Overtures of Spring pt. 2

It’s been a while! City and country-hopping rill drains ya. I haven’t been having as much cheese as the golden months of February-April and moi hypothesis is that the attractibility of cheese experienced a major reduction in my mind because it knows it can’t eat any of this in le states = an unconscious weaning to serve the weaning process. On the other hand, 2 weeks of travels have yielded some cheese eatings. D’abord, we tried some Tête de moine at Beillevaire in Nantes. Not too overwhelming, just a hunk of round medium-hard cows milk cheese per below. tete de moineExcept FALSE because that hunk is sitting on its special shaving apparatus developed in the 1980’s to aid the cutting of the cheese in orda to develop the special scents and sweet agey flavors that people have come to love about T.d.M. To cut the cheese, one must but a triangular sort of knife around the peg coming out of the cheese and twirl it around, yielding thin byootiful scrapings of the cheese. Et Voilà. We have a fleur of t.d.m and boy are they fun to eat. Creamy, stays in the mouth for the long time, reminded me of a younger/milkier parmesan. If it wasn’t so beautiful I would cook wonderful things with it (but you can also get blocks instead of fleurs so more practical yes). Moi friend Carol who also likes cheese said that she would be all about gifting me a T.d.M cutter for my birthday and I’m okay with that.fleurtdmPuis on voit Gaperon, a surprising cow’s milk cheese that my spitfire of a host mother picked up for me one of the last weekends I was in Nantes. Parentheses: so tragic that I’m already referring to Nantes in the past tense… For so long it was my dream-life and now its a dream-past and wahhh closing parentheses. The Gaperon has herbs and peppercorns in it, and was so initially tangy and wet-pasty that I was convinced to be eating a chèvre. However it is big and hard bloomy rind like chèvre doesn’t have and in the end we realized it was in fact from a cow. It had a salty, herby, almost bitter creamy taste. I was quite full that evening and did not need to be eating more cheese and love Anne with all my esprit so I had some gaperon wedges and did not enjoy them to the fullest. It would be a good lunch with a baguette toscane, a light red, and some sweet ham. Very spreadable and unique for def. Brainflash: the taste was like a tempered version of Boulette d’avesnes aka good idea because that sheee was SO BITTER maybe twas a mistake but I say ehhh. gaperon

Next to have been eaten was our friend Machecoulais. I went into the cheese store looking for something soft and delicious like the ginestarié that just about changed my life, so the fromager suggested this cheese. It came in a cute little basket like the Saint Félicien so that was a good sign to start with. A washed-rind cows milk cheese, it can be described as a very runny, fruity tasting camembert. I detected those tell-tale cauliflower notes and so ehh disappointing. The next day when I tried some on campus it seemed mellower and less rubbery. Either way its a pretty cheese, different from a reg bloomy rind cow cheese. machecoulaisAnd then there was the fresh Rocamadour that I have already written about but this iteration was an oozy goozy addition to a cheese plate in the beautiful French city of St-Antonin-Noble-Val. This restaurant, Le carré des gourmets, was admittedly a gastronomic place, and as such paid great attention to leetle details like taking their cheese out of the fridge long enough before they served it to ensure its room temperature-ness and not dryness. The rocamadour, which was drizzled with a green-tasting, green-looking acerbic olive oil (aka so good), had a velvety, almost foamy pâte. The rind had a nice amount of contained moisture and like if cheese could taste living because it was so fresh and grassy and amply doux, this rocamadour could be it. Once again I see my affinity for chèvres is developing uncontrollably and my obvious salivation is probably obscuring the text on this page, but I do not apologize. As I will be returning to the US of A in a matter of 3 days, the next part of my adventure will include finding a creamery or cheesery to work for… Lofty dreams!

Overtures of spring Pt. 1

Enfin it is the weather to picnic unabashedly and drink rosé at all hours! Which also means that it was May 1st recently, the day of unions (jour des syndicats, or as my host father likes to say, le jour de saint dicat hahaha which is funny). The day was spent well, with a grasse matinée and robust french coffee and laughs at a friend’s 18th century home. And also a tartiflette pizza, pictured below. Melted reblochon and copious amounts of emmenthal and all-in-all I call this a successful translation of a traditional french cheese dish into a universally-loved pizza form. We got some fried potatoes on top and a lardon-onion-cream sauce en bas and mmmm just so tartiflette-y! I’ll definitely be bringing a round of reblochon back to the states (if I can??) pizza tartiflette

Then nom nom more cheese related foods: Martha Stewart’s addicting mac-n-cheese with Beaufort, Emmenthal, and Gouda. Here is the original recipe, which I highly recommend: http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/01/29/addictive-mac-and-cheese/ It is mildly mildly complex, but entirely worth the effort. It may have been more difficult for me as I was converting everything between cups/ounces into grams and centiliters… Next time is in the US and I am quite facile with cooking implements there. Also secret hint that is the best: drizzling melted SALTED butter over your stale bread bits turns them into crisped salty cream bombs after you bake your mac. Something not too be missed. Also the original recipe called for white cheddar (for which I substituted the beaufort and gouda) and gruyère or pecorino romano (for which I substituted the emmenthal which is whatever); I think pecorino romano on top would be a fantastic addition because then you have a dry crispy exterior, as well as the melty fondant-ness of the cheddar or whatnot. french n cheese

Working our way backward: Sunday was picnic day at the Jardin des Plantes in Nantes! Beautiful lucky summer weather combined with actually finding a lawn you can sit on (because the french don’t like to actually USE their pelouses) = an idyllic day + 2 new cheeses = hedonist’s delight! I stopped at Beillevaire earlier in the weekend and picked up 2 beauties, the first of which was the Saint Marcellin Chèvre. A small, soft disc with some darker blue veins running around the soft rind. Instead of the creamy spread of regualr Saint Marcellin or Saint Félicien, this chèvre was blue hints + immense saltiness + goaty grassy origins. Loose interior pâte and creamier exterior. A surprise! Et voilà. saint marcellin chèvre

The other cheese of the day was a Pitchounet, a raw sheep’s milk from Haute-Garonne in the south. I was originally looking for a Pavé de l’Aveyron but I’ll have to settle for coming back to france for a cheese tour (or working here?? If anyone has an idea for finding seasonal work in a cheese shop/creamery in Portland or France I AM ALL EARS!) I’m eternally on a quest for a young sheep’s milk cheese, so this youngster of 3-4 weeks was a step in the right direction. Sweet ewe taste, yielding pâte, salt and some tang were my impressions. A hypothesis of mine is that sheep’s milk is best young as possible or aged to refined elegance. We’ll need further investigation to corroborate. PITCHOUNET

Here ends part 1 of the most recent cheeses of my life. What is surreal is my imminent departure from France… Today was the last of my exams and possibly the final time I will be on my campus. 4 months ago gave me no hints that I would ever be emerging from this wormhole of immersion and language and doubt and CHEESE, so now that the end is really near I am not sure what is to happen. I am eager to be back in my first home but sincerely wish that remaining in France was also a part of the equation. The crux of my time here was essentially me living my life, albeit 1500 miles away and with a set of people I had never seen before and may never see again. Okay enough waxing poetic à la prochaine!