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]

Mucho Gusto//Gusto

I often find myself in the same place over and over again. No particular needs ever draws me there, I don’t know anyone there and I can hardly tell you the address. But, somehow, I land there safely ever time.

In the heart of Paris there lies a rather large culinary shopping district in the the heart of this area lies a very special place, Librarie Gourmande. I have traveled a good part of the world and have yet to come across a bird are special and as rare as this bookshop. Librarie Gourmande carries books in every language (though most are in French)  from almost every part of the world ranging from traditional French cuisine and pastry to food sociology and literature. You can even buy food calendar’s, magazines and gourmet books for kids. I’ve seen baguette pens and magnets, aprons and muffin tins. Everything a gastronomical me needs. A gem indeed.

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My new favorite food journal

I also found my new favorite source of gastronomic literature at Librarie Gourmande – Gusto. I bought this back issue about women in the kitchen/at the table for 10 euro. It’s published in French with an English translation a cote. I’m not sure if they are publishing anymore as the last issue I found was from 2008. Sadness ensues…

A bit about Gusto:

“Initiated by IEHCA, The European Institute of the History of Food Culture, gusto reports on the annual round table discussions held in Tours which bring together the leading players in the field of cuisine, not just those that create it but those that reflect upon it. Within this framework, the magazine plays an active role in the French procedure to request that French cuisine be recognized by UNESCO as intangible cultural heritage.”

Librarie Gourmade
90, Rue Montmartre
75002 Paris
Metro: Bourse

The art of pastry//another reason to love Paris

“The fine arts are five in number, namely: painting, sculpture, poetry, music, and architecture, the principal branch of the latter being pastry.”
Antonin Carême (1783-1833)

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hunters bounty

When three food writers come together to discuss the art of Parisian Pastries for an hour, you can bet that most people in the audience will be planning an excursion to the best pastry boutiques Paris has to offer armed with a list, a map and an empty tummy. Or, maybe that was just me.

In the span of 3 hours, I got back together with Pierre Herme (we broke up in June due to my impending addiction to the Isphahan croissant), re-connected with Laduree (we parted ways in June due to lethal doses of macarons) and found new love with Ble Sucre. Please see photo exhibits A-D:

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Doomed romance: Pierre Herme's Isphahan Croissant

Isphahan: a combination of rose jelly, raspberries and litchi. I ate them almost everyday, until I had to quit. Still, she is the most amazing croissant I’ve ever had.

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Chestnuts, Violette & Chocolate, Rose and Vanilla macarons from Pierre Herme

Considered the most modern and innovative patissier, Pierre also makes the best macarons in Paris.  With crazy flavor combinations and special edition macarons which are available for a limited time, he’s certainly one-of-a-kind.

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Laduree's Fig Tart

House of Laduree (as I like to call it), born in 1862, is one of the oldest pastisseries in Paris. Furthermore, the art of pastry is one of the oldest crafts in France which lends the explanation as to why the French are so obsessed with their pastry.

Laduree holds a very special place in my gastro-heart as its windows could rival Cartier for the lavish colors and decor. It is a jewel unlike any other. Willy Wonka has nothing on Laduree kids.

*This fig tart was so fresh and luscious and just a pleasure to look at. The French do know beauty.

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Bergamot macaron by Laduree. Nail polish "Madrid" by Movolo.

This is one of my favorite flavors – bergamot – also seen in Earl Grey tea. Look at the color…vivid…the taste? Tart and sublime.

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Violet Gateau from Ble Sucre

My last stop was a small and rather new pastisserie & boulangerie in the somewhat out of the way, 12th arrondissement – Ble Sucre.

Highly suggested by David Lebovitz, Ble Sucre is located on a very charming street off of Square Trousseau.  The shop is is owned by Fabrice Le Bourdat who trained under Gilles Marchal of Hotel Bristol, clearly this was not going to be an epic fail.

Though known for the madelines, I chose to break away from the mold and eat their violet gateau. Floral and velvety, this little piece sat in my fridge for 2 hours before I could no longer resist her temptations – and that was after eating the macarons, fig cake and croissant.

Paris can be everything and anything to anyone: beautiful, cold, chic, unrelenting, delicious, extravagant but there is one thing we can all agree on: it is, most certainly, sweet.

Laduree
21 rue Bonaparte
75006 Paris
Metro: St. Germain-des-Pres

Pierre Herme
72, Rue Bonaparte
75006 Paris
Metro: St. Germain-des-Pres

Blé Sucré
Square Trousseau
7, rue Antoine Vollon
750012 Paris
Metro: Ledru-Rollin

Fwiends forever.

