Saturday, September 20, 2008
What's the new job, you ask???
Friday, May 30, 2008
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
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) :
-- 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
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
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
"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
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...
Friday, March 14, 2008
I hereby present to you another scrumpdiddlyumptious goat cheese, except this one is wrapped in mystery...
My research on this cheese has been a slightly difficult process. My first hurdle was the name of the cheese! The sticker that came on ours said "Cavet" which is not the name of the cheese, but is actually the name of the farm where this one was made. Banon de Provence, as I soon learned to be its name, comes from Provence in the southeast of France. Ours came from a little town within Provence called Dieulefit.
Banon de Provence is made from unpasteurized goats milk, then wrapped in chestnut leaves and tied with raffia. Here is where the real mystery bubbles up to the surface; some sources claim that the little cheese package is dipped into white wine, while others say brandy. One website mentioned that it's soaked in sarriette, or savory. I don't actually know which ours was soaked in, but I'm going to guess it was white wine. It didn't hint at the flavor of brandy, nor did it remind me of thyme, which is a close equivalent to savory.
This chevre was still soft on the inside, though it was slightly aged. At first, I thought it had a bitter aftertaste, but I no longer noticed this flavor as I continued to eat it with toasted baguette. It is a little more tart than the other goat cheeses we've tried, but still has a subtle chevre flavor. I really enjoyed this cheese and especially liked the novelty of it being wrapped in a chestnut leaf. How French!!
We can supposedly order this cheese online, but on one site they claim Banon de Provence is made from cow's milk. I hope this doesn't prove to be a problem when I get home- that they aren't using the right kind of milk to make the cheese! It's tough enough that the cheeses available in the USA are all made from pasteurized milk. I suspect this specific cheese might be difficult to find at home. Is it safe to trust cheese that's delivered through the mail??
Saturday, March 8, 2008
This thin disk of cheese is ideal for the varied tasks of fromage de chèvre. It’s small, so we bought a few of them to test out its different uses. Naturally, it’s delicious when spread on baguette, and more-so when the baguette is toasted. What is special about this type of chèvre is how it melts perfectly on a slice of baguette when placed in the oven. We are huge fans of chèvre salads, so we were able to toast a couple pieces of Rocamadour and baguette for the top of our salad. It’s amazing! And so much better than a regular salad at a restaurant. It’s such a treat to bite in to the toasty, little circles.
The petite Rocamadour cheese has the typical, very discernible, goat cheese smell. It is also quite soft and seems as though it is melting when cut in to. It spreads easily on bread and crackers, which are especially complimentary to the cheese’s light saltiness.
This cheese gets its name from a small town called Rocamadour in the Southwestern départment (state) of
You can enjoy this goat cheese as an appetizer or as a part of dessert, but as I mentioned, it goes remarkably well with a green salad. I have a feeling that something similar can be found in the
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Monday, February 18, 2008
Selles-sur-Cher goat cheese is the most delicious of its kind that I have ever had the great pleasure of tasting.
It is certainly on my top 5 list of best cheeses. I think Dave agrees with me on that. We picked this delicious devil out at Intermarche (supermarket) and we've been taking our sweet time with it, savoring each piece that we spread on little slices of pignette (better than a baguette).
It takes a bit of work to cut off the moldy charcoal rind, but the little square of firm, flaky, snow-white cheese is worth all the trouble. A little bit goes a long way, especially as it melts in your mouth and gives off its distinctive goaty-nutty-salty flavor. Our brick of Selles was aged, but when it is consumed earlier, the cheese is much softer and less intense. Of course, I didn't know this when we bought it, but I'm glad we tried the more aged version first. I wouldn't mind having a taste of the younger Selles, although I'm a bit afraid it won't be able to stand up to our first round with the cheese.
The cheese is made in the Loire Valley, the very center of France. The regulations surrounding the production of real Selles-sur-Cher are very strict, thus, it is not a common cheese at the market, especially outside of central France. I believe it is possible to find a version of this cheese in the USA that is made from pasteurized milk. But, as almost all French people are known to testify when faced with this change in tradition, it is not true Selles-sur-Cher chevre. Gotta take advantage while I still can... No question about it, we are absolutely going to be buying another brick of Selles-sur-Cher as soon as we return from our winter vacation. (I wonder what kinds of delicious cheeses we will stumble across in Rome, Marrakesh, and Essaouira...)
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Check out this website, which shows us how Picodon is produced.
The photo and quote found above easily summarize our experience with this cheese. The Thierrys introduced us to this cheese in Lyon last November. Picodon comes from the Rhone-Alpes region (where Lyon resides) and is usually produced during the autumn months, which explains why we haven't found it in Mont de Marsan. Thankfully, Joelle fixed up a jar of picodon, olive oil, and spices for us to take home. We have let it sleep for almost three months, but it won't be able to rest for much longer. My mom is visiting us next week, and she would probably enjoy a taste of our special French cheese. Of course, we'll open it up in a couple days and make sure it is as good as we've been promised.
