March 31, 2010

La Fête du Fromage - Brebis Férmier de David

One of the trio of cheeses that I picked up last November in Gascony got overlooked. Lost in the shuffle. Disregarded.
Ironically it was the favorite of we three tasters.

I think that after four days of canard, butchery education, Armagnac, fritons, the stunning scenery of Gascony and the enthusiasm and inspiration of Kate Hill, I was lulled into a blissful stupor. Obviously I'm still recovering.
But I can't wait to return.

Brebis Férmier de David is sold by a special fromager in Eauze who handpicks artisan and small farm produced cheeses from the Béarn region of the Pyrénées.
If I had to come up with one word to describe this unpasteurized ewe's milk cheese it would be lusty. The full-bodied, almost sharp, concentrated flavor is pure heaven on the palate. It has a flaky, crumbly texture and smells of fresh ewe's milk and grasses.
A bit like an aged Pecorino Romano. I loved it!

And enjoyed with a glass of 100% old vine carignan from the Minervois, it was even better.

Here's a very different Brebis Férmier from Aveyron that I tasted last summer. Pin It

March 29, 2010

South of France Shutters

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March 27, 2010

Moving To France Tutorial - Part Two

By now you've answered the important question in Part One, Why do I want to live in France?, and you're excited to begin your new adventure.
Now on to the fun part.

Step Two: Find Your French Consulate

Americans cannot legally just jump on a plane, land in France and stay forever without some kind of VISA. There are many kinds - student, au pair, working, internship, the Long Stay Visa for non workers, and the recently created Compétences et Talents card - "You may be granted this card if you are likely to make a significant or lasting contribution, through your skills or talents, to France’s economic development or to its intellectual, scientific, cultural, humanitarian or athletic prestige, and directly or indirectly, to that of your own country."

You cannot apply for a visa once you have arrived in France. It must be done from your home country before you depart.
Here is the French government page with the information to determine if you need a visa.

The French Consulate you work with depends upon the state or area you reside in. Each one has its own set of rules, so don't bother trying to follow those of another Consulate. Get on to their website, make a list of the requirements and paperwork, including translations, photos, etc., and get to work!

Boston - Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont
New York - New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Bermuda
Washington DC - Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia
Chicago - North Dakota, South Dakota, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Wisconsin
Miami - Florida, Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, the US Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Turks and Caicos
Atlanta - Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi
Houston - Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana
San Francisco - Alaska, Northern California, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Northern Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming
Los Angeles - Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Southern California, Southern Nevada

When we applied with the French Consulate in San Francisco eight years ago we were neither students, au pairs, doing an internship, nor had we been hired to work in France. Also, the Compétences et Talents card had not been invented yet, so that left us with one choice - the Long Stay Visa - which came with these words of warning: "This visa DOES NOT allow you to work or enroll in courses or studies while in France... As a consequence, the proof of sufficient fundings and assets to support your stay in France without working for more than a year will be crucial to qualify for this visa."
Additionally, the San Francisco Consulate had a "special" requirement that we didn't find on any other French Consulate website - proof that you have at least $1800 a month per couple for expenses. Which we didn't have. So we ignored it and applied anyway. Obviously they ignored it as well when they reviewed our application and issued our visas without this requirement.
By the way, it is now $1800 per month, for each person.

Your homework this week:
Have a look at your Consulate's website and see which visa you need.
Sharpen your organizational skills - you're going to need them!
Start your Visa dossier.
Begin taking French lessons. If you haven't already.

Coming up in Part Three: Finding a place to live in France.

*Please note that the information given here, while believed to be as accurate as possible at the time of writing, is general information only, and no liability can be accepted. Before acting on the information, please ensure that you take expert advice from the relevant authorities. Pin It

March 25, 2010

The 24 Hour Vending Machine Store

So this is where you go when you get a Nutella craving at 3 in the morning!

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March 24, 2010

La Fête du Fromage - Le Pascouli

I found this cheese tucked into the side of the refrigerated case at CDD Sud, a local shop that is stuffed to the gills with regional wine, honey, liqueur, charcuterie, olives, etc. Surprisingly, the saleswoman had absolutely no information to offer other than "c'est délicieux." Well, that was enough for me.
The label offered a bit more help - the name of the fromagerie who makes it, where it is located, and a cute little drawing of a cow's face.

Le Pascouli is produced at la Fromagerie le Pascouli in Payra sur l'Hers, a tiny village in the Lauragais near Castelnaudary, home of the legendary Cassoulet.
I was immediately impressed by its heft. This cheese is a generous 5 x 1.5 inches and weighs in at a substantial 650 grams (1.6 pounds). A bargain at only €8.

