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!

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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  ❤

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.

Kaas from the Netherlands!

This week has been travel vacation tyme with the first half in Brussels/Bruges and these last couple of days in Amsterdam. I/we were too busy with gaufres and frites to really pay attention to buying cheese EXCEPT the one day we had sharp white cheddar (which we should really be calling cheddar and what we call cheddar should be called orange cheddar but I digress) for apéro and lemme tell you what a taste of home that was! Sharp, crumbly, a little oily; I would say just about as good as cougar gold and maybe 1/5th the price because it doesn’t come from the wsu creamery.

So then we were in Amsterdam which = Holland = the Netherlands = dutch people live there = gouda is dutch = there is good cheese in the Netherlands. Curiously enough, In the supermarket (Alfred heijn) the cheese was rather uniform in that not the different textures/colors/smells/sizes of the cheese in france but lots of rounds and hard cheeses. Initial hypothesis is that the dutch prefer not terribly strong/smelly cheeses and I think tis correct. Most of the cheese was medium or medium-hard and had eyes the size of swiss at the largest. The first day we bought sliced Imagegeiten kaas belegen 50 aka 16 week ripened goat cheese (50% fat i think) and it was so choquant because here we had something that is usually from a vache but now in the netherlands comes in goat variety! It had that goaty dairy taste but also provolone (actually better) texture and a little cheddary bite. Really exciting stuff, I could nom HAM on this if we made a sandwich with multigrain bread and apricot preserves and BACON or prosciutto. Also the cheese was ghost white (and a little jaunatre on the edges) and that was striking visually and psychologically. Final love note is that this geitenkaas falls under the umbrella of gouda = like all the normal cheese here is gouda = i wish all the normal cheese in america was goudaaaaaaa

Then next cheese was kinda more of the same, this time not goat cheese but just regz gouda. Buttery, a liddle nutty but still tangy good, and suuuuuuch a smooooth tezzzzzture. We bought a presliced paImageck and it was gone in one night like dès que possible. It was gouda, I love gouda, happy to have introduced my life to gouda. Cheese doesn’t seem to be as much of a staple here as in France but I think there are several reasons for that. The first is that there are soooo many ethnic groups here in Amsterdam that the pure dutch influence is more dilute than in France, which has superstrate influence of french and substrate influence of french and then iddle biddle substrate influence of kebabs. In sum, the french abide by their cheese and bread and wine because thats what their ancestors have done forever and here in the Netherlands there are more options to sample ancestral choices. Well played Europe.

AND THEN pièce de resistance = KAAS SOUFFLÉImageWhat this is…. In the Netherlands (maybe just amsterdam? But I think this exists in Japan too) there are snack bars and then the uber snack bars where you put money in these quasi-vending machines and boom pops open a silver door and your chosen victual is there on a plate. This time we were at Febo which is one of the biggest snack bar competitors and I chose the kaas soufflé aka = as my friend put it, fried alfredo sauce. This could honestly be marketed as fried alfredo sauce. Which is alarming for my heart and developing tachycardia (lol joke) but sooo good for the soul. 2 pieces of pastry dough and inside a coupla slices of good old kaas all creamed and fried and hawt. 1.60 euros, not too bad for something that you write about later on your blog. Alors in conclusion, there is no dearth of cheese in the Netherlands as I had not actually feared before!