First Post from Paris: A Little Cheesy

basque1Welcome to my very first post!

I opened the fridge today and realized, yes, I do indeed live in France. At 9 o’clock I wasn’t quite prepared for the whiff of hearty odor that was waiting for me behind the door- a mighty combination of chèvre, brie, Roquefort and Le P’tit Basque swiftly invaded my not-so-awake nostrils. First reaction: “Eeeek! What is that smell?” Second reaction: “Mmmm. The cheese (with a nodding smile). French cheese (with a long breath in).

I never thought I’d be the proud owner of a smelly cheese-filled refrigerator, but then again a mere five years ago I didn’t imagine I’d soon be living in Paris, drinking red wine and married to a Frenchman! Here I am.

In honor of almost five years in France (and the discovery that comes with living abroad), I’ll dedicate my first post to one of my new-found favorite cheeses. Le P’tit Basque, a semi-firm fromage made in the Basque region of southwestern France, has recently found a permanent place in our kitchen. I can’t help but image the green rolling pastures and sun-baked rooftops nestled below the Pyrenees mountain range as I bite into it’s moist texture. What’s original about Le P’tit Basque? It’s made of 100% ewe’s milk and melts in your mouth with an almost olivey, nutty flavor.

Sébastien and I first discovered it by chance about a year ago, while roaming the cheese stand at the local farmer’s market. We were about to head to Fontainebleau forest for hiking and a picnic. Nestled in among other tempting cheeses was a three-inch tall mini-wheel, covered in a reddish-brown basket-weave skin. We found this cheese is excellent for a picnic, whether eaten with a traditional French baguette or a more grainy, seedy loaf.

Given that Paris is cold and rainy in the wintertime, we put our picnics on hold and kind of forgot about Le P’tit Basque. My affinity for this cheese, however, was newly confirmed on a recent family visit to Bordeaux. Near the end of a five-course lunch (beginning with apéritif at noon and about to end with chocolate dessert around 3:00), out came the cheese. When I saw my old friend peeking out from under its label, I again couldn’t resist.

Wine and Cheese Pairing…

Whether on a picnic, enjoying the cheese after a traditional Bordelaise meal, or casually entertaining friends, Le P’tit Basque always goes well with the right glass of French wine. Like many sheep cheeses, this one is slightly salty and fairly strong (though much less so than feta, for example), so it needs a wine that accompanies it well. Given it’s unique qualities, I would suggest pairing it with a medium bodied, somewhat fruity red wine, such as a pinot noir from Burgundy. We recently tried one (Albert Bichot, Vieilles Vignes 2002) which had a delicate, almost cherry-like aroma that went especially well with this cheese. My very favorite pairing, however, has been with a Jurançon sec (Domaine de Cauhapé, Sève d’Automne 2002), a dry white wine from the Pyrenees foothills. The aroma is reminiscent of honey and the taste is fresh and subtly spicy.

This is one of the reasons I enjoy living in France, and decided to start this blog. There is always something new to discover, and to delight my taste buds!

Any suggestions on which fromage to try next?

4 thoughts on “First Post from Paris: A Little Cheesy

  1. i can almost taste the cheese. perhapes some delicate meat would be a nice combination as well. we have some great cheese and wine down under that you and seb will enjoy. now that i know that you have such a cultured palate.

  2. It looks and sounds wonderful! Can’t wait to try the cheese and wine. We will certainly become great fans of this site!

  3. Hooray for the first post, Joy! I look forward to reading you and your love of things French, especially food and drink.

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