That is just one way to enjoy picodon cheese. While in Lyon, we had the opportunity to try picodon at its different aging processes. It is a very delicate cheese, but it certainly delivers the characteristic chevre taste. While white and young, it is soft and spreadable. Anyone can appreciate its flavor and accessibility. As the picodon ages, it grays and grows scary-looking mold all over its rind. Its inner character also changes from soft to hard, so that it breaks apart when you cut into it. It becomes difficult to spread and even more difficult to keep from tumbling off a little piece of baguette. Despite this odd and sometimes frustrating transformation, the picodon's flavor is more pronounced and savory than ever before. It isn't very strong, though it has quite a different taste compared to that of the young picodon. No matter what, deciding on the best stage at which to eat picodon is up to your cravings. Remember, if you are in the middle of autumn, you can just go back to the cheese man for more. The most sure way is just to move to Lyon.
Unfortunately, I don't know if this cheese is available in the USA. As in past posts, my suggestion is to check the specialty stores, such as Trader Joe's, Bristol Farms, etc. There are some websites that offer delivery of picodon cheese, which I might have to try when I return. Of course, I will wait to place that order until the autumn.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Thus, I declare this the month of CHEVRE! All my posts will be about chevre cheese. Though I usually keep the number of cheese reviews to two per month, I might make a slight exception to help reconcile my complete disregard of a very important feature in my Penicillin-consuming, French life.
(A more personal note: I wish eating moldy cheese would immunize me against the moldy walls of my apartment. I am getting sick (horrible allergy infections) every 2-3 weeks. It's unbearable.)
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Dave's brother visited us in Mont de Marsan for a few days. Saturday morning we went to the market and bought two types of cheese to share with him: Mont d'or and Roquefort. I've already discussed the former; we all enjoyed it. I have to mention we asked for a "light" Roquefort. It's easier for someone to taste when they've never tried real blue cheese before. His brother is a big fan of cheese, so I made sure he tried all the big ones: chevre sec, brebis, Camembert, Mont d'or, and Roquefort. I'm such a good hostess.
I stole this from Wikipedia because it makes this cheese's past interesting and helps illustrate how the Frenchman's mind works: "Legend has it that the cheese was discovered when a young shepherd, eating his lunch of bread and ewes' milk cheese, saw a beautiful girl in the distance. Abandoning his meal in a nearby cave, he ran to meet her. When he returned a few months later, the mold had transformed his plain cheese into roquefort." Roquefort is such an essential part of French food that they have fables about its creation and have the tools preserved in museums that Roquefort-makers used centuries ago.
I used to hate blue cheese, including Roquefort, up through the time I lived in Lyon with a French family. After numerous nights of heckling and pressuring by many French peoples, the cheese began to grow on me like the blue mold that gives it that special tang. Even when I returned to the U.S., I was still not a fan of Roquefort and other blue cheeses. But, like with beer and wine, I've grown more accustomed to the spiciness of Roquefort. And when I am in the mood for a taste that it can only offer, I am very happy to be in France within close reach of true, delicious, and inexpensive Roquefort.
This slice of cheese is perfect! It has the usual kick, but not so much that you feel you're eating metal; it doesn't overpower the creaminess. They must not have aged this cheese for long (6 weeks or so). I'm sure there are certain "correct" ways to eat Roquefort, but I ate some with almonds tonight. They complemented the cheese well. A little bit on a piece of fresh baguette, then chased with a couple almonds. Delish! When slightly salty, creamy brebis isn't enough to satisfy your lust for tasty cheese, I suggest a wedge of tangy Roquefort.
Sunday, January 13, 2008
I kept eying this cheese at the store. I've never had cheese that comes in a black rind before. I was very curious. When we returned from our big holiday, I decided to buy a slice.
The black wax peeled off easily and I was left with a pale cheese with small holes throughout. It's pretty. And it tastes good, too. The flavor is not very strong; it's not even that creamy or rich. We've been munching away at it like little cartoon mice. It serves well as a part of our daily aperitif snack. In fact, I like to take a bite of the cheese, then a few salty crackers to chase it. They go well together.
I have to admit that I'm becoming less and less inclined to buy cheese made from cow's milk. It seems more and more boring. Compared to sheep's milk cheese, it has much less flavor. I'm sure this is because I am not trying the right cheeses anymore. This black tomme is actually nice for its lightness, but I guess I'm in the mood for something more rich and spicy. Maybe I need to buy another slice of Roquefort.
Tonight, I had a sample of three different cheeses (black tomme, Camembert, and Parmesean) for dinner. I kept craving the saltiness of the Parmesean. The Camembert was nothing special. But the black tomme was my "break" cheese. When the other two overwhelmed me, I went for the easy-going one.
I don't want to say that the black tomme has no flavor; that's unfair. I also can't easily describe it because of my lack in that art. Maybe I should take a French cheese tasting course while I'm here. And French wine, too...