy taste, and had none of that fuzz that was so present earlier. I definitely prefer the interior but it was refreshing for research's sake to understand the whole of the cheese, the context of its existence.

And shnowwwwww we hath arrived at the époisses. Époisses époisses époisses époisses! Having never heard of this cheese before, I was eager beaver to get my sampling started. Cutting the cheese (hehe) I saw the ivory crumbly paste in the center surrounded by a gooier, opaque beige. The smokey orange rind with gyri let reminded me of brains like langres (which I still gotta eat with some brandy.) I smelled cheese, mildewy and acrid. époissesTHEN I PUT THE CHEESE IN MY MOUTH. All I could think of was "creamy creamy almost bitter hinting at vegetation and the color green." There was a lingering fermented note with almost bitterness associated. I felt a faint ammonia taste that was not at all unpleasant but reminiscent of brie although that is a soft-ripened cheese and the époisses is washed-rind (usually with brandy yurmmmm). The round, mellow, interacting/connected flavors of sweet cream and walnuts were foremost in my taste organs. I enjoyed this cheese with a muscadet wine but wikipedia said that a sauternes (verrrr sweet) would be very pleasant and I can empathize completely. The acidity of red would do no good for mr. époisses. Interestingly enough, I though of mac and cheese when eating this guy. Albeit high-quality mac and cheese like trader joes white cheddar shells and cheese so phewww no worries. Day 2 of eating époisses showed me continued instanes of tangy, grassy, savory, and pungent flavor characteristics that were heartily welcomed back. Full disclosure: époisses may be my new favorite cheese (sorry morbier/taleggio/paprika chèvre from cypress grove/étorki/cougar gold).

This is such a long post sorry (cept not sorry because these are my thoughts and like take em or leave em but preferrably take em because then maybe you'll know more about cheese or like it more or want to get in touch with your local creamery and get into some serious déguster-ing) BUT it must be said that these cheese situation last night was one of the most sensory fulfilling tasting experiences of my life. I spent a long time on just a little bit of cheese, and I think I understand that what is amazing about cheese isn't the creamy notes or high fat content or meltability or complement on so many sandwiches but rather that there is such a variety of detectable flavors. What other food brings to mind meat, fruit, nuts, seafood, dairy, dessert, even chemicals? Cheese can be a door to so many other experiences and its just a hunk of altered dairy. Earlier during my stay in france, I would take a bunch of strong cheese and eat it all fast because you can do that with milder, simple cheeses like gouda or cheddar or havarti (not that those are any less valid - I would never denounce havarti) and not really have a great time with the strong cheese I was consuming (in some cases imbibing...) Maybe i'm just a high-brow snob now but for me the challenge of strong cheese and the spectrum of surprises they contain is exhilarating. The age of a cheese, the method of production, the chemicals or ash or herbs introduced, the humidity of affinage climate, etc etc all have wild and sometimes unpredictable effects on the pot of cared-for milk. I think my love for cheese is akin to my love for pokémon as a younger Brett - gotta catch em all but really gotta eat em all.

A cheesy easter

Sitting in front of the fire on a chilly pâques sunday, digesting my meal of lamb and oysters, listening to some smooooth jazz = everything is tranquille. Writing these blog posts has become really enjoyable and a procrastination habit because I feel as if I'm anchoring my taste buds in the waves of time and so I'll always be able to come back to this Sunday or that tuesday with those cheeses and those sensations. tis funny because in that sense this is really just a diary that everyone (and by everyone I mean me and the one visitor who happens to stumble upon this blog once every couple weeks) has the ability to read. And so anyway cheese. My friend Laura and I have discovered a mutual lust for cheese that includes her buying me pesto gouda from Amsterdam when she goes back and me loving eating it. I sampled her some of the cantal and gouda with cumin that was last week and she liked it and made big expressive googly eyes when she was eating and did the "unhhhhh so good" that really defines my life when it comes to eating. Transcending expression when eating is a near-daily occurrence for me so I photo(8)was so glad to see my girl L enjoying cheese so ineffably. Easter cheese plate is as follows! Here we have a nice bûche de chèvre, a widdle chèvre aux fines herbes, and a hunk o' emmenthal. It was curious how different the two chèvres were: the little guy was the tangy creamy chèvre that you get in plastic packacges (but of a much better quality a durr) and the bûche was more delicate tasting, hints of chalkyness in a very agreeable way (weird yes). But anyway on with individual cheese descriptions because we haven't even been acquainted!