That crazy orange colored rind, which I can only imagine gets its color through the use of annatto seeds, encases a beautifully soft and chewy unpasteurized cow's milk cheese. It has a a gentle aroma and perfectly balanced yeast, butter and mushroom flavors.

Le Pascouli is a true people pleasing cheese. I think it would charm the pants off even the most wary cheeseophobe.

We enjoyed small slices of it with hunks of une campaillette and some red Minervois wine.

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March 21, 2010


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March 19, 2010

Moving to France - A Tutorial - Part One

Despite a fair number of websites and message boards out there in Internet Land, I receive several emails every month from Americans who are interested in moving permanently to France and don't know how or where to begin.
After spending hours composing individual, dissertation-sized emails explaining the process, I've decided to simply write a series of posts about what it takes to actually get here.

Voilà: A Short Tutorial on Moving to France.

The process of moving to France as a legal resident is not easy, nor should you expect it to be. There are several stages required and many of them can be fraught with headaches and delays.
Patience Is Key.

I believe that it is France's intention (maybe in a somewhat demented way?) to require its future residents to jump through countless hoops and prove resiliency and determination for the opportunity to live within her beautiful borders. I've heard it is just as difficult to get residency in other countries, but since I have no experience in this matter I can't comment.

Or maybe I should say that the process wasn't easy for us.* Months of searching for information followed by NO answers, followed by confusing and often incorrect answers, delays, difficult fonctionnaires, etc.

I hope that this Short Tutorial will offer some help.

Please remember though that I am not, repeat NOT, the last word on this subject, nor do I have control over French Consulates or French bureaucracy in general. If you have trouble with any of the steps (or people) involved in the process, all I can tell you is to keep trying and not get too discouraged.

The first step: Answer the following question.
Why do I want to live in France?

I recommend that you don't just pack up and move for la vie en rose, the markets, the bread, wine and cheese, (well, maybe for the cheese) and expect every day to be filled with idyllic three hour lunches, strolls along the Seine or pastis soaked games of pétanque in the shade of the plane trees.
Because the day will come when you'll find yourself wasting several hours at Bricomarché fighting for your right to return a toilet seat that doesn't fit your toilet and trying to convince the manager that no, you didn't bring the toilet with you from England because you're not English, so that is not the reason the French seat doesn't fit your French toilet, and no, you don't want to come back in 10 days for another toilet seat because you live 30 minutes away and you just want a refund. Now. Today. An hour later you will finally get your money back because they just want the crazy anglaise/américaine out of their store.**
Or you'll discover that the piles of paperwork you provided three months ago for your Carte de Séjour renewal has been misplaced and you'll be called into an office only to be told that it is your fault that your Carte has expired because you didn't reapply for it on time. Exhausting arguments in French will ensue.

Believe me, I'm not trying to burst your bubble. You will have time for those delightful, leisurely lunches and hours will be spent enjoying a game of pétanque, strolling along riverbanks and soaking up some sun at the local café. However, there will be moments when you'll wonder why things always have to be so damn difficult.
That's why the wine is so important - you'll need it to keep calm.

So before the tutorial continues, I want you to answer that all important question. Why do I want to live in France?

Part Two to follow...

*If you had a better experience, then bravo and félicitations. And we wish we had been you!
**This exact situation probably won't happen to you, but you should expect similar kinds of hiccups. Pin It

March 18, 2010

Photos du Jour - Blue

An expressive blue barn door.

More village blues. Pin It

March 17, 2010

La Fête du Fromage - le Pisé du Lot

Le Pisé du Lot is not a shy cheese, by any means.
It alerts you to its presence by filling the room with an earthy, goaty fragrance, then follows up by bombarding your taste buds with a piquant, rich, unforgettable flavor.
Not at all what I expected!

This unpasteurized chèvre has a rich, satiny texture and is creamy and fondant when young. As it ages the texture dries out and the flavor becomes distinctively stronger.
One of the most impressive characteristics was its lengthy finish. Ten minutes after tasting its flavor still lingered.

Le Pisé du Lot, as the name implies, is produced in le Lot, a gorgeous region in southwest France, known for the celebrated AOC cheese Rocamadour and home to one of my favorite goat's cheeses, Le Garriou.

A dry white wine would be a good match.

