A Lifestyle blog based in Sonoma County, in the heart of Wine Country. Amber is an outspoken voice for local activism, local wine tourism, and more.

French Lessons: Fromage

In 2009 I made a trip to France to the southern city of Toulon, along the Côte d'Azur. I was to stay with a French host family. During my first few weeks with them, I learned several French dishes: I would stand in the kitchen and watch the father cook, and would literally take notes. This amused him terribly. What amused him even more was when I traded my chocolate desert for a cheese platter instead.

Now, the French are a people who take their cheeses quite seriously. While with the family there was a strike in which the men poured out all their milk into the fields of Normandy. For a country that has close to 400  distinct fromages ( 56 of those cheeses are protected and regulated by French law), and over a 1000 variations, this was quite the act. 

 Many cheeses in France have a history, or a legend that goes with them. The Roquefort for example, tells of a young man eating his lunch in a field. Far off in the distance he see's a lovely, beautiful maiden. Dropping his lunch, he makes his way to the fair lady and follows her home. Many months later he returns to his luncheon spot, only to discover that his once plain cheese has transformed into the magical, complex and robust cheese that we now call Roquefort. 

I quickly learned that French cooking rarely includes complicated recipes. Five ingredients or less seemed to be the method of choice. In fact, one of my favorite recipes had only three: pasta, butter, and Roquefort cheese. Simply cook the pasta (mine of choice is gnocchi...), melt a pat of butter over the drained pasta, and throw in a good amount of Roquefort. Allow it to melt, and nom. Incredible.

Love a cheese joke.

One of my favorite French cheeses (that I remember the name to) is Fromage d'Affinois. It's smooth and creamy like a brie, a double cream, and absolutely amazing with strawberries. Pair it with a sauvingon blanc, berries and a rustic bread.

Another favorite of mine is Munster cheese. Yes, munster is a French cheese. I know this is pas la norme, but it makes an amazing grilled cheese when paired with a mild mustard or olive tapinade.
What are some of your favorite cheeses?
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