Less fromage, more peinture

Bonne Année et Bonne Santé (belatedly…)

A very happy new year to all my lovely shiny followers – once again, I’m squeaking in right at the end of the month with a blog post… at least this time, there’s a good excuse – we’re moving!

Beaming in the attic, in what is now our new kitchen!

Beaming in the attic, in what is now our new kitchen!

I may have dropped a few hints over the year that there will be big changes for Maisonbussière.com in 2016, and now I’m delighted to announce that we’re moving house! We love our gorgeous village of Bussière-Poitevine so much that we’re putting down permanent roots here – we’ve actually been renting my uncle’s house for the last 3 1/2 years, and now we’ve bought our own beautiful house, less than 100 yards away!
(FAQ – yes, my uncle’s house is back on the market, anyone interested in buying this stunning house, message me for more information).

If you felt we were a little quiet in 2015, it’s because I’ve been running the businesses singlehanded, while Adored Husband undertook the necessary renovations to the new house… and what an undertaking it’s been! The house required a total renovation which included a full wire of electrics, (it couldn’t be called a rewire as there was only one cable in the building!), full plumbing to create 3 new bathrooms and one more cloakroom, 200 square metres of walls have been replaced or repaired, and stacks of beautiful original features uncovered, restored to their former glory and preserved for future generations to enjoy!

Uncovering hidden treasures under the floor... there's a roof under my kitchen floor!

Uncovering hidden treasures under the floor… there’s a roof under my kitchen floor!

We’re on schedule to be moved in and reopening the businesses in mid February 2016,

along with another new addition to the Maison Bussiere brand, so stay tuned for more…

So you see why there’s been little time for blogging about fromage, when my life is filled with sanding, scrubbing, painting and varnishing at the moment, boo!  We’ll be finished and moved in in no time, so normal service will be restored – and in the meantime, some lovely people have been kind enough to send me fab fromage things, including this priceless image – merci beaucoup pour le fromage!

The 4 Stages of Eating Cheese (not so sure about No. 3...)

The 4 Stages of Eating Cheese (not so sure about No. 3…)

 

Cheese, Fromage du Mois, Maison Bussière, Uncategorized, Village life

The perfect assiette de fromage – a festive special Fromage(s) du Mois!

My sumptuous blog is nearly a toddler – in February, she’ll be 3!  She has taken on something of a life of her own, and I find it by no means unusual to be greeted as ‘the cheese lady’… high praise indeed!

As such, at this time of year, I’m frequently asked about the perfect assiette de fromage, particularly the perfect Christmas assiette de fromage – whilst there are others infinitely more qualified than I to advise, I’m very happy to give recommendations.

The golden rule for the perfect platter is to accommodate all palettes; there are 4 different types of cheese, each of which should make an appearance on the ideal platter:

The perfect cheeseboard

The perfect cheeseboard

Aged: such as Aged Comte, Salers, mature Cheddar

Soft: such as Camembert, Livarot, Vacherin Mont d’Or

Firm: such as Mimolette, Emmental, Manchego

Blue: such as Roquefort, Bleu d’Auvergne, Stilton

I would always add an excellent goats cheese to this, aged to give it some welly!

A few tips: Brie is always a winner and familiar to all, an aged Comte or Salers are similar to (and can match / rival) a mature Cheddar, Roquefort can be as sweet as it is salty and a really ripe one is eye-wateringly powerful, and Livarot is not for the uninitiated, so think about your audience for this platter!

I’m always happy to make specific recommendations, so do feel free to message me with questions – and as a festive double-whammy, I will tackle the ‘can the French make anything as good as a Stilton’ question tomorrow… stay tuned!

*My thanks to Paris to go for the image

Cheese, Fromage du Mois, Maison Bussière, Village life

European civilisation is in the hands of French cheesemakers. Oh yes, life really is all about fromage.

And far be it from us to disagree with Prince Charles…  Earlier this month, speaking at the UN climate talks in Paris, Prince Charles delivered a speech in praise of French cheese!

Prince Charles in Paris, expounding the glories of French cheese

Prince Charles in Paris, expounding the glories of French cheese

European civilisation depends on the survival of traditional French cheese, said the Prince – in a passionate speech about cheese at the Institut de France, which has awarded him the François Rabelais medal for services to gastronomic heritage in his work to ‘enhance the heritage of food.’