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March 15, 2010

La Fête du Fromage - March Round Up

A trio of cheeses that I've never tried (nor even heard of!) were presented by my fellow cheese tasters for March's Fête du Fromage International Cheese Tasting Event.

Camille, writer of the delicious Paris based blog Croque-Camille, took a little trip to the 18th arrondissement to check out my favorite Parisian fromagerie, Chez Virginie. She came home with Petit Gaugry, which Camille says tastes like a tiny époisses and describes as "cheese bliss." Can't wait to try this one!


Susan of Savoring Time in the Kitchen tried Fontiago, a blend of Fontina and Asiago cheeses from Wisconsin which she baked into scrumptious looking Crostini with Sun-Dried Tomatoes. Susan never fails to inspire me with her recipes.


Nathalie wrote about an Italian cow's milk cheese, Caciocavallo, on her site Spaced Out Ramblings. The young version is soft and buttery and the older cheese (pictured below), "becomes hard and crumbly...and develops a very tangy taste and is not for the faint hearted." Both versions sound delicious!


One of the best cheeses I've tasted is this ewe's milk cheese with the funny name, Pigouille des Charentes. It is an exquisite, rustic cheese with well balanced, salty and sweet flavors that I recommend very highly.


Thanks again to all of you for your Fête du Fromage entries.
Hope to see both my established cheese tasters and some new faces in April!

Tell us why you chose this particular cheese. Tell us how it tasted. Tell us about its texture and aroma. Did you eat it on its own? Or with something? Did you drink anything special with your cheese? Would you recommend it or not? Is there something unusual or interesting about it?
  • Photos are wonderful, but not necessary
  • Entries must contain the words La Fête du Fromage and contain a link to Chez Loulou
  • Posts should be written specifically for La Fête du Fromage and not entered in any other food blog event
  • Please send the link to your post to louloufrance (at) gmail (dot) com with the words Fête du Fromage in the subject line
Please have your entries to me by April 13. The entire round-up will be posted on April 15.

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March 14, 2010

Q: If you were a French cheese, which one would you be?

The last question I asked on Twitter received some great responses so I decided to ask another one last week: If you were a French cheese, which one would you be?

I loved the creative answers I got!

bcinfrance I would be Comté. Not much of a looker, but deeply rewarding.

winosandfoodies St Nectaire - nutty, fruity with a little touch of spice.

CurdNerd Wow, pretty full on question, today I'm feeling Beaufort

lifesafeast Ok, I'd be goat cheese because i could change personality as I like - fresh, soft, creamy, hard, crumbly, delicate or strong.

saffronberry I think I'd be Morbier. Seem straightforward enough but then have that layer of ash in the middle.

LucianaBianchi I would be an Explorateur - delicious, w/ a smooth skin, soft heart and great personality!!

foodwinediarist An aged Comté - slightly nutty and crying out for a nice white Burgundy!

jemangepdx brie! :)

Stefaniya Roquefort all the way! But not because I'm stinky, I swear.

maxitendance Hello. You make me smile :) I have no idea: there are so many... I have to think about it :))))

carlosyescas Ill be Époisses de Bourgogne

MaryMug Morbier--full fat with a blue streak

frenchfoodie I have a soft spot for the St Marcellin

brassfrog Unquestionably Roquefort. Bought it once in the market, 25€/Kg!, and my mouth said WOW!

youngpilates hmmm... anything triple-creme!

BourgogneLive Last night i was here 3 wonderful cheeses:Delice de Pommard with Gingerbread,with Blackcurrent & Truffles

chicagokitchen St. Andre

LeMonjat an old smelly Goat's chesse after the work I've done today...LOL.

reshii I'd love to be a really runny Vacherin. Or a stinky Chevreton!

angelatunner Brie! Timeless classic +versatile

karinakazue Brie!!! ;-)

spacedlawyer Vacherin Mont d' Or.

PeteHobden Roquefort maybe?

eveningherault La vache qui rit!

leperchoir I wouldlove to think of myself as a strong firm salers or cantal but fear I would acually be likened to a squidgy ripe brie !!

whiteshutters A very ripe and mature camembert....squishy in the middle!!

mroconnell I'm a Galette du Larzac. Surprising, refreshing, confusing, perfect. ;D
mroconnell I forgot to mention that I also smell a little like a barnyard. SUCH IS LIFE.

foodloverkathy I'm a decadent triple cream brillat savarin

melindamoss a tie between reblechon & camembert, cause i eat so much of these when i'm in france, even for breakfast

louloufrance I would be a Tome Basque.

