A rhapsody on raw milk cheese//don’t stop ’til you get enough

Well, I am back home in NYC now. I just finished my 10 month Le Cordon Bleu/gastronomic/living-the-life stint in Paris. I miss it so much. The lights, the art, the beauty, the beautiful babies, the food stores…but what I miss most is the stinky, filthy, whore-y cheese…

Know your roll.

Cheese tastes different in France. Better. Stinkier. Filthier. My fridge was dense with scents and flavors one is tempted to describe as sweaty, oppressive, dank and sultry. It doesn’t take long for the knowledge to seep in that these flavors are due to the awesome power of unpasteurized (or raw) milk which is entirely legal and actually encouraged to consume in France. Once back stateside, I had a mini panic attack that grew into a full breakdown in the cheese aisle at Whole Foods. Things will never be the same for me and my fromage.

Unpasteurized or raw milk cheeses get their complex flavors from the (duh) raw milk which is produced by cows who graze on the land, eating acorns, wild greens, wild garlic and a large variety of herbs. Since no two cows are raised the same or eat the same things, there is great variety and seasonality in raw milk cheeses. In France, the cows, the milk and the farms are trusted and as such raw milk cheeses are not a food safety issue. Here in the US, we don’t (and should not) trust that our cattle are grass fed, healthy and free of disease unless they come from very small, artisanal farms.

The United States Food and Drug Administration and the USDA hold hands and  govern the consumption of raw milk products. Due to The Dictatorship, raw milk cannot be transported across state lines with the intent of human consumption. Unpasteurized cheeses are actually legal in the US…as long as they have been aged at least 60 days in an area held at 35 degrees Farenheit. During the aging process, the cheese becomes more acidic, killing most potential sources of bacterial infection. This leads to what I call “zero-personality cheese”. This process takes away much of the filthy characteristics true to cheese such as the very well known and popular Camembert. Go to France and taste the Camembert de Normandy and it is an entirely different being. It’s Mozart versus Elton John on the piano, same instrument, looks the same but sounds entirely different.

Alas, you can get some very good cheese here in New York City if you drop the food snob act (ugh, Mom, do I haaave tooooo?).

TO DO:

Artisanal
2 Park Avenue
(212) 725-8585
*other retailers sell Artisanal cheese. List is on website

Despana
408 Broome Street
New York, NY 10013
*specializes in products from Spain

Murrays Cheese
254 Bleecker St.
New York, NY
*other locations

Saxelby Cheese
Essex Street Market
New York, NY
*FYI: Anne Saxelby sells fine American cheese

Stinky Brooklyn
261 Smith St
Brooklyn, NY
(718) 522-7425

Bedford Cheese Shop
218 Bedford Avenue
Brooklyn, NY

Brooklyn Larder
228 Flatbush Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
(718) 783-1250

Yummy babies:
Strong – Livarot
Stronger – Mereilles
Strongest – Vieux Lille
Goopiest – Petit Soumantain
*taken from a cheese tasting with Chef Becs in Paris

Sources:
Raw Milk Facts

How a French producer creates pasteurized Camembert [NYT]

Mara des Bois//Current Obsessions

Le petite berry.
Le petite berry.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one.

I have become obsessed with strawberries. I buy a carton a day and I eat them for breakfast with yogurt and for dessert plain or with a butter cookie and whipped cream (that’s real whipped cream you fool). Now, these aren’t your mom’s berries kids. These are the real deal. Mara des Bois and Gariguette strawberries which are both indiginous to France are some of the best I’ve ever had. Almost a throwback to the days of yore when berries actually had flavor, Mara des Bois are part of my repetoire now; I am rarely seen without these delicate and small berries that walk that fine line between acidic fruit and musky berry. These strawberries have so much flavor for it’s size, you won’t ever wonder why it’s the choice of France’s most popular and best patissiers. There is almost a candy-like flavor to the Mara des Bois and after tasting one you will never ever want to buy another species of strawberry again.

I wish I could share some with you. But I can’t.

xxxx

Ananas//A delightful song to ring in 2009

C’est tres drole! 

This is yet another song that makes me giddy with fromage. Note the classique 70’s beat in the background and the fantastique grocery store scene. Makes you want to swagger around wearing Agnes B and ride a bike…similar to the Dior video I posted a few weeks back. Happy new year GastroGirls and Boys…

Related: Let them eat cake

Vive la France!

Stormin’ the Bastille

Joyeux Bastille Day! If you are a francophile or enjoy the idea of democracy or any sort of socialist idea, you will surely want to celebrate the day the French overthrew the monarchy by eating and loving all things French:

BENOIT: On Bastille Day (that’s today) the newest restaurant from French chef Alain Ducasse will be hosting a party in its bar from 5 to 10 p.m. complete with free eats and French cocktail specials. 60 West 55th St., (646) 943.7373

CERCLE ROUGE: This Tribeca spot also celebrates today with music from the Francois Wiss Ensemble, a guillotine and a special three-course dinner prix fixe menu for $39.95. 241 W. Broadway, (212) 226-6252.

GAVROCHE: There’ll be live music starting at 7 p.m. and a special menu at this West Village restaurant; for reservations call (212) 647-855; it’s at 212 W. 14th St.

PAYARD BISTRO: The upper West Side restaurant will be offering a special Bastille Day three-course menu for $45. 1032 Lexington Ave., (212) 717-5252

ZUCCO: Le French Diner: This is my favorite inexpensive French spot. The Angus shell steak with peppercorn sauce is wonderful and inexpensive and the owner is a very charming Frenchman. 188 Orchard St., (212) 677-5200

A nod to my top 10 favorite Frenchie things:

Fromage (Camambert, Comte, Roquefort, Deux de Montagne)

– Pastries: Macarons, Nougat

Champagne

Chez Denise

Carine Roitfeld

Serge Gainsbourg

Colette

Jean de Florette/Manon des Sources

Le Creuset

Le Cordon Bleu