Un Tour de France, avec Fromage

Bienvenue à Paris! I landed here this morning. Unfortunately, I don’t actually have time to leave the airport before my next flight, but I’m making the most of my brief layover in this country by inhaling some buttery pastries and sampling from this petite basket of fromages fantastiques.

ctmy95-les fromage de CDGWhen I first spied it, how could resist?! And when I opened the cooler in the duty-free shop, the aroma that wafted out let me know that I was in a country that takes its cheese creation and consumption seriously.

While I did not take pictures of each individual portion as I unwrapped them, I did take notes as I sampled each one. Let’s begin with the blue-boxed (Mini) Caprice (des Dieux), which means “whim of the gods”. Isn’t that a heavenly sounding cheese? It was oval in shape, designed to look like the Calisson, a French almond candy. This cheese was a very creamy, like a Brie, but there was no bitter aftertaste that you sometimes get with that famous French fromage.

Next comes the slice of Comté, one of Jarl’s all-time faves. I’ve had this cheese on several occasions before and I like it, I do, so I’m not sure I’ve ever actually bought some, until today. I’ll try to make more of an effort to remember that it is “strong, in the right way” and make more of a habit of tucking it into my basket on future cheese-shopping days.

ctmy96-pave x deuxOn either side of the basket are mini Pavé d’Affinois varieties. The white one is the standard; the other with the orange rind is called Brin. Like the Caprice, I found them both similar to a Brie, though perhaps somewhere between those two on the bitter-sweet scale. The Brin did not taste remarkably different, just slightly so.

Below the blue Caprice box was another packaged slice, this one called Emmen France. I can’t find any specific information online about it, so I’m going to guess that it’s simply a French version of the Swiss Emment(h)aler. I did discover that one can download an app to point out key spots whilst cycling through the Emmen valley of Switzerland, original homeland of this cheese. It’s very mild, by the way, perhaps like the inhabitants of this valley?

Société Crème at the bottom of the basket was a creamy, but undoubtedly strong spreadable cheese. The blue-green veins still visible in this more processed miniature version hinted at its derivation from a Roquefort. I first tried this cheese in a dish of pasta in Belgium and I remember it knocking my socks off, almost literally!

Finally, there is the Chavroux, with a little kid on the outside, to clarify its origins from goat’s milk. Not as strong as that boisterous bleu, not as mild as the Emmen, but with more of a kick (maa!) than the creamy, rinded varieties I sampled, this one was a nice finish to my three-hour tour, made without actually touching true French soil.

I do hope that I will get to make more than a mere layover here one day and soon, but for the moment, I can hint that the next post will be from a neighboring country that also takes its cheese seriously, molto serio . . .


Surprise Mac Attack

After attending a reading at a quaint bookshop in SoHo this evening, I thought to grab some grub before heading to Grand Central. It’s summertime, so the light is long and the days feel longer, but I knew it’d be dark by the time I got home.

ctmy92-mac barPractically next door, I found macbar, which is no, not where one totes in Apple products that are acting up, but rather where anyone who adores that ultimate of comfort foods, a.k.a. the South’s most ordered “vegetable”, will feel right at home because even the space itself is shaped like macaroni-and-cheese!

ctmy93-mac bar interiorThere is not a lot of room inside–rent ain’t cheap anywhere in NYC, but especially not in this neighborhood. Thus, I was happy that I was placing a takeout order, though there was a free spot for me to perch while I waited.

I had dithered whether to start with the classic, made with American and cheddar cheese, or to try one of the more exotic options. I asked the counter gal for her recommendation and she encouraged me to order the mac ‘shroom, made with roasted “magic” mushrooms, fontina, mascarpone, and truffled essence.

Tctmy94-mac bar to gohe aroma was pretty amazing, but I steeled myself and waited until I was sitting on the train to open it up and take a bite. As you can see, even the to-go containers are in the shape of the classic noodle shape associated with mac-and-cheese. I dug in expecting to be transported to a magical wonderland. Sadly, this was not the case. I’m not sure if the kitchen had poured too much truffle “essence” on my macaroni or if it was just an off-brand, but it overpowered everything.

This was, of course, disappointing, but I have not sworn off macbar entirely. I’m willing to give them another chance and I may even sample the mushroom variety again, though I’ll likely next opt for the aforementioned classic, or maybe (drool!) the four cheese with queso blanco, fontina, emmenthal, and gouda. If you’re a meathead, there are many more options for you featuring beef, chicken, lobster, and even duck (mac quack!) And yes, there are some other “healthy” options like the primavera with a bunch of veggies, but to be honest I typically like my mac to be just the one unspoiled (Southern) “vegetable”.