Me 'n Paris.
Me 'n Paris.

Can we talk about how awesome and amazing it is to shop for groceries in Paris? It’s a never ending labyrinth of outdoor markets, grocery stores that put anything in the US to shame (holler at me Monoprix), pastisseries, boulangeries, boucheries, frommageries and fruit stands. Phew. I can barely walk the 25 minutes home from school without buying something…anything. Chocolate, mayonnaise, cheese. Maybe this is why you’re fat?

I joke.

Besties 4 ever?

Here is a short list of some of my besties (note: most are in the 6th arrondissement as that’s where I live):

Le Grand Epicerie – This place is huge and quite literally has everything. It’s expensive but worth it. They even have regional sections so if you happen to crave that Fluff from the US (what?), they got it.

Fromagerie 31 – A small and friendly cheese shoppe that even has a few seats for patrons who want to do a cheese tasting. Great selection and they also have a nice selection of yogurts (loves).

Da Rosa – Next door to Frommagerie 31 is this lil’ gem. You can sit and eat small plates consiting of cheeses and meats or pop inside and browse through the small but well edited selection of specialty good ranging from olive oils and jams to Iberico Jamon, which is proudly displayed in the store window. Ain’t nothing like seeing that black trotter and knowing you’re in for Iberico.

Boulevard Raspail Market: This outdoor market is literally right around the corner from me (me = one lucky charm). On Tuesday’s and Friday’s it functions as any other outdoor market in Paris however I am partial to this one as it’s large and has a wide array of cheese products. I am totally in love with the tapenade man and go here every week just for his fabbie creations. NOW…on Sunday’s (drum roll please) this market turns into a bio (organic) market filled with amazing savory pies, roasted chicken, produce, cheeses and all sorts of dairy.

Eric Kayser: My new boyfriend! Some of the most delicious baguettes and tartes au citron come from Mr. Kayser. The sandwiches are quite tastey and proper as well. He has several locations in Paris so thanks be to god that I am never far from one.

Gerard Mulot: Walking into this place is like walking into Disneyland for pastry lovers. His famed tarts are nothig to shy away from, it’s the little pleasures in life isn’t it kids? I also love the watermelon colored boxes the staff packs your treats into. Enchanted, I am.

Pierre Herme: Hands down. The best macaron in Paris.He’s got seasonal flavors to boot.

Poilane: There’s something about this bread…every Parisian knows it’s arguably one of the best places to come for your breading needs. I especially like their whole wheat offerings. Plus their famed chausson aux pommes makes a great dessert.

Alright kids…

While neglecting you, I drink Campari.
While neglecting you, I drink Campari.

After spending the last month and a half not writing and convincing myself I had “writers block” (we all know it’s BS), I have to confess that was just an excuse. I have been busy and taken well (almost too well) to the savoir vivre of Parisian life. Somewhere in here I have to find my neurotic/ambitious/gimmie a coffee/waddaya want New Yorker. Ok found her!

Here we go again:

The end of May/beginning of Jun brought me to the end of Basic Cusine. It was strangely tres dificile to say goodbye to the entry program and to some of my friends who only enrolled in Basic before retuning to their normal lives.

Our final exam consisted of a written part (easy) then we had to study ten dishes that we made over the course of the program (the list was given to us) and the chefs would choose two of the ten dishes for the exam. Before we entered the kitchen we’d pull one of two colored chips and cook the dish that coordinated with the color. Ya dig? Luckily, after me and my friends purchased truckloads of groceries   for days, a little bird told us what two dishes were chosen. I, luckily, got the duck. The other dish was a hot fish terrine. Can I get a hell no from the crowd?

Our graduation ceremony was held in the Winter Garden and it was cute until I went to the mayjah graduation for those finished with the program. Whoa der. It was super boring but held in a beautiful space and the energy was amazing. I recommend LCB get a relevant chef or food-minded person as the commencement speaker. I don’t think it would be that hard ‘k?

So my final thoughts on Basic:

  1. I can brunoise like a pro
  2. Knife skillz = check
  3. Jus making, sauce making = in my sleep
  4. Breaking down a duck, chicken, rabbit and fish = childs play
  5. I can do anything, ANYTHING with a potato

I will miss my class. I will miss those who left but Intermediate is way more fun…stay tuned beetches.

xo.