Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Learning about French Cheese - Part 3

Blue Cheeses: These cheeses have a blue vein marbling mostly developed by natural fermentation processes, sometimes by inoculation to start or hasten ripening, and maturing. The term persillé, which is often applied to these cheeses, has nothing to do with parsley. Rather it refers to the blue- green veining which resembles parsley. These cheeses have a tangy flavor; some more than others, are usually semi-soft, often crumbly, especially when cold. Natural blue cheeses are produced in many areas of France and are named after their region or origin.

Bleu d’Auvergne - From the mountains of the rustic region of the Auvergne, this cheese is made from cow’s milk. It has a rich, sharp flavor.

Bleu de Bresse-Also made from cow’s milk in the region of Bresse. It has a mild-ish flavor for this type of cheese.

Pipo Creme -This cheese has a very distinct flavor, slices easily as it does not crumble. The thin crust is edible.

Roquefort- The “King” of cheeses — as it is known throughout the world. Made exclusively from ewe’s milk in the south of France and aged and ripened in the limestone caves of the small village of Roquefort. It is unique — unlike any other cheese in flavor and texture. Authentic Roquefort can be easily identified by the red sheep emblem on the label.

Firm Texture Cheeses: These cheeses are used very often in gratiné dishes, as an ingredient in many recipes. Usually they have many “eyes”, the size of which is helpful in identifying the various kinds.

Beaumont - A specialty of the Savoie region of France, this cheese has a distinct nutty flavor. It has a tannish crust which is not edible. Inside, the ivory colored cheese has many tiny “eyes” arranged close together.

Comte - A product of the Jura region, it is similar to Emmental, but has smaller and fewer eyes about the size of cherries. (In France Gruyère is the generic term for this cheese.)

Emmental Français- Identified by its eyes which are relatively large. This cheese has a nut-like tang that adds zest to such dishes as quiches, fondues and sauces. (USE IT IN EVERYTHING)

Mimolette - Made in the north of France from cow’s milk, it is about the size and shape of Edam. In texture and flavor, however, it is more similar to cheddar. Out side it is orange and inside a bright yellow.

Tomme des Pyrénées - A cheese from France’s Basque country, it is a large round cow’s milk cheese, with an inedible black rind.

Tomme de Savoie-From the Alpine region, this cheese is made from cow’s milk and has a low fat content. It is firm, subtly flavored.

Hard Cheeses:

Cantal- A native of the Auvergne region, this is one of France’s oldest and most famous cheeses. Has a piquant flavor but its hard crust is not edible. It is low in fat and high in protein — making it an excellent choice for dieters.

Process Cheese: Most of France’s process cheeses are a blend with a creme de Gruyère as as base. They may have a firm, heavy texture, or may be soft, smooth and spreadable.

Beau Pasteur - This cheese has a mild, distinct flavor, a creamy buttery texture and no crust.

Fondu au Raisin/La Grappe - A semi-soft cheese with a distinctive grape flavor imparted by its rind (inedible) of grape seeds, called “marc” — the remains from the pressed grapes.

Gourmandise - Similar to Beau Pasteur with either a cherry or walnut flavor.

La Vache Qui Rit- meaning “laughing cow”, a picture of which appears on the label. This has become an American favorite, though I heard the variety sold in the US is not the same as what is sold in France.

Nec Plus Ultra - Similar in texture and quality to Gourmandise. It is also is available in cherry or walnut flavors.
Six de Savoie-Similar to La Vache Qui Rit, it is pack aged in small triangular wedges.

Tomme au Marc -Same as Fondu au Raisin.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Learning about French Cheese - Part 2

Soft Cheeses:

These exquisite cheeses are the result of French cheese-making genius. They are known as soft paste cheeses, usually having a white powdery crust which, when ripened, is tinged reddish brown and the center is soft to the touch. Inside, the cheese is golden yellow, creamy, buttery smooth and “runny”. Once the crust is cut, the cheese ceases to ripen. As with all French cheeses, this type must be served at room temperature

Bibress- A creamy cheese with a flavor similar to a mild blue cheese.
Brie-The “King” of soft-ripened cheeses. Its powdery, white edible crust becomes tinged reddish brown when the cheese is fully ripened. As with each of this type of cheese, it reaches its peak at room temperature.