The bûche de chèvre, seen below as a big white roll, literally means "log of goat cheese" aka not really romantic. The bûche was previously only from Poitou-Charentes but thank goodness you can get it partout in France now. It has an ivory paste type of interior, melty and refined partly duphoto(9)e to the fact that it is pasteurised milk. One way that we ate it was heated in the oven on iddle toasts; so imagine melty chèvre as heated and even meltier. The cheese actually did a little semblance of the lightest of crusts that is not a crust in any traditional sense of the word but really an indication of the heated fluff on the inside that was cloud-like in nature. Thus a crust here simply signifies "harder than a cloud". Magnifique. Aaaand donc we drizzled (what a fantastic word) rosemary honey on top and ate chèvre honey toasties like royalty. Side note-anecdote: I was oozing about the prowess of pb&j's with some americans here and one of french mecs with us, Robin, said that it was an absolute muuuust that I try this chevre/honey cheese toast and thus I have done it! I think he also put raisins or something sounding oh so gourmand on top so I'll have to mmm mmmm that.

photo(10) And mmm now we have arrived at the chèvre aux fines herbes!!! Per my previous post describing all the little chèvre balls, I respect so deeply these flavor bomb concoctions. I bet some trendy place in New York or vermont could be entirely dedicated to the world of chèvre and the possibilities of herbal emulsions and fruit coulis and peppppper always pepper. The herbs we see here were (probably) chives, green onions, tarragon, thyme, and parsley. Altogether a green piquant good flavor. Nothing lifechanging.

Daniel bought 7 trays of little rocamadours and with those we'll be eating what is called "aumonière" and that = wrapped in pastry dough and baked and probably a little bit of ham in it and maybe some onion confiture and ahhh.... The possibilities are not endless in fact but quite enough substantial. Happy Easter everyone and make sure to get your dairy servings!

Sweet dreams are made of cheese...

.... who am I to diss a brie? Thanks to claire for that perfect maxim. But in fact I would readily diss a président brie - anyone in american plz give your taste buds a tingle and look for an ovation or really any locally-produced (maybe not necessarily AOC) brie because you wont mind the lack of ammonia or the breath of fresh rind. Also something that needs to be said is that here in Nantes I have a friend named Jen but her last name sounds something like "cheeselow" but in polish aka all her friends call her "cheese" aka I HAVE A FRIEND NAMED CHEESE IN FRANCE. It's like finding a pet rock at stonehenge. Love you forever cheese  <3 Point number two of the night: in my previous blog posts I tried to be educational and include information such as regions and species of milk producer but really this is my blog and 3.5 people might be reading it at any time so why not just get descriptive and inside my own mind? Cheese is so fxxn variable based on aging time, refrigerator status, packaging material, time of consumption, wine/food surrounding such consumption, time of year, and place of purchase. Thus therefore each cheese that I am eating and describing is really a snapshot in time of the grass conditions and animal moods that were relevant at the time of milk production and affinage. Also if the refrigerator is smelly like every single one in france then it is possible there will be environmental influence but tant pis. This blog isn't The Joy of Cheese although I would wholeheartedly recommend that you give that gem a try. I am not a well-connected socialite who can pair his cheeses with wine or cider or beer although I frequently eat my cheese with a Roche Mazet cabernet sauvignon. What I am is a young adult who likes to eat foremost in the world and finds the variety of cheeses of the earth to be a source of inspiration. What is here is plutôt a testimony to myself and the wide range of tastes and times that my taste buds are oh-so voluntarily subjected to. This cheese is a personal journey, not really something that needs to be backed up by a half-assed wikipedia search to provide some background details that en fait are just the façade in front of which the best parts of dairy are paraded.

