Father’s Day french/cheese style

 

Sometimes it is a sunday and sometimes it is father’s day and sometimes you have just recently returned from france and sometimes your father takes you to the wine superstore and cheese monger and then when all of these sometimes have occurred you have a beautiful blog post to write. So this day we visited Total Wine superstore (so huge, so expansive, so tempting, so prolific) and picked up two muscadets, a côte du rhône, a crément, a bordeaux, and a fresh washington rosé. With and after this selection we decided on a west coast fun chèvre and a thrilling leaf-wrapped blue. Hence there are things to be read.

First we have the Valdéon blue: cow and goat’s milk cheese. Spanish, striking, and not young. Hence.

valdeon blue

The first thing I noticed of this cheese was the leaf-wrapped rind. Upon further research I see that it is wrapped in sycamore leaves which I understand impart a flavor compound. Biting into the cheese provides an uncannily sweet, creamy, striking, and granular initial taste. Further eatings demonstrate smokiness, nutty aftertastes, and fungal airs. The smoothness and cream nature of the valdeon were surprising and I heartily enjoyed them. I had been used to a biting blue aftertaste but this pungent moldiness, although apparent, has no degrees of pain associated with them. Conclusion: spain you got some good cheeses mang!

Then 2nd course finds our “west coast fun chèvre” that is actually a Cypress Grove purple haze varietal. Look!

cgppFennel pollen, lavender, and sea salt are creatively imbued here to create a tension between pure, unadulterated, velvety chèvre and the powerhouses of lavender and fennel that result in a piney, exotic, tangy, HIGHLY spreadable taste feeling. Sumpin I rill enjoy are the vivacious lavender kernels that can be seen on the outside of the cheese. I rarely find whole lavender blossoms as most producers of lavender thangs prefer to use an oil or some sort of extract. The presence of lavender here adds a texture element that really makes me stop and think about what makes up this cheese. Also it reminds me of the Lavender Festival (July 19-21, http://www.lavenderfestival.com/) because it is so thrilling and uncommon that food producers are able to incorporate the entire lavender taste into their products. Kudos to you, cypress grove.

Another conclusion: America has ver good cheese and I thank capitalism (omg) that we can get good, artisan cheese nationwide. Until next time!

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Ricotta fait à MA maison

Yeah that’s right – I made cheese! I’m embarassed/ecstatic to announce that this is my very first foray into the murky, rewarding world of cheesemaking. I’ve been waiting all of four years to make this ricotta, starting when I read an article in Food & Wine and said “Maria Helm Sinskey you are a brilliant chef and more than anything I want to try your sweeter-and-fluffier-than-store-bought ricotta rendition” and VOILA. I’ve enjoyed spreading ricotta on english muffins with honey and substituting ricotta for cream cheese or sour cream in soups or dips over the years. As a child, manicotti with spinach and ricotta was the double death whammy of taste aversions; imagine my prim surprise at the age of 15 that ricotta was not only palatable but enjoyable! Thus we arrive at the day of today: a sort of renaissance in my life as a cheese lover.

All that my recipe require was whole milk (yum), heavy whipping cream (more yum), salt and vinegar. Combine the milk and h.w.c and heat until just before boiling, where you see frothing and steaming and general good things occuring. Per the white expanse of a photo below. milkricotta

Next to do is add vinegar and stir for 30 seconds. Twas amazing to see the milk start to curdle almost immediately; at this point I could imagine the tenderest of curds that I would soon be pressing. Next comes the salt and stirring for 30 seconds. After these two steps, we respect the fermentation process and let our volatile new compound rest for 2 hours, covered with a nice cloth towel to let the curds sweat in peace. Then buhbam we spoon the curds with a slotted spoon into a colander draped with cheese cloth, wrap up our curds, and squinch the top with a rubber band. per the picture below.

ricotta blossom

SSSSLIKE wow how did 2 quarts of milk and a cup of h.w.c turn into a cute as a button blob of curd the size of my two fists? And the answer is of course cheesemaking magic. I let the ricotta bulb rest for another 30 minutes, interspersed with systematic squeezing and pressing to rid the booble of whey. After this 2.5 hours of relatively no work, we ended up with a creamy, light-as-heaven, stunningly pure looking, moist (not soggy) ricotta that I bet you can’t find in the stores.

ricawtta

Like so white! I pressed so good you can still see the cheese cloth crease lines on the outside. The curds range from like 1.5 millimeters to 4 millimeters in diameter and spread delicately throughout the mouth. I ate mine on toasted whole wheat bread (wanted to take a picture but it looked like a mess haha) and that was divine, and also on top of a broiled tomato and also with a salmon filet and that was a.o.k. Case in point, ricotta is NOT a side dish and it is the mildest, sweetest diva you’ll ever want to put in your mouth. Another fun thing about cheesemaking is that at the end, you have like way too much whey! “What can I do with this whey??”  you think – and then I tell you like anything you would do with regz milk. I set some aside for a pork marinade tomorrow, mixed some powdered drink mix into the whey for a refreshing afternoon sip, and made a red peppa soup with the whey as a base instead of just boring old water. Unfortch most other cheeses take muuuush longer to make than ricotta so there will be more of a patient waiting process for prets much anything else I concoct but never mind, let the cheese MAKING begin! Also Happy Cheese day to everyone yesterday but really why not make it Happy Cheese day everday amirite??