Brie de Meaux- One of the original, authentic Brie cheeses, named after the city in which it is made.

Brie de Melun - Another authentic variety of this famous cheese, also named after the city where it is made.

Bache Lorraine- Similar to Brie in texture and flavor.

Cambree- This newcomer is a combination of Brie and Camembert, with 50 per cent butter fat.
Camembert- One of France’s most popular cheeses of this variety, it is an original specialty of the province of Normandy.

Caprice des Dieux - A slightly creamier than Camembert with an edible crust.

Carre de 1’ Est -Similar in flavor to Brie, but milder. As with most of this variety, the crust is edible.

Chaource - A specialty of Champagne country, this cheese is creamy, plump and round in shape. Its white crust is edible.

Coulommiers - Made in the same region as Brie, it is smaller in size, plumper than its cousin, but similar in flavor and texture.

Fol Amour-Made in the north of France, and similar to Brie in flavor and texture.

St. Benoit - A specialty of the area of Orleans, it is made from skimmed cow’s milk and is in the shape of a small, thick disk. Inside it is ivory-colored and very creamy.

Valdieue - This cheese is a close cousin to Carré de 1’ Est, in shape, size and flavor.

Valmeuse - This is again in the Brie family, but it contains a special stabilizer to retard ammoniation.
Semi-Soft Cheeses:
These are cheeses which are semi-firm to the touch, with a smooth, buttery texture inside that yields on finger pressure, or when cut with a knife. They are mild in flavor with a clean, fresh tang to them that varies in strength depending on the age. Because they slice easily, they have good melting qualities and are often used in cooking. Most semi-soft cheeses have an inedible crust.

Babybeh - Made from cow’s milk, this cheese is firm in texture and retains its freshness because it is enveloped in a red parrafin wrapper. It has a slightly nutty flavor.

Bonbel - Also made from cow’s milk, this is firm in texture and has a yellow paraffin wrapper. Slightly larger than its cousin, Babybel, this cheese, too is slightly nutty in flavor.

Chiberta - A specialty of the Basque country, in the south of France, this cheese is made from cow’s milk, is ivory-colored on the inside with tiny holes. It has a dark orange inedible crust.

Livarot - A famous specialty of the province of Normandy, with a strong and piquant flavor.

Edam Français- Rich orange in color with a red rind and a distinct nutty flavor.

Munster - From the province of Alsace, this cheese has a strong aroma but is milder in taste. Rather orange-y in color, it is sometimes flavored with cumin or caraway.

Pont l’Evêque - Again a Norman specialty, the name of the cheese means Bishop’s Bridge. It has impressions on its usually edible rind which resultfrom the straw on which it is ripened.

Port Salut - Originated by the Trappist monks in their Monastery of Port-du-Salut

Entrammes, this popular cheese comes with an inedible orange rind.

Reblochon - Made in the French Alps, the name derives from the term for the second-milking of the day, the cow’s milk, which is used to make this cheese. A small, flat disk, it is mild in flavor.
Royaldieue - Similar in texture and body to Port Salut but has a higher butter fat content. The crust is not edible.

St. Nectaire - Again, a cousin to Port Salut but its inedible crust is darkish brown.

St. Paulin - Another look-alike to Port Salut, in shape and flavor, but it does not have an orange crust. This cheese is also a creation of the Trappist monks.

Goat's Milk Cheeses---Chevres:
These cheeses are much prized by connoisseurs and almost every region of France has its own special goat’s milk cheese. Textures vary from soft, but firm, somewhat like cream cheese, to extremely hard.

Banon - This cheese is a specialty of Provence. It is wrapped in chest nut leaves and tied with raffia.

Capricette - This is a fresh goat cheese, with a low fat content and a delightful tangy flavor.

Chabichou -A soft goat cheese made in the Poitou region, and its flavor varies from fruity to sharp depending on its age.

Chèvre au Poivre—aux Herbes - These patty-shaped cheeses are sprinkled with pepper, fennel and rosemary.