In any case, there is cheese being eaten. Below we have a traditional dinner plate of comté and chèvre au paprika (aka red pepper and some other peppers)comtéchèvre

Chèvre au paprika was like tangy firm cream spread but times a goat. Good chèvre always reminds me of a breath of fresh air or a wave of ocean water because it has such a clean aura about it. Cool, abrupt in the best taste sense, and with a clarity about its dairyness. With the tanginess came the mild heat of the peppers, so altogether I think this would be wayyyyy too good in pizza form. Can you imagine a fresh tangy pizza with just the right amount of vegetable and spice heat? Allllll the people would love it, even the vegans and carnivores. Tonight a french friend told me about a dish that is croquettes (little toasts), chèvre, miel (honey), noix (walnuts) and sea salt and I have sooo much hâte de goûter aka there will be a blog post when this deliciousness happens. Reminds me of bagels with ricotta and honey back at home -  I could modernize that with some basil leaves; I think that would not be offputting whatsoever, maybe even a little edgy and new for the taste buds. Or even basil leaves fried in a clarified butter/honey reduction? Get your leaves crisped and caramelised at the same time oh noooooo.

And then we have the Comté. Like don't even get me started - what a beautiful beautiful product of french ingenuity. I even took the time to really taste what I was eating and oh man lemme tell you. LEMME TELL YOU. I found mushroom notes, really all-around an umami all-star. The comté was swiss-like in the sense/taste of the fuzzy sweetness that you find in the generic swiss cheese, but oh-so-much more complex and inviting. The taste of soy, mild fruit, and nuts was round, dynamic, and soft but not a thing to be trifled with. The last time I had comté was in a fondue savoie and truth be told I much prefer it in an uncooked state. The range of flavors gets sacrificed for melty stuff-your-face abilities and moi, I would prefer to peruse the paradises of taste found in the cheese state of comté.

To add: two more cheese at the latest dinners. We had a great Reblochon that really knocked the socks off of my nose and palate because it was so darn dairyish! The first bite was truth be told difficult because of the strong notes but after that... what a sweet sweet ride. Formidable on its own, the reblochon really made me start craving one of them tartiflettes. Eating the reb on a baguette toscane was a treat enough in itself. Then we also had a chèvre aux raisins secs and I won't get into great detail but what I will say = dessert/plate/meal of the world. The chèvre tangy cream salt and golden raisin fruity molasses sweetness is really quite an unexpectedly perfect combo and although I have eaten too much chèvre recently my brain is quite content with the overload.

For lunch, I've been eating gouda with cumin seeds. Its really not that spectacular aside from being a cheese with cumin seeds (so good I though they were coriander at first) and very solid and dependable. It would be a good way to get younger children into the world of tastes and cheeses - the gouda itself isn't surprising or demanding and its dairy origins mellow out the maybe never-before-experienced realm of cumin. I have never seen a cheese like that in the states but iz some good stuff. Then even better is below:cantal

As demonstrated by the label, this is some Cantal Jeune or young cantal. This is an important distinction: this kitten is a young puppy and should not be compared to its older version/completely different incarnation of aged cantal. However, still a good time. Here we have verbatim my primary source recounting of the cantal eating experience from lunch on March 27: "Texture of just-before-crumbly cheddar with a hint of pungent odor almost floral or yeasty that makes reference to an imagination of jack cheese x havarti + france. Salty, clean aftertaste, good amount of tangy buttermilk in the high note. Altogether not complex but still pleasant. Would make a damn fine grilled cheese and maybe is even adventurous enough to hold up next to blueberry confiture yummm. I think that aged cantal would be stronger and more crystalline." Aka cantal was a good time and the next time (after rocamadour and several others omg) I'll be getting an aged cantal and a full report shall be furnished. Until then, bonne nuit!

