Thursday, January 6, 2011

Jeff goes to Paris

Does it seem like Craig's a little lonely lately? Crying in his beer more than usual? Listless? Distracted? Do you catch him staring toward the heavens, softly singing "Somewhere Out There" under his breath while he tips back a tallboy? Is he just playing the same Crow record over and over on his DJ Truckstache nights at the King & I?

It's my fault. In September I split town. It's a temporary move, but Gastro Non Grata emotions run deep. I see that Craig has found a temporary, less handsome replacement for me in Jim Grell of the Modern CafĂ©. Anything to get through the dark, cold nights, I guess. 

The news is that in September, my wife and I moved to Paris. She got a teaching gig for the academic year. We rented our house, dropped the dog with my folks and moved into an 18 square meter apartment in the 11th arrondissement. Bam. Paris.

A food and alcohol lover's dream. As we approach the halfway point of our French adventure, I think some reports are long overdue. I have a shitty camera and a working knowledge of written English so, between now and May 31, I'll be checking in with Gastro Non Grata news from Paris.

Let's start with something important.

The Number One Thing I Can Eat That You Can't:
Soft-ripened raw milk cheese.

"Au Lait Cru" are the magic words. This Mont d'Or was incredible. We would eat it in spoonfuls after letting it sit out to warm up for a few hours. The top grows a white mold peach fuzz so soft you want to gently rub your nose on it. The perimeter is wrapped in pine bark, adding a northwoods forest floor flavor. Weighing in at about a half kilo, at €28-something per kilo, the stuff ain't cheap, but it was totally worth it. I recently bought a generic Mont d'Or from the supermarket for €5 and it wasn't near as good as the artisan crafted stuff. Still, it's nice to live somewhere where there is store-brand raw milk AOC cheese. Below is a Saint-Marcellin. With this one you get a free ceramic dish, useful for coins or as a candle-holder.
The only raw milk cheese aged under 60 days I can think of in Minnesota comes from Lovetree Farmstead who famously sell it as "fishbait" at the St Paul Farmer's Market. With the recent legal activity surrounding the sale of raw milk in MN, I'm not anticipating a change in cheese legislation any time soon. It's unfortunate. Although I am not very well versed in food law, safety standards and whatnot, I've gotta believe there's a way to replicate the French habit of not dying after eating cheese.

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