Results tagged Savoie from David Lebovitz

La Coop: Beaufort Cheese Cooperative in Paris

Beaufort cutter

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?

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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.

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Simple Polenta

polenta

I’ve been a busy boy the last few weeks, hunkering down finishing a project that’s I’m working on night-and-day. And unfortunately, it’s not even allowed me time to go to the market to do much food shopping. Quelle horreur! So I’ve been raiding my freezer (which is actually a good thing…) and rummaging through my cabinets in search of things that I can sustain myself on.

red corn polenta

I had a couple of bags of beautiful stone-ground polenta that I got in Gascony last fall and decided that I’d cook up a big batch to keep on hand. When I lived in California, I ate a lot of polenta because I am a major fan of anything and everything with cornmeal. It’s not as common here and while you can find it in most supermarkets, it’s often the instant variety. And while some people say it’s pretty good, I tried it once and it’s like comparing mashed potatoes made with those powdery dried flakes that come in a box with mashed potatoes made from real, honest-to-goodness potatoes. To me, there’s just no comparison.

fresh herbs for polenta

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Gâteau de Savoie

cherries and savoy cake

The last copy of The Auberge of the Flowering Hearth that I had, I’d lent to a good friend who was excited about starting a career in cooking at a local culinary school. I don’t know another book that captures precisely everything I love about cooking, written by a man truly passionate about his subject, and I though he’d like to read it, as it’s been very influential to me as a cook. Then I moved and never got it back. But it was the one time in my life that I was happy someone else had become the owner of one my books, because it’s one that cooks of our current generation have likely forgotten about, or never heard of in the first place.

Fortunately last summer when I was in New York, I went to browse the shelves at the great cookbook store – Kitchen Arts and Letters – and saw a brand-new copy, and picked it up. It’s one of those rare books that I can read over and over and over again, and never get tired of, so I can’t imagine not having it on my shelf to pull out whenever I want. And re-reading it again, in France, reminds me of how Roy Andries de Groot, the author, was so perfectly able to capture a place, and time. L’Auberge de l’Atre Fleuri was a rustic mountain inn run by two women, Mademoiselle Ray and Mademoiselle Vivette, who had the kind of place we all dream about happening upon, but no longer exists. The two women were dedicated not just to splendid cooking, but were fastidious about using the bounty of the mountain-walled valley, and the fields, lakes, and forests, that were guarded by those towering mountains.

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Beaufort d’Été

When I was in Méribel avoiding the steep slopes waiting in line at the cheese coopérative, I wasn’t alone: the joint was seeing more action than all those gasp-inducing ski runs.

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And just about every person ordered a nice hunk of Beaufort. And since they were in front of me in line, being France, of course each person had to have a 5 minute conference with the saleswoman about how to cut it, where they wanted it cut, exactly how much to lop off, if the other hunk on the shelf was better than the one they were getting, did they have another one in the back?…etc…etc…

The person in front of me scared me a bit when he requested a chunk that were as huge as a baseball mitt. It barely fit on the scale!

Naturally when it was my turn, it took me all of 1.3 seconds to tell her what I wanted and I ended up with a nice-sized piece as well—albeit of a more modest size—and could barely wait until I got home and dug into my chunk.

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Meribel

Les Alps

For the holidays this year, I decided to take up a friend’s offer to visit their family in Méribel, a village way high up in the French alps. As you can see, it’s a spectacular place. And I’m not just talking ‘gorgeous sunsets’ or ‘charmingly quaint’ spectacular. I mean, Méribel was mind-blowingly, insanely hallucinante.

Seriously, I wasn’t prepared for the awesome beauty of it all. Although I haven’t strapped on a pair of skis in over thirty years, there I stood, at the top of the mountain on my first day on skis in decades, ready to slide down.

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Let me tell you—skiing isn’t one of those things that you get more comfortable with as you get older. *sigh* Especially when you’re with a group of skiers that include some crazy teenagers who, at the top of a particularly steep run, simply point their skis in the straight-down position, and shove off with their poles and a banchee-like “On y va, Daveeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeed!”

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And off they’d go…

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Les Fromages du Jour

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Yes, that’s a few slices of my pain aux ceriales from Le Grenier à Pain paired with some delightful cheeses that I discovered when visiting one of my absolute favorite fromagers here in Paris this morning.

Disclaimer: I confess to a secret and unfulfilled ambition.

Except for working outside in the icy-cold winter and freezing my bourse off, getting up at a godawful hour, and lifting heavy wheels of cheese, my fantasy job is to work as a fromager. Being surrounded by big wheels of cheese and small pyramids of goat cheese, the smell of all those gooey, runny, and nutty cheeses…it all makes me delirious with pleasure
Ok, I guess I could deal with lifting the wheels of cheese, but getting up at 4am?
Now that’s another story…

As a fromager, I would make recommendations to les clients. “Qu’est-ce que vous desirez, madame?”, I would ask, ready to council the customer. (Using my perfect French, of course…this is my fantasy, remember?) I’d slice and wrap a fine selection of cheeses to serve to her her family after a well-prepared supper of roast pintade and pommes des terres rôti with a fine, crisp Sancerre or gravely, full-flavored Pomerol.

We’d make witty banter about Johnny Halliday and socks with whimsical cartoon figures on them while I selected a few fine cheeses, perhaps a dead-ripe Camembert de Normandie and a Corsican Brin d’Amour, covered with fragrant mountain herbs.

Ah, je rêve

I visit many cheese shops, oops, I mean fromageries here in Paris. I search for shops that have unusual cheeses, since many of the best ones seem to focus on a particular region or type of cheese like les chèvres or fine mountain cheeses from the Savoie.

Although many of the outdoor markets have people selling cheese, I’ve found none better than N. Caillère at the Popincourt Market in the 11th arrondissement on the Boulevard Richard Lenoir. Twice a week, the two cheery women who run their stand never fail to prompt me to discover a cheese I’ve never tasted.
Such as this triple-crème Délice de Saint-Cyr

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Triple-cream means the cheese has a minimum fat content of a whopping 75% (although that percentage refers to the amount of fat in the solids, and most cheeses are about 50% water and 50% solids…still, it ain’t no rice cake.)
Although I ate it at it gooiest best, at room temperature, the cheese left a sweet, suprisingly cool aftertaste.

They also had a lovely, and well-aged Comté de Jura, a marvelously-nutty, full-flavored cheese made from raw cow’s milk and is the most widely-produced cheese in France.
And it’s popular for good reason; it’s always excellent and pairs well with most other cheeses on a cheese plate as well as both white and red wines.

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I’m in love most goat cheeses; I seem to like them all. With their smooth, dreamy-white interior and their soft, gentle aroma of the farm, it doesn’t matter to me whether they’re fresh or aged. It’s a rare day at the market for me if I don’t have one tucked into my market basket.

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This Tomme de Chèvre is from a small farm and is called Vendômois. Although the outside has the fine crust of mold, I was told the cheese is rather young and the elasticity and suppleness of the p&acurc;te indeed suggests less affinage, or cave ripening.

N. Caillère
Fromager

-Popincourt Market
(Tuesday and Friday)

-Place Réunion Market
(Sunday)