Results tagged Cantal from David Lebovitz

Fromage Fort

Fromage forte

At any given time, there are between two – and fourteen – nubbins of cheese in my refrigerator. Those odds and ends are the result of me getting too excited when I’m at the fromagerie, usually going with the intention of buying just one or two wedges. But after scanning the shelves, and seeing a few cheeses that also look worthy of my shopping basket, ones that I am sure need to be tasted, the friendly women who I buy cheese from wrap them all up neatly in paper for me to take home. The bill is always more than I expect, but it’s the one bill that I’m happy to régler (pay up).

As fond as I am of cheese, as are my fellow Parisians, they’re not quite as fond of loading things up with garlic as much as other folks. You rarely see anything heavily dosed with garlic (forty cloves, or otherwise) in Paris restaurants, nor have I ever been served anything with more than the barest hint of garlic in someone’s home. (I’m not sure why because there is so much garlic at the markets. So someone must be buying it.)

Fromage Forte

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Salon de l’Agriculture

Salon de l'Agriculture in Paris

Every year, beginning in mid-February, thousands of farmers, wine makers, cheese makers, sausage makers, and an arks’-worth of animals, makes it way to Paris for the annual Salon de l’Agriculture. The salon began in 1870 in a country that was, and still is, justly fond of its agriculture, which is celebrated on tables, in steaming cauldrons, on picnic blankets, in restaurants, and ready-to-slice on cutting boards, all across France.

Paris Salon de l'Agriculture in Paris

The best of France converges on Paris and last year, there were nearly three-quarters of a million visitors, filling up the massive, grand halls of the Porte des Versailles, on the edge of Paris.

Paris Salon de l'Agriculture in Paris

There are exhibitors from twenty-two countries in addition to France, as well as foods from tropical French regions. And four thousand animals are trucked to Paris from the provinces to bring the taste – and smell(!) – of the country, to Paris.

Paris Salon de l'Agriculture in Paris

Like many agriculture fairs, there are competitions, too, honoring everything from the liveliest livestock to the best wines in France. But to me, it’s really an astounding place to enjoy the best of France in one hectic visit. However, it’s impossible to see it all in one day unless you have the stamina of one of those massive bulls in the pens, or the men who stir (and stir and stir and stir) the giant pots of cheese and potatoes.

Paris Salon de l'Agriculture in Paris

 

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Frenchie Wine Bar

Frenchie restaurant in Parissmoked fish at Frenchie, Paris
Frenchie wine bar breadFrenchie wine bar

I always think that maybe I’m kind of a loser because I don’t go out and eat as much as people think I do. Ever since I left the restaurant business – where I worked every single night of every single weekend of my life, surrounded by other cooks (which probably explains why I am a social misfit when I have to mingle with “normal” people), the idea of calling ahead to reserve a table at a busy place and making plans in advance is still pretty much a foreign concept to me.

frenchie wine bar roses frenchie wine bar ham

After a recent stint making tacos with the crew at Candelaria, I realized that I missed the camaraderie of cranking out food at a rapid pace with other cooks, all working smoothly – with good humor and care, in a hectic environment. Although I have to admit that at my age that I’m not sure how many more of those kind of nights I have left in me. (The two cocktails, one Mexican beer, and two Mezcal shots probably didn’t help either.)

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Cantal

It’s pretty overwhelming visiting a fromagerie.

After years of trying as many French cheeses as I could, I’ve settled on a few favorites that I go back to over and over, which include moist, piquant Roquefort de Carles, which I like drizzled with chestnut honey, little rounds of tangy chèvre and ash-covered Selles-sur-Cher, and nutty Comté from the French alps, which if you taste one that’s been aged 30 months, I assure you you’ll never buy any other affinage (ripeness) of Comté.

When people ask me which cheese to buy, though, I turn the tables on them, asking them what kind of cheese they like. Do they like dry, sharp, nutty, or powerful cheeses? Thankfully because there’s so many choices out there, there’s no right or wrong answers. Only what you like. Unfortunately, I pretty much like them all.

Ok, scratch pretty much…and let’s just say I like..er..love them all.

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But I rarely visit a fromagerie with a laundry list of cheeses I want to buy.

Instead, while waiting every-so-patiently in line, I crane my neck around madame in front of me and use that time to see what looks the best that day. Often the fromager will leave the most popular cheeses, like brie de Meaux, within easy reach of her since invariably just about everyone wants a wedge of that. Especially if it’s so oozingly-ripe and pungent that just lifting the big, gooey wheel is virtually impossible. Camembert du Normandie is another cheese that’s popular, but I’m always sure to get one that’s not industrial, since the artisanal and AOC ones are invariably more delicious.

(I don’t understand why anyone buys the crummy ones when the excellent ones are so easily-available. But I guess the same holds true in the states: people choose American-singles over the decent cheddar that’s widely available. Tant pis, as they say…)

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