If you are interested in making your own ricotta, here is the recipe: http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/creamy-ricotta
Many thanks to Maria Helm Sinskey and Food & Wine because duhhhh

Hometown America

This weekend passed in a blur of hugs, iced tea, various meat entrées, coffee iterations, long-lost friends, farmer’s markets, and good old portland charm. The sun came out, chalk-drawings were on the menu for saturday night, and late-night eggs-in-a-nest was definitely a thing. Best part of the weekend: I found a job at a local creamery! I shall be representing a small, fledgling chèvre-based creamery that has some wildly pure products. My favorite was just the baseline chèvre (fresh, tangy, spreadable, unassuming like ricotta but significant like pecorino-romano) dipped in salted caramel…. Talk about decadence like omg. Immediately the idea of an ice cream flavor of goat cheese and caramel came to my mind and to my greatest delight it already exists! Salt & Straw, a portland ice cream boutique (so silly/so good) does a version using the chèvre from the new creamery! Anyway portland is as happy, grassroots, and welcoming as ever and it shall be an amazing year.

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!

Montmartre and cheese and lots of culture

Glorious glorious spring break number 2! The sun was smiling down on all of Paris during our trip, the jardin de Luxembourg was brimming with life and green expanses, and the jambon gruyère baguettes were croquant and cremeux. We started off our first day in Montmartre wandering, seeing the beautiful cobblestone streets that will me manque oh-so-terribly when I return to the US. After looping around the quartier, we ended up at the Fromagerie Quatrehomme in the 18th arrondissement. The offshoot of Marie Quatrehomme’s original shop on the Rue de Sèvres, it is a cave of quite some magic. quatrehomme

I walked in and heard some American tourists asking if the camembert was strong or what a good tasting cheese was and I felt immediately thankful not to be wearing a red flag of cheese/France unknowledge… I set out to look for the house specialty of 30 month aged Comté and was swept away by the beauties of Valençay and Banon on the other side of the shop. Because we were only eating for two, I picked up the Comté and Valençay and VOILÀ the resulting cheese plate/crappy hostel lights

hostel

The Comté… In fact I read about this one on another food lover’s blog and like that was some good advice. Like SUCH A FUN CHEESE. As you can see in the photo above with the big yellow hunk, I cut it into thin tranches, watching the crystals shave off onto the plate and feeling l’eau dans la bouche. Almost opaque in spots, you can tell that this is a cheese that has seen things. I had immediate tastes of savory and garlic and such a pleasing crunch in some spots. Then there was a flavor development into the realm of a well-stocked plate of spaghetti bolognese; my mouth was left with a comprehension of age and onions. Absolute, hands-down, undeniably the best comté that my life has ever had. Thank you and to whoever is reading, I EXHORT you to search out and aged comté of this caliber. Preferably at this shop.

Also interesting note: if a comté is scored at less than 12/20 overall by the french cheese police, it cannot be called comté and is instead sold as gruyère in France! Cheese hierarchy exists = woah conspiracy theories abound.

The Valençay, seen in the background behind the Comté, was a calmer addition to the plate. I felt/tasted/saw a beautiful ivory interior, dry texture in a clean and cool way, and flavors reminiscent of pretzel flavored salt. I had really been hankering to try it because it has a cool charcoal-covered exterior and comes in a cool 3D trapezoid shape (legend has it that it enraged Napoleon so he cut off the top and voilà we have the lasting shape to this day). I wasn’t as blown away by the Valençay as I have been recently with other unpasteurised chèvres; I think I really like them moelleux and grassy and fresh or pungent, dry, and peppery almost. Hmm particular tastes.

K so then it was out of Paris and into the South, where we visited the beautiful towns of Dax, Labatut, Bayonne, Biarritz, and St. Jean de Luz. It was in St. Jean de Luz that we stopped at Maison Adam, a purveyor of fine local goods including ham, cheese, pastries, dairy products, and pepper. The front of the store is an invitation to culinary whimsy and high quality, complete with a wall of aged piment d’espelette (spicy delicious peppers that are the local speciality of Bayonne). I also bought a bottle of piment d’espelette olive oil and sel de piment and I am oh-so-excited to spice up my cuisine back in ‘murca. photo(21)

In the shop I was delighted to see a wall full of aged sheep’s cheeses; I picked up a wedge of “brebis fermier” which is prets much the run-of-the-mill sheep’s cheese of the region (and by run-of-the-mill I mean delicious and artisanal and delightful) and also a wedge of REAL Ossau-Iraty to bring back to the states with me because that dank is worth its weight in gold in my palate (and by worth its weight in gold I mean 32.60 euros/kg haha). adambrebis

