Sunday, March 25, 2012

Cheeeeeeeese! (Part I)

Food is one thing that does deserve some attention on my blog as this is a HUGE part of the French culture.  I could spend hours writing about all the AMAZING delicious French cuisine, however, this time around I will try to be simple and only focus on cheese (which can be a rather extensive topic on its own).

Savoy Cheese at at the Annecy Sunday Market.

I've been to France before when I was 18, but at that time, we were on very low budget and I don't even recall getting into too much cheese tasting.  So let me tell you about the REAL cheese!  I never realized what I've been deprived of for all these years that I've been eating fake crappy cheese in Canada, until I came to France.  (OK, there are some real good quality cheeses at farms in Canada but they are way too expensive!!)  The AVERAGE cheese here has a real rich taste, good texture and it is affordable.  Of course, there are hundreds of cheeses out there so I will only touch on a few of my favorites - the ones we buy often and really enjoy.  I also usually buy the cheese at the grocery store, which is not the same as fresh cheese from local markets - something yet to be explored.

Rondelé spread cheese:  very fluffy and creamy spread cheese similar to boursin.  It can come in varieties including garlic and herbs, walnut, fig, and blue cheese.  I have tasted the first two types and they are fabulous.  Great with crackers or just plain bread.  200g cost approx 1.25€.

Comté: this is our favorite semi-hard cheese and apparently has the highest production figures of all AOC French cheeses (40, 000 tonnes annually!).  It is made from unpasteurized cow's milk and aged for approx. 8-12 months.  Produced in the Franche-Comté region of Eastern France.  It is creamy yellow color, is firm but flexible and has a strong and sweet taste.  Costs around 10 to 12€/kg or more.

Bleu du Vercors - Sassenage: as local as you can get.  This is a very nice blue "mountain" cheese from cow's pasteurized milk, originally produced by monks in the Rhône-Alpes.  It has mild and nutty taste and somewhat creamy/soft texture.  (At the moment it is the only French cheese, which is made by mixing raw milk with warm milk.)  Costs around 10 to 12€/kg or more.

Bûche de Chèvre: is a rinded soft cheese (log) made of pasteurized goat's milk.  After approx. 2 months of aging, an edible crust complete with a bloomy white mold coating forms on the outside.   It is sharp and tangy near the rind and gets progressively richer and creamier toward the center.  At the very center the cheese resembles the typical fresh pasty goat cheese.  Costs around 10€/kg.

 Stay tuned for more cheese posts as I get more photos of cheeses I love.

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