We can’t help but quote liberally from his speech, so wholeheartedly do we agree… He said (in French): “In a bacteriologically correct society – what will become of brie de Meaux, of crottin de Chavignol or bleu d’Auvergne? In a future without microbes, progressive and genetically modified, what hope will there be for the traditional fourme d’Ambert, the misshapen gruyère de Comté or the odorous Pont-L’Evêque?

“Will this obsession with accreditation, categorisation, homogenisation and pasteurisation bring with it the emasculation of robust old Roquefort, camembert, reblochon and even the runny vacherin?

“That might seem absurd – but a large part of the magnificent edifice of European civilisation rests on the heritage of genius and know-how and the survival of real food, without which all of our lives would become absolutely unbearable.”

Given that there is little more wondrous than savouring ‘real food’,

The pungent Epoisses

The pungent Epoisses

who are we to disagree…

*cue image of gratuitously oozy pungent Epoisses*

Enjoy!

 

AOC, Cheese, Uncategorized

The Best Cheese in the World – officially!

Last week, heaven-in-one-room was created at Birmingham’s NEC, when 2,727 cheeses from around the globe competed for the coveted World Champion trophy at the World Cheese Awards 2015 (oh yes, it’s a thing!)

Bob and John Farrand with Rene Ruch who won top award

Bob and John Farrand with Rene Ruch, the winner of the World Champion trophy

Not only were the competitor cheeses from across the globe, the judges too had flown in from as far away as Australia, Japan and Canada – one female judge from Vermont had just finished a PhD on cheese and was now being funded to travel the world, in search of the best. (damn damn, why didn’t I think of that 20 years ago…)

The nearly 3,000 cheeses were tasted, deliberated over and graded, and whittled down to 62 ‘supergold’ cheeses, which then went before the international grand jury. How it’s possible to choose between so many sensational cheeses of wildly different varieties, tastes and textures, I have no idea – but I’d be happy to give it my best shot, if it meant savouring them all!

Eventually – and apparently winning by a single point – the World Champion 2015 winner was declared: a Le Gruyere AOP made by Switzerland’s Cremo and Von Muhlnen.  This Gruyere was pronounced ‘a gloriously nutty, rich and rounded cheese with a slight crunch of salt crystal at the end.’  The creator, Rene Ruch, enthused, “I can’t explain what I feel right now”, he said. “It’s just fantastic, it recognises all the hard work, the quality of the milk, the small family producers who work seven days a week, and do such a great job.”

This is the fourth time the Swiss alpine cheese has won the trophy in the 28 years of the competition.  World Cheese Awards founder Bob Farrand (pictured above), who was on the final panel, said he could have felt “jaundiced” about a cheese that was so familiar to him. “But then, ‘wow’: the fruitiness, the nuttiness – the flavour just kept going and going.”

Rest assured, we’ll be searching for this particular Gruyere – we’ll keep you posted… gotta savour a piece of the Best Cheese in the World, Officially!

Picture: René Ruch of Cremo SA (centre) collects the World Champion trophy from World Cheese Awards organiser John Farrand (right) and awards founder Bob Farrand

More on the awards is here and the awards came to my attention through this article:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/food-and-drink/news/world-cheese-awards-2015-is-this-the-best-cheese-in-the-world/

AOC, Cheese

Why cheese is like crack

It’s official:

‘Cheese triggers same part of brain as hard drugs, study finds’

(It’s in the Independent, so it must be official.)

Blue cheese and amphetamines...

Blue cheese and amphetamines…

Recently, cheese-lovers of the world have been vindicated – oh yes, cheese addiction is (apparently) an actual thing!

A team of scientists, studying why some foods are more addictive than others, have discovered that fromage contains naturally occurring chemicals similar to those found in addictive drugs.

Blimey.

Camembert, oozing sexily

Camembert, oozing sexily

Apparently milk contains the protein casein, which provokes similar effects to opiates when it is turned into cheese, because of the ‘casomorphins’ being even more concentrated.

So, cheese-lovers everywhere, Casein is the reason why you can’t put down the Brie… or step away from this sexy little Camembert…

More on this study is here  and, in case that wasn’t sufficient proof, here is Why Cheese is like ‘Dairy Crack’ .  Needless to say, chez Maison Bussiere, we wholeheartedly approve!