Chevrotin- It has a fat content of 45 per cent, mild aroma, with a creamy texture and nutty flavor.

Montrachet - This is made in the province of Burgundy. Mild and creamy in flavor with a rind that may or may not be dusted with vine wood ash.

Pyramide/Valençay - It has a mild nutty flavor and also its edible rind may or may not be dusted with wood ash.

St. Marcellin- Originally this cheese, from the Isère Valley, was made strictly from goat’s milk. Today, it is more often a combination of cow and goat. It is a soft round disk, with a mild slightly acid flavor.

Sainte Maure - A soft-ripened goat cheese, log-shaped, with a thin edible crust and a mild flavor which becomes more pronounced as it ages.

A wild storm!

Saturday night, the 13th the wind began to howl around 10 pm so loud I could not hear myself think. It continued all night long and all day long on Sunday. At the same time the wind was keeping me from sleeping, Abigail's coughing was doing the same. So in the morning I thought I'd run down to the Pharmacy to pick her up some medicine to help her to feel better before Nicholas' arrival. I got all bundled up for the wind and out I went.
Just as soon as I hit the outdoors I was blown around like a leaf! I decided to forgo the walk that I had intended and take the car the very short distance. As I made that decision in my head I noticed two little old ladies huddle and clinging to a tree...I guess deciding their next move, or gathering their strength. I rounded the corner, out of the protection of my building and headed toward my car. That's when the full force of the wind hit me and I began to wonder if I could make it the five feet to the car. I made it and bent down to unlock the door, I looked at myself at the reflection in the window and had to laugh as my hair was blowing straight up. I jumped in the car and started to back up as I saw the women crossing the street...their little drag behind shopping carts flying in the wind at arm's level. A moment's pity and off I went...only to find the Pharmacy closed on Sundays! Zut Alors! So I went home and plied Abigail with tea and vitamins.

So today I decided to go check out the damage, if any....check out the following photos. First is the pier. There should be sand all the way up to the gated area to start with and then if you notice towards the 'splash' that there is several lengths of gate missing...who knows where they are.

The next couple photos is of the beach restaurant directly in front of my apartment called the Plage Privee...there are pieces of this restaurant strewn all up and down the beach! As you can see it sustained heavy damages....not sure how or when they will fix this but I hear that they come and replace the sand of the beach just before the tourist season, so at that time they will have to work fast.

This last picture is of the restaurant down the beach to the right of me if your looking at the ocean, called the Salamander. It had a sign saying that it was closed until March. Both of these
restaurants close for the winter as no one really wants to sit on the beach when it's cold so I'm not sure if it was already closed or if it was closed by the storm....but Abigail was invited to a birthday party this Wednesday and I was fairly sure it was at this restaurant.

In taking with some of my friends they say that this winter has been unusual, in the amount of rain and the cold and I would add surely the wind as I doubt these restaurants would repair each year.
According to the Meteo, the weather is supposed to start shaping up with more sun....boy am I ready!!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Learning about French Cheese - Part 1

France produces almost 400 different varieties of cheese, each one is as distinctive as a finger print. This wide selection — more than any other country has to offer — includes cheeses made from cow’s, ewe’s or goat’s milk, or in combination. Each region has its specialty — Normandy, France’s kingdom of milk and cream, is famous for unctuous Camembert and Pont l’Evêque; the Loire Valley and Provence for the tangy goat’s milk cheeses; Alsace for robust Munster; the Alpine region for firmer, subtly-flavored cheeses, such as Reblochon and Beaumont; the Paris area for the world’s most prestigious cheese, Brie — even from the Pyrénées comes Chiberta, firm, slightly nutty- flavored, a specialty of which the hardy Basque people are proud.Each region’s specialty is made according to tradition which has existed for centuries. The professional cheese- maker learns his craft as painstakingly as an attorney the law. France’s reputation for being a paradise for cheese lovers is well-deserved.
To fully appreciate this you must understand that there is a language all unto itself involving cheese and here are just a few keywords to know:
Bleu: The French word for blue cheese

Brebis: Cheese made from sheep’s milk

Chèvre: Cheese made from goat’s milk; chèvre is the French word for goat

Fondue: No double-dipping allowed! From the French “fondre” or “to melt,” fondue is a shared dish usually, the term was originally used with cheese but you do find other types.

