Once Upon a Young Sheep’s Milk

Last weekend marked a big event in the celebration of Memere’s 85th celebration with family from all over the states. And what more fitting for the evening after lunch picnic than red, white blends, and cheese platters from PCC guhhhhh. I had a ball of a time eating crystalline allium-flavored Rembrandt gouda (aged gouda is rapidly rising in my esteem), chivey and malleable Cotswald, sweet violetted Beecher’s Flagship, and most exciting of all: Pecorino di Pienza. A sheep’s milk cheese from Siena, it can be eaten anywhere from 40 days to 18 months. The one I ate was soft, light, and oily aka young aka at least 60 days aged because hello I live in the US. There was another cheese on the plate called Drunken Goat but all my relatives thought that the pecorino was the Drunken Goat because of the strong, fuzzy nose that tickles the tongue and throat so devilishly in the pecorino aka Drunken Goat sounds like it would be real funky but uhhh let down. In any case, the Pecorino had a slightly more aged exterior (duhh rind) that had calmer, sharper notes than the interior. The soft sofa of an interior was milky white, acutely sheepy, bitingly fuzzy, and had a most curious lingering taste of rhubarb bitter. I think/hope that this pecorino was raw milk because the palate was so diverse and I want to think that I tasted those green italian pastures. At least for 3 minutes, I was walking on hillsides in Siena, holding crumbly soil in my fingers, milking italian sheep, and experiencing milk being coaxed into this higher form.

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Picnics and Surprises

This week was tough because I had to force myself to stay away from the fromagerie because in fact I found a second in centre-ville Nantes called “Fromagerie Lecoq” which is fun and a good alternative to Beillevaire but unfortch only open 9:30-12:30 and 15:30-18:30 so kinda not convenient whatsoever for lunch time shenanigans :/ But litrally so easy to drop 10+ euros at the fromagerie aka just a moitié wedge of some wheel cheese and then a little chèvre dropping or something of the sort. The expenses this week have come to just about 20 euros on cheese and gosh darn its not even thursday. Not mad though, who would ever be mad about spending more money on cheese than actual victual food stuffs NOT ME!

We started this week off with a trip to Fromagerie Lecoq that was eagerly anticipated on monday but had to wait until Tuesday so in the meantime we contented ourselves with a regular “pâte a tartiner” like rondelé or boursin, this time think it’s croisé and au poivre. Good stuff with my pain aux céreales and saucisson au porc. But then tuesday came and the second thing of that day was trip to the fromagerie; different smelsalersls, more spicy and earthy than the dairy, cool feel of Beillevaire. When I was there I picked up two cheeses, and the first to be eaten back at IES was the strong gold Salers. It really reminds me of a gold ingot, but in this case a crumbly-hard-until-it-yields-in-your-mouth-golden-paste of a precious metal. My friend Blair tried a little morsel and said that it felt “sparkly” on the tongue and “old tasting but not in a bad way” which I toats empathize with. I had previously described the aged cantal as fuzzy and def detected the same feeling in this old grump of a 9 month old semi-hard cheese. Like I said, the salers reminded me of a cantal, but of a less intense, more mellowed/molasses-y varietal. Crystallized, piquant, sweet-dairy tasting, salty, acidic with no burn, and ending with a flash of pepper. As I worked my way to the outside, I noted that the interior of the wedge had a more buttery veneer to the taste than the outer-regions. Maybe less oxidization = fresher tasting? Good stuff, that salers.

Then not 3 minutes later the unveiling of the quiet, cheerful giant: CABECOU (cabécou)!! Friends, friends, let me tell you… I should have put a quarter in the pic for a size comparison, but the entire little poop is just about 3 centimeters in diameter; not a lot of material to work with! The rind you see is what really fascinated me. As a “croute naturel” (I think) cheese, the rind is soft and surrounds an entirely different material. The rind itself is soft cabécouflavorful and not chalky and reminds me of pie dough – like you could probably pop this in the over and tell someone you “en crout-ed” it and they would toats believe you because the rind is so phenoms. Anyway then I actually at the cheese and my oh my pungent, savory, hinting (just mildly) at rancid, I felt heady flavors with a tang at the beginning and then age in the form of moldy and then cream at the end. That was what was rilll gr8 – the aftertaste that really lingered of fresh whole milk, even cream. The moisture and discrete flavors, combined with the creaminess and tang associated with pungence, made this a palatable but altogether new friend. Thanks Lecoq!

K so then it was today and Brett had to supply the friends with cheese for the picnic because enfinnnn it was a beautiful day in Nantes that called for cheese, muscadet, crusty bageuttes, and vegetable entrées. I went to Beillevaire and said “Madame, I am looking for 2 cheese for a picnic. One soft, moist, calm, but surprising; the other strong, salty, hard, formidable, and full of taste” and what I got was quite an amazing match to what I described. We first nommed on the miracle that is Ginestarié (like what is that name??) that is visible just to the left. ginestariéThis chèvre has the thinnest-most-not-real rind/croute ever, and the whiter sections in the photo of the cheese are where the rind actualz melted onto the Beillevaire wrapping. Like moelleux or WHAT. And Madame Beillevaire was right; I first had a little morceau of the Ginestarié and my oh my flavors of lasagné, lemony tang, grassy earth, soft bedding of pepper, and soft velour of ricotta. Those flavors and the glistening texture made this actually cold tasting – my fellow picnickers Carol and Holly can gladly corroborate that farfetched conlcusion. But yes, a surprising, refreshing, cool-feeling chèvre that made the picnic. This is a definite re-buy. If all y’all can find some of this in the rest of the world, doooot. Except not if it’s wrapped in plastic and suffocating because my new philosophy I developed today says that “its better to spend more for a little good quality cheese, even if one doesn’t like it, than to spend less on bad quality cheese because then you’re really just stuck with rotten dairy.” One day I’ll refine that quote but y’all will recognize it from the formative days.

And last but not least was the fun times of L’Etivaz that comes from the beautiful nation of Sweeeeserland. L'etivazThe cheese actually started sweating in the picnic hot afternoon sun, so we got to see a demonstration of how much liquid moisture fat they is in some good quality dank. This cheese is the strong salty one that I asked for, and umami came to mind for taste: roasted nuts, pork, warm bitterness, even seafoody. Actually all of these flavors occurring in different parts of my mouth at different times; such a merveille. The crumbles happened with the cheese and so when we ate it it felt grainy in an ephemeral way such that the cheese became a feeling and the feeling became a flavor and my oh my it is too late to be writing about cheese. Sorry for the ramblings and elusive descriptions. Good stuff abound and goood stuff to come!