Cheese immortality

Cheese immortality

 

Cheese, Maison Bussière, Uncategorized

Fromage du Mois – Carré d’Aurillac

My gorgeous blog is now over 2 1/2 years old, and I’m thrilled and delighted that her fame spreads all the time (she’s reached the dizzy heights of over 35,000 unique visitors, wowsers!), and faithful readers will know it’s mostly all about the fromage.  Friends and followers tweet me on #FromageFriday, send me articles on cheese, introduce me to their friends as the cheese lady and ask me all manner of cheesy questions… And one such recent question was a blue cheese recommendation.

The delights of blue cheese

The delights of blue cheese

A new friend and new resident of Bussière-Poitevine wanted to find a French equivalent of her favourite blue cheese, a Cambozola (I half-erroneously believed this was an Italian cheese but researching this, have discovered it’s a glorious amalgam of the sumptuous creaminess of French Camembert and the sharpness of the Italian Gorgonzola – and just to confuse you, it’s actually made in Germany.)

So, naturally, this called for a tasting and I put my mind to the matter – dismissing the most potent of blues, I selected a soft, creamy but delicious Carré d’Aurillac, an ever reliable and just downright scrumptious Saint Agur and a rapidly maturing Roquefort (I confess that was mostly for Adored Husband’s and my benefits, I rather suspected it would take the roof off New Friend’s tastebuds!) – and a Morbier for good measure, because one should.

Our blue cheese tasting platter

Our blue cheese tasting platter

We planned a dinner starting with a cheeky homemade rhubarb and ginger gin-based cocktail or two, a rather-good-if-I-say-so-myself prawns flambéd in Pastis and then we set about the cheese.  Clockwise from the top right are the Morbier, the Carré d’Aurillac, the increasingly pungent Roquefort and the triumphant Saint Agur.

Saint Agur has won many awards including silver at the 2014 World Cheese Awards, and as I had suspected, it won the tasting for New Friend – that combination of smooth and creamy with the richness of the blue, but without the salty welly of the more pungent blue cheeses, and downright yummy!

The carré was virgin territory chez Maison Bussière, so I was trusting my fromage instincts and senses to include it – and it proved itself in spades! A flavoursome and robust little cheese, but mild and creamy enough to tempt most palettes, we decided it was the perfect ‘starter’ blue cheese, for the more trepidatious fromage taster.  The cheese is square, hence the name carré, and made from cows milk, and further investigation with the oracle of cheese herself, Madame Fromage (whom you will remember visits the village on a Tuesday, now – sadly but not so sadly for our waistlines – on alternate Tuesdays), proudly yielded the information that Carré d’Aurillac is produced very locally to where she lives.  Now we love it even more… so much so, that we were obliged to retest our observations again this week with more, #happydays !

 Carré d'Aurillac and Fromagerie Aurillacoise

Carré d’Aurillac and Fromagerie Aurillacoise

So the Fromage du Mois for July could only be the Carré d’Aurillac -merci beaucoup, Madame Fromage, et santé!

Cheese, Fromage du Mois, Maison Bussière, Uncategorized, Village life

Le Tour de France and a Very Special Cheese

Today, ‘The Livarot Diaries – Adventures in Cheese’ is a bursting-with-pride little blog – for today, the eyes of the world are on Livarot itself!

Livarot crest

Livarot crest

Today, Friday 10th July, sees the world’s largest annual sporting event gracing the presence of little Livarot, the place that’s gave its name to my much-lauded favourite fromage.  Livarot itself is a commune, housing just over 2,000 inhabitants, in the Calvados (mmm) department of the Basse-Normandie region of North West France.

My passion for Livarot is well-documented – indeed has been matured and ‘affined’ over many years, just like the fromage itself (should you need a reminder of why, it’s all here); I’ve been delighted and thrilled to have brought it to the teeniest bit more prominence through my beloved blog… but this is the world stage!

Earlier this year, every dignitary from the world of international cycling was present at the ceremony in Paris where the route of this year’s Tour de France was announced.  There may have been an itsy squeal from me, on behalf of my gorgeous blog, when Stage 7 was unveiled – with a start in Livarot!

