Saturday, September 20, 2008


I am back in the USA...have been for a few months. I haven't been able to do anything with my cheese blog because I've only eaten cheddar since I got home (I missed it so much!) but I just got a job that might allow me to write something interesting here. I might continue to only write about cheese, but who knows...this is a different place for me and my blog, which means I might have to take this blog in a whole new direction.

What's the new job, you ask???
Trader Joe's!

Friday, May 30, 2008


"A similar cheese to brie, Camembert is formed into smaller wheels and may have a slightly more robust flavor than its larger cousin."

I'm a huge fan of Camembert. Most cheese-lovers are, except for my friend Kristin. Like the quote above suggests, it is similar to Brie, as in it is super runny when room temperature, but it has a more distinct taste than most Bries. (Brie cheeses are misleading though- the good ones from France are smelly and more strong in taste than the ones we can purchase in the USA.) While living here, we've managed to try a small variety of Camemberts and a couple Bries. The Caprice de Dieu is really easy-going and a favorite of mine. It doesn't have the real Camembert taste, though. Its appeal is its wonderful creamy texture and ability to go with any meal. Most recently, we tried le Rustique de Printemps, which just means it's made with milk produced in the springtime. It was pretty good and had more flavor than the Caprice. If you're after a true Camembert, it's best to get one from a fromagerie or somewhere with special cheeses. In the US, this kind won't be available because it's not pasteurized. C'est dommage! You will just have to try the real thing in France!

Truly Dave's opinion: "Camembert makes your fridge stink!! In order to prevent the smell from affecting your taste buds, it's best to eat it fresh. I prefer firmer cheeses, cause they're more processed (what an anti-cheese person!) and remind us less of the original source, aka 'cow extract'."

Dali's famous painting, The Persistence of Memory, was supposedly inspired by the runniness of Camembert cheese:

After his [Dali's] meal he noticed some half eaten Camembert cheese and how runny it had become on account of the heat of the sunny day. That night, while he had been searching his soul for something to paint, he had a dream of clocks melting on a landscape. He went back to the unfinished painting he had been working on, which had a plain landscape with rocky cliffs in the background and a tree on a platform. Over two or three hours he added in the melting pocket watches which made this the iconic image it is today." -Wikipedia

This makes me love Dali and Camembert even more!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Corsica Brebis and Cake

"The taste of this brebis attests - as its name suggests - to its creation on the island of beauty." (translated from French)

I apologize for not having written in over a month. No excuses: I've been lazy.

We've been having a lot of cheese lately. Camembert, Brie, Roquefort, Brebis Basque, Corsican Brebis. I haven't written about most of these cheeses, so I'm going to start with the last one. I might do Camembert and Brie together since they're so similar. We shall see...

When we tried Corsica Brebis a few months ago, we weren't impressed. That's why I didn't write about it before. It had little flavor; it paled in comparison to the Basque Brebis that I regularly enjoy. We decided to give it another go; this time using it on sandwiches more than as an aperitif (we can't seem to bother with cheese after we eat, so we have it as an appetizer). It's really nice on a sandwich because it's soft and delicate. It complements sausage and chorizo well, which is the only meat we can afford for sandwiches. It also melts well and reminds us of the good, toasty sandwiches from home.

Like the above quote tells us, this brebis comes from Corsica, "l'Ile de Beauté" (or, "the island of beauty") where I wish to someday visit. It is made from pasturized sheep milk and arrives all over the mainland of France in the form of a soft cylinder covered with a white skin. It looks pretty and when cut into, it has a pale, yellow center.

Recently, when at a picnic with a group of artists from Rueil Malmaison (near Paris) we tried a cake that was made with brebis from Corsica. It is their version of cheesecake and it was delicious. It's simple and has more of a fluffy, cake texture than American cheesecake, with lemon peel all throughout. Dave and I each had our own big piece and probably would've had more if there had been enough. I wanted to ask for the recipe, but I chickened out. I searched the internet a bit and found an image that is very close to the cake we ate, so here is the recipe (sorry it's in metric) :

For 6 people:

-- 500 g of fresh ricotta (preferably fresh Corsican Brebis)
-- 4 eggs
-- 4 tablespoons semolina (wheat or regular flour should work)
-- 8 to 12 tablespoons of sugar (adjust to taste)
-- 2 tablespoons of candied lemon peel, broken up (not sure exactly what this means)
-- Zest of a lemon, grated
-- 4 tablespoons of Corinth grapes (not necessary in the cake I had!)
-- 1 / 2 teaspoon cinnamon
-- 2 tablespoons of alcohol (Italian grappa, Armagnac, cognac ... )
-- Zest of another lemon and / or a bit of lemon curd (for the final touch)

1. Mix the semolina, raisins and preserved lemon peel and soak in 100ml of water, then add the 2 tablespoons of alcohol. Preheat oven to 150 ° C.

