Thursday, April 17, 2008

What am I eating?

Juran├žon 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 Juran├žon 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!!