The route of the 102nd Le Tour de France 2015

The route of the 102nd Le Tour de France 2015

Today is that momentous day, and naturally there’ll be an assiette du fromage befitting the occasion later, when we actually get to watch the highlights of today’s Stage 7 of the 102nd Tour de France.

In the meantime, here are some rather wonderful facts about Le Tour for you, courtesy of Le Tour de Yorkshire:

  • A worldwide television audience of 3.5billion people watch the Tour de France annually
  • Over 188 countries around the world broadcast the Tour de France
  • 121 different television channels across the world show the race every year
  • There are 4,700 hours of TV coverage annually
  • The last hour of every stage is broadcast live across western Europe
  • 2,000 journalists representing dozens of nationalities attend the Tour every year
  • 1,200 hotel rooms are reserved each night for the teams, staff, press and tour personnel
  • The Tour de France attracts 12 million spectators along the route in a typical year’s race – and more on Le Tour is here: www.letour.fr

So, a huge ‘allez’ to all the competitors – bonne chance et bonne courage – and join me in a

Livarot, the cheese that spawned the blog!

Livarot, the cheese that spawned the blog!

celebration of the wonder that is Livarot – bon appetit!

Cheese, Cycling, Maison Bussière, Tour de France

Fromage du Mois – an uber-pungent Manigodine (trust me, it’s a goodie!)

June chez Maison Bussière has proved as eventful as ever, with dozens of guests of many different nationalities, celebrations for our third anniversary of la belle vie en France and – somewhat astonishingly – my election to Président Adjoint of the newly formed business association in the village. (Oh yes.  More on that, and other belle-vie-en-France matters shortly.)

Of course June also brings a day of celebration in France and the UK – the annual celebration of Fathers’ Day.  Now it would be accurate to say I am my father’s daughter, and the older I get, the more I get like him – and our taste in cheese is no exception. I have expounded the cheese education I so gleefully received from my paternal grandmother, his mother – clearly we’ve both inherited the taste for the most pungent, aromatic and powerful fromages from her!

Happy Daddy with Madame Fromage

Happy Daddy with Madame Fromage

So much so, that some cheeses are very definitely ‘Daddy cheeses’ – sadly beyond the remit of Adored Husband (he loves them, they don’t love him) – and so dutifully saved for a Daddy visit, and positively relished by us both then! Witness the Camembert lovingly washed in my dad’s favourite, Calvados, this is a cheese that’s nothing less than an assault on every sense, and saved especially for a Daddy visit – and savoured for the rarity of its consumption!

Camembert lovingly 'affined' or washed in Calvados

Camembert lovingly ‘affined’ or washed in Calvados

And so, it was with afore-mentioned glee that I spied a Madame Fromage special just before my dad was due to visit recently.  In the boundless quest for new and exciting cheeses, we have chomped our way through the majority of the delectable Madame Fromage’s sensational offerings – but this was new… Nestling temptingly between the Tomme de Savoie and a fabulously ripe Brie de Meaux was an unassuming round of cheese, encased in a greyish-black (frankly not very appetising-looking) round called a Manigodine. Naturally I enquired about this new fromage, its strength and origins – and the look on Madame Fromage’s face told me immediately I’d found a new Daddy cheese.  She described it with the direst of warnings, telling me no less than three times this was ‘fermier’ – basically it’s made by farmers for farmers and will knock your socks and shoes off at 100 paces.  Sold!  I bought a chunk, spirited it home and into the fridge, fleetingly but enough to impart its pungency to the whole fridge.  Cheese of this level of whiff leaves only one option – scoff it in one sitting – and scoff we did!

The official descriptions of Manigodine Fermier tell me it is a French farm-produced cheese from the Savoie region, made in the style of a Reblochon, but larger in order to allow maturing for the 60 day aging rule for raw milk cheeses.  It’s been described as ‘elegant, milky, rich and barny washed rind cheese… (with) flavours from the brassica family (cauliflower, broccoli, etc.) dancing with woodsy, nutty notes.’ The round comes from bark which is strapped around the cheese, to impart flavour as much as to keep the cheese’s shape.

Manigodine Fermier, Weapons-grade fromage!

Manigodine Fermier, Weapons-grade fromage!

