One thought I had today when I was reading about politics on reddit is how absolutely pointless it is to have a cheese blog.
Regardless, I continue because cheese is varied and something that can be explored. I think you can find a story behind every cheese and then make a story about every cheese you eat. Sooo so so many chee sez from France that come from little villages that would otherwise be unknown. With their one little delicious cheese that is known throughout France, we have cultural growth (literally and cheese-ily) and one more cheese to try everyday.
One thang that has my attention is the changing preferences of my palate. Before I came to France I was a soft cheese groupie to the end. I looked down on hard cheeses with some mega disdain, I think because in the states we only really do hard cheeses – hard mozzarella, cheddar, swiss, pepper jack, havarti (kinda hard), parmesan (shredded or block), and all sorts of flavor variants in between. Then we get to chèvre and brie and for most people thats as exotic as things can get unless they live near a farm that happens to be producing a product that has yet to get a firm grasp on the American market (due to both pasteurizing laws and local tastes). Aka it is harder (not that hard) to get good, diverse artisan cheeses except the ones that are popping up that happen to be raw-milk cheese which is such a treat. Anyway so until a couple weeks ago it was like gimme dat soft cheese but MEOW I’m all about dat gruyere (which happens to be the same thing as emmental just made in france! Gruyere is swiss! Gruyere is swiss cheese! ahhhh!), comté, étorki, some cheese from holland.. They seem tho much more predictable and consistent and not anything frightening that needs to be choked down omg I have turned into a cheese prude. But not really but I think my parents’ fridge imparts a certain cauliflower flavor as I have written about earlier. However udda people don’t detect this flavor and I seem to be a lone crusader in my conviction of cauliflower spoilage so the obvious conclusion is that I am undergoing a massive taste overhaul. Like I said before, one of my taste aversions was gruyere that we now know is just better swiss cheese buuuuuttttt now brett likes gruyere. What is this? More to come but at least we have several cheeses to take a look at today.
Maroilles is a cheese from the north of France that caught my pretty little eye because papa Daniel said that “maroilles fondu c’est le meilleur” aka melted maroilles is a delicacy and I said “well yeah I’m in france to eat delicacies.” Off I went to the fromager Beillevaire (one day I’ll take a picture of that stinky beautiful wood-lined paradise) and got my qt iddle quartier of Maroilles. You see there that it has an orange rind and seems to have a corner which is correct because Maroilles only comes in squares! It has a washed rind meaning thaaaaat someone dunked our maroilles in some solution of something and smeared it with some bacteria yummm. The rind itself is a bitty moist and way way pungent – after I picked it up, my fingers long after had a sharp dairy smell. The interior, as seen below, has some nice spotty holes and is screaming “I am creamy” and that it is. In fact, I would call it almost gelatinous (sorry maroilles…) The aroma, (sharp, lingering, pungent etc) was much wilder than the taste, which just had a hint of the bacteria growth. I was happy with it, especially when melted and spread on my baguette moulée/pita bread (what pita bread exists in france??? yeah) and I saw how someone could call it a delicacy. It reminded me of a poor man’s/rushed man’s baked brie so that’s all around a happy thing. I dont think I’ll get maroilles again because its not that fantastic (IMO) and also because there are too many cheeses to eat unless I’m like all about that life. Something that is undeniable is that maroilles is a pretty pretty cheese – striking rind, beautiful interior, creamy creamy attraction. But even more striking is what comes next!
The sunday we ate Livarot, the cheese plate was unusually burdened with also a wedge o’ brie de meaux and the leftovas of my maroilles fun time. But I had been waiting to nom on the livarot for mebs probs several weeks, so this was what I focused my efforts on. In comparison to the brie de meaux, the livarot seemed more refined in flavor as in it wasnt a big round creamy flavor but more decidedly salty, savory like almost porky, and only minimally cauliflowered (srsly my fridge….). It was easily spreadable and the rind had hints of chalky/whatever it was washed with AKA I gave my rinds to mama anne (she’s the rind disposal). You can see that there are 5 wrappings of straw which I find exciting because cheese decorations??? Hehhhh yehhhh. This extra bit is where Livarot gets its name – the 5 pieces of straw resemble(d) a colonel’s uniform in the French army. So cool. It was musky in taste but unique and it’s orange and wears clothes so yeah good work Livarot snaps for Livarot.
This cheese knows how to throw a real party. Brett and a couple of his friends in fact had a raclette party and it was just so festive and cozy and definitely shall be repeated. Easier to host than a fondue party and more chances to stuff yo belly, raclette is an avenue to be explored. I think that the cheese is named rather for the apparatus on which one eats it. As I write this, my stomach is rumbling for melted cheese… There are several ways to eat, but they way we partied was with a double grill: top grill has a space for meat/potatoes/charcuterie/bread to get roasty warm and the lower grill has spots for the raclette scoopers. As demonstrated to our right, we have the scooper, a tranche of ham, some perterters, some baby onions, the plate of raclette slices, some melty yum yum raclette, and just poking out beneath the scooper is some prosciutto yum for cheese yummmm take me back to friday night!!!! The cheese itself is creamy, broad, soft, a iddle tangy, inviting, convincing, and rewarding. I shall invest in a raclette apparatus soon enough. Ahhh and when you nom with some real real dijon moutarde from france… And pepper o’ course… Its close to whatever divinity on earth would be. France, thank you. Also I think you can do raclette with havarti (so obsessed) or maybe swiss or something in the states so this slice o heaven isnt really just for the French or swiss.
4) Chèvre poivre
Bought this beaut at the Marché Talensac on saturday morning. Just strolling through, salivating at the pain aux raisins and stacks of saucisses and confections of foie gras and lolling at the token indian/chinese stalls that call hom bao “brioche étouffé” and dont have words for yakisoba… Then I stopped by a fromager and said “plz maam can I have that little bubble of chèvre plz” and voilà, a little butt of chèvre in my hand. Probably only one or two ounces big with a crust/dusting of ground peppers all around, this was the chèvre that could. The peppers were the kind of yum taste that sticks in your mouth with an accompanying heat that reminds you of your meal for a good half an hour after finishing. The cheese itself was a breath of fresh air, a renewal of the vows. Tangy, not too sharp in a goaty way, creamy and waxing crumbly, spreadable in a oh-so-gratifying way, and reminiscent of the summer pasta dishes made by mother with roasted corn, red peppers, and just enough dabs of gooey chèvre… This was a good way to eat through my saturday afternoon, that is to be sure of. When you get a little boo like this, it seems like it’ll be gone in a matter of bites. And then you taste the concentration, the power within, the flavors that are a plateau of fresh, and you know that it will be a long and not arduous whatsoever kind of meal. I have one hunchling that these decorated chèvres may come to be a favorite of mine, which I predicted about a year ago when I sampled a paprika-rubbed chèvre and said “YES THIS IS YUM.” Goat cheese, I thank you. France, I still thank you. The cheese that I will eat this week, I thank you in advance.