 

Plates of Birthday Dinner Cheese

I've been finna eat all the cheeses that I can get without developing atherosclerosis or cholesterol inundation or whatnot and probably as I am a youthful male with no family history I should be able explore to my mouth's content for a good while. So. Obviously the most time efficient manner in which to achieve this goal is a cheese plate. And cheese plate we have! Last weekend was the pre-birthday celebration for MEH and so after rosé + pamplemousse syrup, boudin noir, ham rollem-ups, paté, cornichons, salade, red onion confiture, roasted chicken à la like mediterranean, and before pineapple charlotte and petit brun cake we had a kingly cheese plate. See below photo. Cheese plate from the heavens  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here, we have six cheeses. The remnants of the wine and rosé are evident, and the empty cheese plates waiting to be filled are just visible. The bread basket as well, just to the left, hints at the coming tastes. And then in the center: our centerpiece. Going counter-clockwise starting with the swiss-looking cheese cheese, we have Emmenthal, Roquefort, Chèvre aux noix (walnuts), morbier, curé nantais, and in the middle (red droplet looking thing) is the Boulette d'Avesnes. And thus alors now we can talk about the cheese.

Emmenthal: The archetypal "swiss cheese" although in the US "swiss cheese" is milder, aged for only around 4 months, and seems to me saltier and flatter in taste spectrum. Here in France, emmenthal is the cheese of the day (like cheddar in the states). When I make omelettes or really anything that I want to put cheese in, emmenthal is the go to. Sometimes if we want to get really fancy we can get a shredded emmenthal-gruyere-gouda mix and THAT ladies and gentlemen is a treasure.

Roquefort: Blue, sheepy, soft, moist, big on flavor, k yeah everyone knows what roquefort is. What's interesting/infuriating is that one of the last things that Mr. W Bush did in office was raise the tariff on roquefort by 300% so ain't nobody getting roquefort in the states.

Chèvre aux noix: Confessional: before this cheese and another chèvre aux raisins secs and another chèvre aux poivre I really underestimated chèvre mixes. I would see them in New Seasons and mostly all over France and never really gave them much though. But quite honestly, the chèvre aux raisins secs (aka raisins) that I ate yesterday was one of the most complete flavor marriages that my taste buds have ever savored. Chèvre is great for that - it has a clean flavor that doesn't linger much, so combining it with other similarly clean/strong flavors is genius. I wasn't the biggest fan of the walnuts this time, but the progression of chèvre combinations has set my conceptions straight.

Morbier: Delicious as always. In the olden days, morbier was a result of dairy farmers being left with leftover curds at the end of the day with not enough to make an entire round; consequently, they would spread the evening curds with ash (voilà the thin line in between layers) and then make a morning milk layer the next day! Farmers you smaaart.  However, I no fan of the rind though - is almost sandy?? Not bloomy or washed whatsoever. Wikipedia described it as leathery and I agree... Thankfully Anne is always happy to eat my rinds for me so no wasting is going on here.

Curé Nantais: First time!!!!111!1 This guy is a soft cheese, alllmost spreadable. Strong in a very happily palatable way, it tickles the mouth with pungent odors and then says "bye I'm just creamy and better than brie usually." Even better is that I'm in Nantes aka I'm Nantais aka I'm eating products from the homeland!

Boulette d'Avesnes: Pièce de résistance! Coated with paprika and with chives/parsely on the inside, this is a fun cheese. I was reading about it online and said "ok, yeah I'll buy this one next time." I was envisioning a goaty-chivey yum time but in fact the Boulette was bitter? A calm initial taste, paprika influenced yes, but then overwhelmingly a bitter taste of the hard nature! It was a disappointment because ehhh not that enjoyable. Rather an intellectual exercise. However, the mode of container was a plastic cylinder so maybe the packaging had something to do with the not-so-pleasant taste. Either way it has a cool name and paprika on the outside so we can be friends without tasting each other.