Suffice to say, it might as well be strapped to the cheese to keep it running away on its down – this was weapons-grade cheese of the first order! Most definitely not for the faint-hearted, this was as much of a delight as an assault-on-the-senses can ever be – and naturally we’ll be having this again, the next time Daddy comes to visit!

Bonne fête des pères, and a Happy (belated) Fathers Day to all!

 

 

Cheese, Fromage du Mois, Maison Bussière, Village life

Fromage du Mois – Brillat-Savarin

I regret that it is with a tinge of disappointment that I bring you this months’ ‘Fromage du Mois’… like an over-hyped, under-talented film ‘star’, this cheese had been searched for diligently, found with glee and treated with the utmost care and attention – it was almost inevitable it would disappoint.  If you’ll permit me to explain…

Brillat-Savarin is a triple cream dessert cheese, created by cheese-maker Henri Androuët in the 1930s. It is named after 19th century gastronome and epicure, Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin. Being classified as a triple cream cheese, Brillat-Savarin has an extravagantly high fat content of at least 75%, achieved by adding rich, luscious cream to whole milk. Loving the sound of it so far?!  Oh, but there’s so much more…

What’s in a name.  In this case, everything – like choosing a book by its cover, I was seduced by the name.

Jean-Anthelme Brillat de Savarin (1755-1826)

Jean-Anthelme Brillat de Savarin (1755-1826)

This is Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (born 1 April 1755 – died in Paris, 2 February 1826) – he was a French lawyer and politician, but more important for our fromage obsession, he gained fame as a noteworthy gastronome.

Brillat-Savarin discourses copiously on the pleasures of the table, and naturally we agree – and even better still, amongst his noted French role models was the sublime Voltaire (Voltaire changed my life, but that’s a story for another day.)

An avid cheese lover, Brillat-Savarin remarked: “A dessert without cheese is like a beautiful woman with only one eye.”

So, once found, purchased and turned chez Maison Bussière, the sizeable chunk of Brillat-Savarin was reverently treasured, inspected and administered to daily, discussed and fretted over.  Finally after 3 weeks, bollocks to it – we snapped and ate it last night.

Brillat Savarin, matured

Brillat Savarin, matured

It should look like this.  It didn’t.

There was no telltale pungent whiff on opening the fridge.

The clues were there.

It actually looked like this – creamy, unctuous and flavourful, you might think.

Brillat Savarin unripe

Brillat Savarin unripe

Apparently ‘Young cheeses taste similar to fresh cheese but usually they are matured for about four to five weeks to develop more complex flavours.’  ‘Flavours are of butter, salt and cream with hints of mushroom, nuts and truffles.’  Bollocks again, it tasted of nothing. Oh sure, it had the lusciousness and creaminess of a triple cream cheese, just no actual taste.

But, we remain undaunted, steadfast in our determination to find a specimen more worthy of this great man’s name.  We will consult the oracle that is Madame Fromage on a Tuesday morning.  She will know what to do.

In the meantime, I leave you with the great man himself – bon appetit!

'Physiologie du Gout', or Physiology of Taste

‘Physiologie du Gout’, or Physiology of Taste

Title page of “La Physiologie du Goût” (“The Physiology of Taste”) by French gastronome Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1755-1826) with a portrait of the author, from the 1848 edition.

 

 

Cheese, Fromage du Mois, Maison Bussière, Uncategorized, Village life

Welcome to ‘The French Paradox’

For a healthy heart, you may have to eat more cheese.  It’s official.  There’s science to prove it – so naturally I had to share it (before science changes its mind again).

‘The French Paradox’, according to this article, is that the copious consumption of what has to be the greatest cheese in the world here in France is not accompanied by copious heart disease.  Apparently it’s all about short chain fatty acids and microbes (and, I would add, a culture of moderation in all things, coupled with a generally active lifestyle with lots of walking and cycling).

There’s one thing missing from this article, small in science terms but crucial to la vie en France… happiness!

Heaven on a plate

Heaven on a plate

Even glimpsing an sumptuous image like this one from their own article makes me inordinately, deeply-and-abidingly happy – and surely that’s got to be good for my heart?!

I’ll take that science, thanks.

Happiness is smelly cheese

Happiness is smelly cheese

Cheese