2. Separate the yellow yolks from the egg whites. Working the yolks and the sugar with an electric whisk, add the lemon zest and cinnamon. Add the ricotta and beat a few seconds to mix everything.

3. Add the semolina mixture, raisins and preserved peel.

4. Beat the egg whites to a snow peak with a pinch of salt and gently incorporate this into the above preparation.

5. Pour the dough in a buttered cake pan that is 20 cm in diameter (no greater or the result will be very flat). Bake 45 to 50 minutes. The top must be light brown and the edges a little darker. Cool to room temperature and then put in the refrigerator for 2 hours before you take it out of the mould. Before serving, spread top of cake with lemon curd and / or decorate it with lemon peel that's cut into thin strips.

You can make this recipe as a "true" cheesecake, with any type of crust.

I also found a different recipe, but I'm not sure if it's closer to the cake I enjoyed a couple weekends ago. It's definitely more simple.

-- 350 g bruccio (fresh Corsican Brebis)
-- 4 eggs
-- 200 g leveled Ligne (I haven't been able to figure this out- I assume they mean flour)
-- Zest of 1 / 2 lemon
-- 1 pinch of salt

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 45 minutes

1. Preheat oven (160 ° C). Butter the pie pan edges quite high.

2. Break the eggs, separating the yolks from the whites. Beat egg yolks with Line in order to obtain a pale yellow mixture.

3. Incorporate the cheese in small pieces and then add the grated lemon peel. Mix well.

4. Beat the egg whites to a snow peak with a pinch of salt and incorporate them gently to the earlier mixture.

5. Pour the mixture into the pan and cook about 45 minutes watching the top of the cake. Take it out when the top is light brown.

I'm not sure how difficult this would be to make in the US or if it's possible to find this cheese there, but I think a substitution of ricotta might work. To be honest, I'm not sure that the Corsican brebis I've tried here is even the correct type. It may not be soft enough. I guess I'll give it a shot when I get home. I'm always scared of making desserts here because my pathetic, broken oven always ruins them.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

What am I eating?

Jurançon wine from the Bearn region around Pau

I recently spent my birthday in Pau, a nearby city with a fairytale-like chateau and a lovely view of the Pyrenees mountains. Before my amazing dinner of duck breast in a raspberry sauce, we had aperitifs at a wine bar. It was a small place called "Oh grain de raisin" and served various wines, including the dry, white Jurançon from the region. Dave had a glass of that, while I had a red Bordeaux. Both wines were very delicious. I actually became fascinated by the cheese plate we ordered. It had three types: Brie, Brebis, and an unidentified white, soft cheese with pepper throughout. First off, I mistook the Brie for Camembert, because it had almost the exact same flavor. The bartender corrected me. The Brebis was aged, firm, and incredible. I kept popping more and more slivers into my mouth as I sipped my wine. The third cheese was very good, as well, but neither of us can remember its name. I wish I had taken a photo or written down what the bartender told me. And because of the pepper, it is even harder to identify. We can't really match it to another cheese that we see at the market, unless it's the exact one. The taste would be different, too. All I know is that it was from cow milk, white, soft and slightly creamy, had a thin rind, and had pepper throughout.

It can be so frustrating to taste a cheese in France that you really enjoy and not be able to figure out what it is. I either have difficulty remembering the name or understanding the name through a thick accent. For all I know, the bartender could have said "goat", though it didn't taste like goat cheese.

So, how to figure out the name of a cheese you're tasting without looking like a fool because you have to ask someone to repeat the name for you three times??? I don't know. Take a photo and match it to a cheese later. Have the person write it down. Try your best to remember the sound of the name, then write down the phonic spelling and research it later. Or just try to remember what it looks and tastes like and try a dozen cheeses, hoping you'll find it. I don't really have good advice about this. In hindsight, I would've taken a photo and have the bartender write down the name for me. It's embarrassing, but oh well! Unfortunately, at this point, my only option is to try similar-looking cheeses until I find a match. I'll let you know if I have any success...

