A few years ago, a good friend who has sadly moved away, was kind enough to take me to Restaurant Le Meurice for dinner. The first memory of walking into the done-up dining room was the way the waiters brought her an Hermès stool for her purse, which was an Hermès Kelly bag. The second memory I have, was shortly after when we sat down and they asked if we wanted apéritifs. I’d heard about the house apéritif they were serving back then, which was famous, so I ordered one.
Results tagged fromage from David Lebovitz
The Whole Fromage
Look, I like cheese a lot. But didn’t think I could get into an entire book on the subject. And as I read the first few paragraphs of The Whole Fromage, my suspicions were almost confirmed and I was considering putting it down because, like cheese (which I’m surrounded by on a daily basis – and I’m not complaining!), a well-edited selection is usually my preferred way to enjoy it. Fortunately I kept going and found myself completely absorbed in the book on les fromage, the subject of Kathe Lison’s obsession. And her book is a series of interesting essays as she traveled around France, visiting cheese producers, from the mountains of the Jura to the caves of Roquefort.
It’s hard to write about cheese because the scents and flavors that come to mind, used to describe the taste and smell of les fromages, aren’t often very appealing; barnyards, cattle pens, rotting milk, and the laundry bin in men’s locker rooms after the big game, often come to mind. But Kathe Lison visited some of the most intriguing cheese regions in France – from Langres to Beaufort, and recounts her visits cheese caves, curd tastings, meetings with artisan cheese producers, and an occasional brush with a cranky character or two.
It amuses me to see outfits that promise to let folks “experience Paris like a local!” While there’s lots too see and do here as a visitor, I wonder why so many people want to come and experience the more mundane aspects of life in a city, such as calling the gas company to find out why your bill is 300% over what it is supposed to be, or dealing with a forest’s-worth of paperwork that would make the most anti-environmentalist weep, when they could be exploring world-class museums, dining in historic bistros, visiting amazing chocolate shops, and gorging themselves on sublime cheeses all day?
When I’m on vacation, I want to be on vacation, thanks. But every so often, I try being a tourist is my own city. Because I get to stroll around and discover wonderful new places, as I did when walking near the Jardin du Luxembourg and passed by La Coop.
A visit to France is, of course, a cheese-lovers dream. And for those who come and want to experience a variety of French cheeses in Paris, there are a number of places that offer dégustations (tastings) as well as tours and wine pairings with experts. Most are in English and in the boutiques that offer cheese tasting plates, there is normally someone on hand who will happily explain all the different cheeses. Here’s a list of places that offer a variety of experiences for anyone interesting in sampling les fromages:
Madame Hisada: Specialty cheese shop with salon offering dégustation platters.
Fil’O'Fromage: Cheese shop and restaurant, with tasting plates.
Meeting the French: Wine and cheese tastings.
Chez Virginie: Cheese shop with guided tastings.
Le Foodist: Wine and cheese pairings and tastings.
La Coop: Cheese cooperative from the Savoy region offers self-guided cheese tastings.
La Cuisine: Guided cheese tasting workshops.
Marie-Anne Cantin: Guided cheese tastings.
La Vache dans Les Vignes: Cheese tasting plates.
Paris by Mouth: Cheese tastings and walking tours.
Ô Chateau: Wine and cheese tasting lunches.
Cook’n with Class: Wine and cheese tasting, and pairing classes.
Note: In addition to the organized cheese tastings listed above, you can generally go into a wine bar and order a selection of cheeses (and wine, of course) to sample. Although the tastings aren’t guided, the staff will generally be able to tell you about the cheeses.
For a variety of reasons, we decided to extend our twenty-four hour vacation by forty-eight hours. Actually, there were only two reasons: One was that there was a massive heat wave last week in Paris that was roasting us, and everyone else in the city. And two, a friend who lives outside of Paris – who has a pool – invited us to come.
So we drove out of the city, away from the unshaded pavements, the barren open-air markets, and the locked-up storefront, to breathe in some fresh air and float carelessly in a calming rectangle of cooling water. We were in the Yonne, part of Burgundy, which also meant Dijon mustard, gougères, and Chablis.
On arrival, we tumbled out of the sticky heat of the car and hopped into the pool right away to cool down, then our friend called us to the table with a vegetable tart she’d whipped together; a simple pastry dough with a smear of Dijon mustard, sautéed zucchini and onions, then topped with cheese and baked. Basta. Score one for simple French food, and the women who make it!
“Goopy” isn’t a word used too often when writing about food. Am not sure why, but perhaps because there aren’t a lot of things that are goopy, that you actually want to eat. Mont d’Or has been called the holy grail of French raw milk cheeses. It’s goopy for sure, and if that bothers you, well, that’s something you’re going to have to work on for yourself. In the meanwhile, I’ve been lapping up this Mont d’Or I recently acquired, enjoying every single goopy mouthful.
Called “the holy grail of raw milk cheeses”, Mont d’Or (also called Vacherin Mont d’Or, and Vacherin Haut-Doubs) is truly a spectacular cheese. And even though they’re widely available in the winter in France, because of their richness, it’s something I reserve for special occasions. For me, that special occasion was lunch yesterday.
The French are rightfully proud of their cheese, but one they can’t take credit for is Gouda Étuvé – which is very popular in France nonetheless. And I don’t blame them for going gaga over this Gouda. At my fromagerie, they keep the giant half-wheel right on the counter, in front of them, because perhaps fifty-percent of the customers order a wedge of it. Or in my case, 100%.
Foreign cheeses in France are either fully embraced, or ignored. Le cheddar is just now gaining some recognition and Stilton is pretty widely praised. Gouda is a non-offending cheese, and is one of the more popular imports in France. Like Emmenthal, it’s a cheese for those who want something milder. Or wilder, as is in the case of the Gouda with stinging nettles at Pascal Beillevaire.
The name étuvé means “cooked”, usually in a covered casserole or similar vessel. Since the milk for nearly every kind of cheese is cooked, I’m not sure why it’s designated as “étuvé”, because whenever I ask, the cheese-sellers are so busy slicing cheese for the long line of customers, they just say it’s cooked à la vapeur, or with steam. And I keep my mouth shut, so as not to distract them from their very important duties.
I don’t know why, but almost all the pictures from my Paris-Lausanne culinary tour came out kinda goofy. Out-of-focus, askew, grainy, or there’s odd pictures of sidewalks, one of me lounging in a bathrobe, guests eating and drinking (no one looks great when putting a forkful of food in their mouths so those pictures I’ll keep to myself…and I hope they do likewise), lots of chocolates rolling off conveyor belts, and even those scrumptious, insanely good Swiss meringues with double-cream Gruyère tasted (a lot) better than they look here.
The week passed by as a whirlwind of tastes – we moved from one chocolate shop to the next in Paris – Fouquet, Jacques Genin, Patrick Roger, and Jean-Charles Rochoux. Then, when we hit Lausanne, we switched gears, focusing our attention on cheese, air-dried beef, and white wine.