So in Biarritz later that night, after our beautiful apéro of Jurançon sec and jambon de bayonne, I sliced up my recent purchase and ate some tranches watching abstract short-films on an artsy independent channel. I was more engrossed with my cheese and quite easily because 1) there was a strong sheep dairy taste all throughout my mouth and 2) more fun flavors than I had anticipated! The cheese was medium firm and yielding, grainy in a delightfully-crystal-hinting manner. The tastes started off tight and pert, like a young gruyère, but developed into fuzzy piquant multi-faceted protein flavor. Weird? Not if you were to taste it. What was tho interesting was that although yes the rind was drier and earthier than the interior of the wedge, there was a distinct hint of blue/ammonia along the exterior. The flavors changed cleanly and distinctly and I thoroughly enjoyed the taste transitions. Good stuff Brebis Fermier. You can see the artfully arranged slices below; I ate them all.photo(16)

Also in St. Jean de Luz I was given a little slice/sample of Fromage Mixte = sheep and cow milk; I found it to remind me of a creamy monterey jack with hints of sheep’s dairy. Lighter in color and softer in hold as well. Moyenne in flavor/quality but would make a good mac and cheese or melted on top of chili mmm the husky sheep scent would make a crowd go wild. Until next time then, cheese lovers!

Avenues of Cheese

No, I have not eaten anything new in the past 24 hours (with regards to cheese of course). Yes, I still want to post things on the blog because the exploration of cheese is slowly and surely taking over my romantic soul. Yes, I do want to move back to France as soon as I have my bachelor’s and work at a crèmerie somewhere in the nearby countryside and speak French with the locals and live a calm, different culture. Being here in France is really just like second life to me now – I take for granted all the magic that is here and I know it, so coming back is a necessity. Why not do something absolutely novelesque in my young years when I can afford to take advantage of my no responsibilities/obligations/connections? Aka yeahhhhh

Anyway I was driving back from a beach day in Préfailles (beautiful beautiful rocky savage beaches and seafooooood) when I realized there are plenty of cheese-related tidbits that I can be passing on to the 2.3 readers of this blog!  So Tidbit 1: As you may know, I briefly changed the name “cheeseisgod” to “Sweet Dreams Are Made of Cheese” before I realized that the domain name itself didn’t change and that was confusing blah blah but nevertheless this is a great little cheese/a capella rendition of “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” by the Eurythmics: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=25RuXkkM9T0

Like vraiment lol; 37 seconds of cheese dedicated singing = something I am toats down with. Then comes Tidbit 2: You can get a free wisconsin cheese guide/poster by following this link and just entering your address! http://www.eatwisconsincheese.com/cheese/requestguide.aspx … I just received mine a couple of days ago and it has about 30 different varieties on it and at the very least like its a piece of free paper with cheese to look at. I saw this offer on another cheese blog about 3 months ago so pay it forward friends!

Tidbit 3: Camembert-pomme tartelettes! We ate these last saturday for dinner and mehhh I had a Baraka burger (dirtiest burger in Nantes… quarter pounder cheeseburger with HASH BROWNS LIKE WHUTTT) right before dinner so was not too too peaked but still managed to get one tartetlette in the belly. If I had been hungrier like my oh my so much consumption! Unfortunately I did not take a picture of ours but this is a prets good approximation (thanks Google images (does that count as a citation/oops this is a parentheses in a parentheses)) of what the magic was. Fondante, strong like camembert, buttery, sucré, oooooh you don’t even know if it’s a dessert or plat principal. I strongly suggest you give this a try, and most of the online recipes seemed like similar versions enough to what I had. Even if you don’t try it, at least you know it exists!

Tidbit 4: Camembert Chantilly! Like seriously this is something that would be “rien n’est plus simple à faire” according to the wise words of my wise host father Daniel. You can find the recipe here: http://rusticooking.over-blog.com/article-pommes-caramalisees-a-la-chantilly-de-camembert-115514680.html … I will be making this as soon as I am back in the states and camembert me manque tellement and as this will be in a chantilly form I don’t necessarily need some D’Isigny Sainte Mère camembert to calm my palate. By really world?? Camembert chantilly? I think this could go with buttermilk gaufres or chocolate blueberry pancakes? Savory profiteroles? Shooters with chantilly on top?? Ooohoo vraiment avenues of cheese.

Tidbit 5: Cheese tasting poster with 16 principal flavors My friend Charlie who is a chem major and tryna get his masters in food science so he can do that the rest of his life posted this on my wall and I thank him dearly. I wasn’t sure if I agreed entirely with the distinctions, but then I’m the one with the palate, not the doctorate in food science. http://www.popsci.com/files/cheese-poster.png?utm_medium=referral&utm_source=pulsenews Here you can see what cheeses are related to each other, what flavor traits they have in common, and how much. I find it pretty american-centric, but at least 6 french cheeses are represented so good stuff. At the very least its amusing to see such a thorough definition of what tastes are present.

Okay so yes enjoy the tidbits, I leave for Paris in the morning where I hope to visit the legendary shops of Quatrehomme and Androuet and Laurent and ohhhh can’t even wait. A plus!