I really enjoyed this wine and cheese tasting experience in Pau. It made for a good birthday. I'd love to take advantage of living in the Bordeaux region by going on a wine or cheese tasting tour. That would be so amazing!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


"This [mixture of milk] gives a subtle combination of tastes and textures. As the cheese matures a bloomy rind develops as does a creamy consistency within." -All About French Cheeses

No, this isn't an April Fool's joke. To segue back from les mois de chevre to my review of other French cheeses, I decided to try a half-goat's milk, half-cow's milk cheese. This Mi-chevre, as it's known, comes from Vienne in the Poitou-Charentes region and is made from pasteurized milk. It is very creamy inside, much like Camembert. It also tastes similar to Camembert, but with a very light goat cheese flavor.

We enjoyed a little bit of it on some baguette, but soon found that we really liked it in a sandwich with slices of sausage, both toasted on the bread. It melted so much that it began to slip out of the sandwich and onto my favorite Paprika Pringles. (I will miss those, too!) I should try this with some Camembert. Sandwiches are very boring here, especially when bought at a bakery. One slice of meat and one slice of cheese, if any, with some mayonnaise or butter on a baguette...gets old. I avoid buying sandwiches here, except kebabs. So, it's nice to make a sandwich at home for less money and with better combinations. Meat is expensive, but mixing up the cheeses keeps it interesting and tasty. (Mi-chevre, sausage; Roquefort, mustard, prosciutto; chevre, ham) I think I'll have one tomorrow to finish off the remaining piece of Mi-chevre...

Also, I would like to note here that I came upon a website for The Cheese Store of Beverly Hills. They have a decent selection (but no Mi-chevre) that I could order from online, but everything is so expensive! I really don't want to have to get my cheese from Beverly Hills or pay $20 for a ronde of it. Please, Trader Joe's, Bristol Farms, Whole Foods, have a better selection when I come home!!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Chevre I update

I posted this as a comment to the Chevre I piece, but I figured most people wouldn't see it. So, if you're interested in how the marinated Picodon turned out, read on...

"By the way, Dave and I tried the picodon that had been sitting in olive oil and herbs since November. It was delicious! It looked a little funky because the olive oil had solidified a bit on the top of the jar, but it didn't change the flavor.

We ate little slices of the cheese on baguette (it was even better when toasted) as we sipped some red wine. The olive oil and herbs added so much wonderful flavor to the cheese. I suggest that everyone try this at home with some fresh chevre (even a log of it would work), olive oil, and Herbes de Provence.

When Aida, William, and Charlotte visit us this month, we'll have to share it with them. I just hope we have enough self control now that we know how amazing it is.

I am completely indebted to Joelle Thierry for this recipe and the big jar of wonderful cheese!"

We have one more marinated Picodon left. Should we eat it or share it with William and Charlotte, who are coming to visit us next weekend? Dilemmas...

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Chevre V: Sainte-Maure de Touraine

"The curdled milk is delicately put in the cylindrical mould with a ladle. Extreme caution should be taken to prevent the curds from being broken." (I never knew how careful a cheese maker must be.) -911 Chef Eric

Oh, what a name! I had trouble remembering it between the refrigerator and my office (mattress on bedroom floor). Sainte-Maure de Touraine comes from Touraine in the Loire/central area of France. There are many buches de chevre (goat cheese logs) out there, but this one is different. As the photo shows, something runs through the middle of this cheese. It has two purposes: to keep the cheese in its log form and to allow air into the middle of the cheese so that it matures more uniformly. The straw is made of rye and is sometimes written upon with a laser so that the consumer knows where the cheese originated. I bought this buche at the supermarket, so it didn't surprise me when I didn't find anything engraved on my rye straw. (if it's even rye!) The cheese is also coated with black ash, which is eventually covered with mold as it ages. Ours was of an average age; it hadn't begun to turn soft on the outside.

Poor Dave slaved away at this cheese because every time we ate it, he had to peel off the ashy mold. We ended up with some pretty lopsided cheese coins. We ate it on toasted baguette slices, either as an appetizer or on a salad, and both were delicious! We melted the cheese on the baguette, and we also spread cold cheese on toast; this kind of chevre is tasty however it's prepared! Sainte-Maure is pretty basic and subtle, so it would be good for someone who hasn't tried a slightly aged (2 or more weeks) chevre cheese before. Unfortunately, this buche de chevre is made from unpasteurized milk and isn't aged for the mandatory 60 days, so it isn't available in the US.

Stay tuned...I plan on explaining the difference between cheeses made from pasteurized milk and those made from unpasteurized milk. It will probably be more of a learning experience for me than for you. I will also cite my sources...