Category Archives: Fromage Friday

Fromage Friday: Brillat Savarin

It’s BACK! Sure, there is a lot of good cheese to be eaten in the United States, but on that side of the Atlantic “fancy” cheese is more expensive and seems frivolous. In France, I feel like a criminal every time I walk past a fromagerie without buying something. That means I feel like a criminal every 15 minutes, but so be it.

The return to glory involved the 17ème arrondissement’s Alléosse fromagerie and about five kinds of cheese, but the only one I’d never had before was Brillat Savarin. The cheese comes in a square about the size of your fist, but a quarter of it is more than enough to last a few days because it’s a   “triple crème” cheese. This means that cream is added to the usual milk mixture when this cheese is being created. It also means the cheese is about 75 percent fat. One sliver of this bad boy meant I had to put some of my other cheese slices back on the plate at lunch (l’horreur!!!); I was just WAY too full. Yes, I said it. I found a cheese I can’t really eat.

According to my reader-friendly cheese book, this cheese was created by Pierre Androuët, FATHER of the master of all things French cheese, in 1930. He’s also the author of my less-than-reader-friendly “Dictionary of World Cheeses.” Good work, Team Androuët.

Brillat Savarin

Made by: Fromager/Affineur (meaning they actually mature the cheese) Alléosse, rue Poncelet. The line was 10 people long. I take the advice of travel writers and get in lines whenever I see that many people waiting.
Hails from: The northwest of France. Mostly Normandy.
Background: Not a handmade cheese, and so creamy that my aunt squeezed a piece and said it actually felt like butter. It’s a fresh cheese in that it only needs to age a few weeks, but it’s by no means light. Whoa mama. It’s also fairly strong tasting. I had been expecting something like Brie, but it’s much richer and tangy-er in flavor. Holds its own, for sure!
Can I eat the rind? You can, but it’s not necessary.
Serve it with: Veggies. Fruit. More veggies. Scant amounts of bread. Maybe I’m exaggerating, but this is not the kind of cheese I could handle eating with prosciutto or ham.

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Fromage Friday: Gouda in Amsterdam

The number one most important thing in my life in France is markets. Even on vacation, I see those white tents and box trucks in the distance and it’s like a giant magnet descends from the sky and pulls me head-first toward the fruit, veg, bread and cheese.

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Fromage Friday: Langres

On the train home from Troyes last Saturday, I passed directly through Langres. Every time I pass through a city that has the same name as a cheese, I feel kind of… honored. I also feel compelled to go try that cheese immediately, so this week’s choice at the fromgerie was simple.

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Fromage Friday: Chaource

I can’t seem to keep hold of the few days, weeks, hours, that I have left before I move on from Epinal, either back home to the States for the summer or on to somewhere else.

On top of my obviously not knowing what I will be doing in a month and a half’s time (I haven’t even purchased a ticket home), it’s really hit home this week that many of the people I work with, live with, and spend my free time with will be inaccessible to me for much of the rest of my life. The problem with living in a lot of different places is that you make a lot of friends, and some of them will always be far away. The Atlantic Ocean is really not my friend.

With that on my shoulders, I didn’t make it to the market Wednesday morning to buy some cheese and produce. Instead, I bought some at the most expensive grocery store in all of Epinal. Shame! On the upside: I will be in Paris Friday and in Troyes on Saturday, which is the former capital of Champagne, and now holding down the Bourgogne fort. Perfect for this cheese post.

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Fromage Friday: Epoisses de Bourgogne

I had several major failures in England, including not procuring any black pudding. Black Pudding is one of 47 things left remaining on a 100 Things to Eat Before You Die list. Therefore, I had to go for Epoisses cheese this week, so I can check another item off.

I was a little intimidated. When you look up Epoisses de Bourgogne, you see that its a “strong-smelling, washed-rind cheese, with an aroma of marc.” Marc is not a smelly French guy, but rather the grape residue such as skins of the alcohol from grapes which certain cheeses are bathed in or treated with to improve or change their flavor. Also, when you buy Epoisses from the fromager, it looks like it’s trying to escape from its rind. In the case, it reminded me of Gak.

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Home Away from Home

“I do think it needs some bells and whistles… Do your own design jiggery-pokery.”

“Tight-fisted frogs!”