I tell you, Twitter is a great way to waste some time when you're snowed in!

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March 12, 2010

The Seven Year Itch

We're coming up on seven years of living way out here in the French countryside. Seven.

Husband grew up in New York City. I spent my entire adult life living smack dab in the middle of urban spaces - Seattle, San Francisco, New Orleans. I never had the desire to live in a rural setting.

Now we live in a village of 418 people.
Which is beautiful. Idyllic. Full of friendly neighbors and a tranquil, charming village life.

Lately though, we've both been craving a change of pace, we're wanting some new adventures. It's time to head to a city. We want to go see films, go out to art galleries and restaurants, see some live music, get back into the general buzz of an urban landscape.
And we miss take out! The luxury of being able to call for Chinese food, pizza, etc. while lazing about the house, wearing slippers, hair up in a messy ponytail, no make-up. (heck, just getting some decent Chinese food, delivered or not, would be a luxury!)

But which city?
Paris, perhaps?

Seven years. I'm starting to itch. Pin It

March 10, 2010

La Fête du Fromage - La Marotte

La Marotte

It's a term used in the wine world to describe the individual characteristics - the essence of the soil, the climate - which create the unique flavors of a specific wine region.
The Wine Doctor explains it much better than I can, "There is much discussion of terroir, a French term which has no simple translation into English. It refers to the external influences on the ripening grapes, including the soils (depth and type), bedrock, exposure to sun and wind, water table and so on."

After almost three years of tasting le fromage français, I can tell you that the term terroir applies to cheese as well.

Think of Normandy with its renowned, lush and creamy Camembert and Pont-l’Evêque. Then there's the Loire Valley, famous for its seemingly endless variety of elegant, finely textured fromages de chèvre such as Valençay and Sainte-Maure de Touraine. And don't forget the buttery, nutty cow's milk cheeses from the Alps such as Comté and Vacherin du Haut Doubs.

But if it's fromages de brebis you're after, then you must head to central France, to the causses du Larzac, where you'll find some of the most heavenly ewe's milk cheeses. From the earthy Galette du Larzac, to the delightful Brebis du Larzac, to the velvety Pérail du Larzac. And we can't forget the region's most famous cheese, Roquefort.

La Marotte

La Marotte is another wonderful cheese from the Larzac that I have added to my favorites list.
It is produced from unpasteurized ewe's milk by a small cooperative of 18 families, La Coopérative des Bergers du Larzac. This tomme style cheese has a dense, chewy and slightly grainy pâte that is wrapped in a natural, moldy rind that houses a happy colony of cheese mites. (You might want to avoid eating the rind)
The medium-strong, nutty flavor has an earthy, tangy finish that left me craving more.

A robust red wine would be a good pairing with la Marotte.

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March 9, 2010

Photos du Jour - la Neige

It's inconvenient - losing power, no telephone, can't drive to town to run errands, canceled market - but boy is it gorgeous.

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March 8, 2010

Sweet Potato, Pea and Spinach Curry

One of the first things I learned to do when we moved to France was translate French recipes.

Each month I picked up copies of Cuisine et Vins de France and French Saveur at the local tabac and with my trusty French dictionary at my side I dutifully studied the names of ingredients and cooking terms, making translation notes in the margins and jotting down measurement conversions.
It's amazing how easy it is to pick up a language when the subject is something you're really interested in!

There's a great series of small, recipe packed cookbooks by Marabout for the very reasonable price of €4,95 each. I've bought two so far, one with Indian and Thai curries and one with recipes for comforting, wintery food called Tout Chaud.

I've made a few recipes from each book and one of the best so far was an aromatic, homey vegetarian curry. It is some serious comfort food! Low in calories and high in flavor and vitamins - I swear it makes you feel stronger after you've eaten it a plate of it.

The original calls for the addition of canned chickpeas, which I didn't have in the cupboard, so the recipe has been adapted to what I had on hand. Add them if you like, but this version is also fantastic!