Tome or Tomme: A small round of mountain cheese

Terroir: The influence of climate, vegetation, water and soil on the raw source milk used to make the fine Cheeses of France combined with specific production techniques and traditions passed down through generations of accomplished cheesemakers
So now our first class of cheese, Double and triple creme cheeses:
According to French law, double crème cheese gets its classification when it contain a minimum of 60 per cent butter fat (rnatière grasse) per gram, and triple crème when it contain a minimum of 75 per cent butter fat per gram.

Bellétoile- A soft-ripened triple crème, with no rind, it is easily spreadable. It comes plain or herb-flavored.

Boursault- Another triple crème, soft-ripened cheese available in a round. This cheese is very creamy almost like a mixture of Brie and heavy cream.

Boursin- A fresh cow’s milk, double crème, white with an edible crust. It has a tangy flavor and is available with herbs or pepper.

Brillat-Savarin- From Normandy, this triple crème is a thick, plump, white disk, with a buttery texture and elasticity.

Excelsior - Similar to Boursin and Boursault, without spices or herbs. Contains 72 percent butter fat.

Fromage de Monsieur Fromage- A double crème, first made in Normandy about 75 years ago.

Gervais- Its texture is similar to that of American-type cream cheese, but its flavor is richer and slightly tangy.

La Bouille- This rich, triple crème is not flavored, but has its own special tang.

La Bourse - This is a triple crème, flavored with herbs and garlic.

- This crème is a mixture of cow’s and goat’s milk, which makes it a less fatty, drier cheese. It is either flavored with herbs or with pepper.

Petit Suisse - One of France’s most popular double crèmes, this cheese may contain from 60 to 75 per cent butter fat.
So print this list and go to the store and start eating!!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Another wonderful evening in the south of France, thanks to my gracious friends (in order of photo: Rick, Lisa, Helen, Nathalie and Laurent). For those who know me well, you know of my pension for one gambling weakness. This was soon to be learned by my friends here as one by one different "Lottos" were announced in this city and that. Quite excitedly I asked each of them if they had the same passion, sadly no...but again as I've said numerous times, they are so gracious. They decided to make an evening out it for my sake.

Unfortunately for me, with the sickness that was invading France, I succumbed to this awful bug. I feared that I would miss out on the evening festivities, but I was determined to go. Especially since my friends had decided to go to make me happy. After a longer walk than I expected, we arrived at the makeshift "Bingo Hall" full of people full of hope and expectation. We grabbed our tickets, 5 tickets for 20 euros and took our place way in the back.
Despite their hesitant start, I think that everyone enjoyed their Bingo experience...the guys were a little bit more difficult to keep entertained as well as the wee ones. So midway through the evening, Laurent took the girls to the Christmas festivities in town and they enjoyed the 'baby rides', cotton candy (known as Barbapapa) and all the lights. Rick got a little stir crazy but managed to hang with the professionals.
As you can see by our expressions, this was serious business, as their was mountain bikes, flat screen plasma TVs, dinners for two at local restaurants and even a trip to London and one to Marrakesh! We all came so very close and there was excitement in the air but alas, none of us won.

After our night of bingo we walked back to Nathalie and Laurent's Maison and passed through the beautiful decorations and fair-like atmosphere. The wind was so strong making it almost unbearable, but lovely just the same. We left his wonderful scene for the warmth provided by their home and had a great time chatting and laughing. Due to my illness, I was quite (if you can believe it) and they were wondering and worried. I simply told them that I was trying to give equal airtime for everyone as often I end up talking way too much.
The following day I slept in till lunch time, and was wondering how smart I was for having seemed to make the sickness many times does one live in the south of France and get to enjoy life so fully.
So now my goal is to be 100% before Nicholas arrives in 9 days...I am so excited to introduce him to my family and my new friends as well to see him for the first time in six months.