“I was buying some Wheetabix, the best breakfast cereal there is. The Queen eats it, of course I have to eat it. It has the Queen’s seal of approval on it!”

All these quotes come from one source; a former British boss of mine who first gave warm-and-fuzzy thoughts about that island across the channel. Add another excellent Brit-import boss, two years working with University of Nottingham, a couple sun-filled London vacations, and a year in a “latin europe,” and you get an odd result. Despite my accent and upbringing, I felt like I had just come home from the moment I stepped off the train in London last Wednesday afternoon.

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Fromage Friday: Pavé Carvinois

My fromager has figured me out. After months of showing up at the cheese counter, standing behind the line for 5 minutes just staring at the case, he’s started giving me little tidbits of information when I choose a cheese completely at random.

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Fromage Friday: Saint-Nectaire

The gorgeous weather here is holding out, so today we picked a place on the Vosges map and threw our cameras in our bags. The place we chose was Bain-les-Bains, which is one of the small towns locally that has thermal baths. It also has a chateau, a couple canals, and is generally cute.

Or so we heard! I actually have no idea, because it turns out that Bain-les-Bains is 4.5 km away from the Bain-les-Bains train station. So instead, we spent a sunny afternoon wandering the country roads, and stopped in a tiny roadside bar called “Le Coq Hardi,” for a beer. When we got home at sundown, a few bites of cheese were much needed while I cooked my first meal since breakfast.

Saint-Nectaire, cow cheese
Made by: Fermier (farmer), from somewhere nearby. Ish.
Hails from: Auvergne, south central France.  Serious cow country.
Background: Hideous grayish purple rind, a semi-hard cheese. It’s one of the waxier cheeses I’ve tried, and the first bite I had I was actually disgusted by, but I must have gotten a little of the rind. Stay very far away from that rind. Outside of that it has a bit of a bitter taste–nutty and almost a little metallic. BUT, after trying more I decided it is not bad, and my book says that this cheese is best in summer. Therefore, I will return to it in June.
Can I eat the rind? Dear god, no.
Serve it: Serve it with things that would go well with nuts, especially chestnuts or walnuts! Salmon, potatoes, tarts — I even saw a recipe for crème brulée which I am truly intrigued by.

Return of Fromage Friday: Saint Marcellin

I messed up, and I know it. A whole month without Fromage Friday! It’s a sin against blogging, and a sin against France. Now that I am back from vacation, I must recommence my search for cheese knowledge and actually record it.

Saint Marcellin, cow cheese, originally goat cheese.
Made by: Store cheese. Shame!
Hails from: Dauphiné area, aka around Grenoble and the Alps in mid-southern France.
Background: Soft rind, and what a cute little cheese! It’s about the size of your palm, or maybe even smaller. I have large palms. You can buy a lot of different kinds of Saint Marcellin, raw or pasturized, fresh, dry, or many stages of ripe. I tried one somewhere in the middle of the ripe scale.
Can I eat the rind? Yessir.
Serve it: A little salty but not too strong of a flavor… but not anywhere as airy as a brie. We had it at brunch and honestly I think it only worked because it was a very lunchy brunch. I’d put this one with bread. I’m not sure it could stand up with other ingredients and still hold its own!

Fromage Friday: Coulommiers

Over the last week we had nearly five straight days of bright sunshine and stinging cold wind, which left me wondering when the devil would come to collect my soul. Instead, torrential downpours at the end of the week rained out my days for skiing and running.

I lost weight when I first came to France, but I think I’ve inched back up again, and I’m blaming it on being stuck inside rather than the cheese. I even read an article recently that says cheese lowers cholesterol compared with butter… yes!!! Cheese on, my friends.

Coulommiers, cow cheese.
Made by: Unmarked, from Paris region.
Hails from: Central France, to the east of Paris.
Background: Coulommiers is one of the various kinds of brie cheeses: small and thick, sometimes unpasturized if it’s the summer season. A little earthy and mushroomy, but still a bit sweet. Mm. mmm.
Can I eat the rind? Yes, all brie rinds are edible.
Serve it: Just like any other brie, though I thought this one was a little stronger than the average giant brie wheel. Good with red wine, bread, or in a tart or mixed with delicious fruits and veggies like the fennel and apple in this dish.