Sweet Potato, Pea and Spinach Curry

serves 4
  • 2 tablespoons neutral oil
  • 2 onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon mild curry powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 14-ounce can whole tomatoes, crushed with their juice
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 ounces fresh baby spinach, washed
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 cup frozen baby peas
  • plain yogurt (optional)
  1. Warm the oil in a deep pan with a lid and sauté the onions over low heat until golden brown, about 15 minutes.
  2. Sprinkle the curry powder, coriander, cumin, cayenne pepper, turmeric and salt over the onions and cook for another 1-2 minutes, stirring, until fragrant.
  3. Add the sweet potato, canned tomatoes, brown sugar and water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover the pot and cook for 15-20 minutes over low heat, until the sweet potatoes are cooked through.
  4. Add the spinach and baby peas and cook for another 2 minutes, until spinach is wilted and the peas are warmed through.
  5. Taste and correct for salt and add more cayenne if you like it really spicy.
  6. Serve with steamed basmati rice and a dollop of the optional plain yogurt.
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March 7, 2010

Sunday Links

I am the girl of 100 lists.*

France. Food. Light. Two very talented people. A delicious photography workshop in Gascony.

France. Wine. Chocolate. Two great guys in Paris. A very tempting tasting.

A collection of inspired and bold ideas. And another place to feed my blank journal/paper product addiction.

Come to a little village in the Corbières for 3 étoiles!

Fresh ricotta. I keep saying I'm going to try making it, and now I definitely will. Must try this chèvre as well.

bon dimanche!

*curious if anyone get this reference? Pin It

March 5, 2010

Don't Speak

For six days I was at a loss for words.
Not by choice, mind you.

I arrived home from the States with a mild cold but was feeling much better after just a few days of sleeping in my own bed. Then some hateful germs found their way into my body and it all went downhill from there.

Last Thursday started out as a very exciting day. I left early that morning for Béziers to pick up my citizenship dossier from the sous-préfecture, complete with a letter from M. le Président, the words to la Marseillaise and an acte de naissance that would allow me to apply for both a carte d'identité and a French passport.
The meeting went smoothly and afterward I wandered around the city, window shopping and running a few errands before seeing friends for lunch.

The dry cough and headache began halfway through my savory chèvre and honey crêpe and continued for the next 24 hours until I was able to see the doctor. Diagnosis: bronchitis and a sinus infection.

The Pharmacie sent me home with a bag of goodies and the days of stubbornly accepting the fact that yes, you are sick so just deal with it already, began.

For five days I slept, wandered around the house in yoga pants and slippers, watched two seasons of the wickedly funny series Weeds, drank copious amounts of tea and juice, took my medication and guzzled cough syrup, then slept some more.

Then suddenly my appetite came back.
I still couldn't speak without fits of coughing, but I was hungry! Tuesday I whipped up a batch of spicy Thai Fried Rice for lunch and Wednesday I tried this recipe for Duck Breasts with le Puy Lentils. I even baked some focaccia bread one day.

I am officially on the mend! Finally. Pin It

March 3, 2010

La Fête du Fromage - La Tricorne de Marans

La Tricorne de Marans' sweet grass and fresh hay aromas would tempt even the most trepidatious cheese novice. Give in to the temptation, I say. Your taste buds will thank you!

This is a rich, rustic cheese; packed with deep, smoky and salty flavors and a fine texture that is dense, chewy and coats your mouth with its creaminess. Its natural rind is completely edible, and those little spots of blue mold add another layer of flavor to this delightful cheese.

La Tricorne de Marans is made from unpasteurized ewe's milk and is produced on the picturesque Île d'Oléron by the same farmer who makes la Pigouille des Charentes, another luscious fromage français.

Traditionally, triangular shaped cheeses from the north of the Poitou-Charentes are eaten with slices of fresh green garlic. Now, this I have to try! The spring garlic will be arriving at the markets soon.

We enjoyed it with some pain au levain and a glass of Minervois red. A dry, fruity white such as Condrieu would also pair well with la Tricorne. Pin It

March 2, 2010

La Fête du Fromage Reminder

After a month off, we're back on track for another Fête du Fromage International Cheese Tasting Event, planned for the 15th of March.

There is an amazing world of cheese out there to discover and there are many small farmers, cheese shops and artisan cheese makers who appreciate our support. Get out there and try something new, then share your tasting notes with us.

Tell us why you chose this particular cheese. Tell us how it tasted. Tell us about its texture and aroma. Did you eat it on its own? Or with something? Did you drink anything special with your cheese? Would you recommend it or not? Is there something unusual or interesting about it?
  • Photos are wonderful, but not necessary
  • Entries must contain the words La Fête du Fromage and contain a link to Chez Loulou
  • Posts should be written specifically for La Fête du Fromage and not entered in any other food blog event
  • Please send the link to your post to louloufrance (at) gmail (dot) com with the words Fête du Fromage in the subject line
Please have your entries to me by March 13. The entire round-up will be posted on March 15.

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