Saturday, September 7, 2013

Love is Bleu

I was recently reminded of my performance in the Harris High School French Club's talent show.  (Thanks, Childhood Friend!)  We were raising money for our Easter trip to Québec.  I don't remember much about the talent show.  I sang this en français...  back in the '70's.

Doux, doux, l'amour est doux
Douce est ma vie, ma vie dans tes bras
Doux, doux, l'amour est doux
Douce est ma vie, ma vie près de toi--

Bleu, bleu, l'amour est bleu
Berce mon coeur, mon coeur amoureux
Bleu, bleu, l'amour est bleu
Bleu comm' le ciel qui joue dans tes yeux.

(From Love is Blue arranged by Helmy Kresa, music by André Popp, English lyric by Bryan Blackburn, French lyric by Pierre Cour)

Paul Mauriat and his orchestra made this song a romantic favorite back in 1968.   It's a beautiful song.

I am very fond of the color bleu.  I find it very calming.

Thinking about bleu gave me a reason to look back through recent photos for examples--
This Parisian bleu wild boar in Montmartre

The bleu sky in Villeneuve-lez-Avignon

Scone dough made with bleu-berries

Bleu bicycles for rent in NYC

A bleu sweatshirt worn by Mme P while tasting her first hot Krispy Kreme

Vincent's bleu smock in his self-portrait hanging in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC

Bleu skies at Sunset Beach

But to be perfectly honest, the real reason I've been thinking about bleu has to do with my outing last weekend with the BFF.  I was invited to share her birthday gift of an afternoon of cheese at A Southern Season.

Scott Frank from Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese was our cheese guru.

We tasted three cheeses, Toma and their two bleu cheeses, Original Blue and Bay Blue.

I am going to be perfectly honest here.  I have never been a fan of fromage bleu.  The only time I really liked it was melted on fresh figs in Arles in 2008.  I probably haven't even eaten any since then, so I was a bit skeptical when I saw that we were primarily tasting bleu.  I went into it with an open mind, though.  The tables were set with wine glasses, always a good sign.

The cheeses were paired with beer and wine.

Toma (the cheese at 12:00 on the above plate) with Lagunitas Hop Stoopid Ale.  Yum.
Original Blue (4:00) with Cartlidge & Browne Pinot Noir. Yum yum.
Bay Blue with Ferreira Tawny Port. Yum yum yum.

Maybe I've just had bad bleus.  This stuff is the real deal.
We were treated to several "bites" of his cheeses, prepared by the CLASS staff.

Mini Point Reyes Toma Grilled Cheese with Apples and Dijon

8 slices multi-grain bread
4 tsp Dijon mustard
1 large apple, thinly sliced (Fuji or Pink Lady)
12 oz Point Reyes Farmstead Toma, shredded (shredded cheese melts better)
1/4 c butter, softened

Lay four slices of bread on work surface.
Spread each slice of bread with about 1 tsp of Dijon mustard, then top with apple slices and cheese.
Cover with remaining bread slices, pressing the bread firmly into place.
Spread softened butter onto top and bottom of slices of bread.
Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add sandwiches and cook until the bottom slice is golden brown.  Flip sandwiches and cook until cheese is melted and bread is toasty.  (You could also do this in a panini press.)
Cut in 4 squares and serve hot.

Point Reyes Toma Avocado Bruschetta

Toasted or BBQ slices of baguette (grill marks)
Fresh avocado
Point Reyes Farmstead Toma, sliced thin
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Toast or grill slices of baguette (look for grill marks).
Layer with thin slices of cheese and freshly sliced avocado.
Drizzle with good olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Original Blue Grapes

2/3 c (4 oz) Point Reyes Farmstead Original Blue™ cheese, crumbled, room temperature
2 Tbsp cream cheese or more as needed, room temperature
1 medium bunch white seedless and red seedless grapes
3/4 c finely chopped toasted walnuts

Mix the bleu cheese crumbles and cream cheese until well-blended.
Add more cream cheese if mixture seems too dry.
Form the blue cheese mixture around the grapes and then roll in walnuts.  Serve immediately or chill until ready to serve.

Original Blue Stuffed Dates or Figs

Point Reyes Farmstead Original Blue ™ or Bay Blue
Dates or figs

To dress up a fig or date, stuff it with cheese and then wrap it in prosciutto.
Put under broiler until sugars caramelize, about 2 minutes.

Original Blue Endive Boats

Red and/or green endive
Point Reyes Farmstead Original Blue™ cheese crumbles
Walnut halves, toasted

Separate endive into single leaves.  Fan out on a platter.
Fill each leaf with about one tablespoon of cheese crumbles.
Place a walnut half on each and drizzle with honey.

We were served Folie à Deux Sonoma County Chardonnay with these appetizers.

Scott then showed us how to put together interesting and colorful cheese trays.

Points to remember:

  • 3 selections of cheese are appropriate for a cheese plate that will serve 6-8
  • Find a cheesemonger who knows his stuff and will let you sample and who will cut the amount you need
  • Only buy the amount you will eat-- don't waste cheese!
  • When pairing cheese, select cheeses that are contrasting in taste, texture and milk types (try for a cow, goat and sheep, if possible)
  • Balance the sweet with the pungent, the firm with the creamy
  • 1 pound of cheese for every 5 guests
  • Cheese #1:  fresh and smooth (fresh mozzarella, burrata, chèvre); Cheese #2: blue vein cheese or soft rind (brie, camembert, triple cream); Cheese #3:  semi-hard or hard (Swiss, Toma, aged Cheddar, Gouda, Parmesan, Pecorino)
  • Unwrap cheese and arrange on platter at least an hour before guests arrive
  • Leave enough room on the plate for the cheeses to settle and breathe
  • Cheese course can be served on a platter, a wooden cutting board or marble floor tiles from a home improvement store
  • Scatter compliments throughout the board after placing cheeses
  • Label each cheese
  • Keep bread and/or crackers plain so cheese is star of show
  • Fresh fruit
  • Dry fruit
  • Add nuts (marcona almonds, candied pecans, walnuts, pistachios)
  • Honey, jams, mixed olives, cured meats, roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts
We then were turned loose on the platters so that we could sample.

I ate as much of the bleu as I could.  This was my dinner, after all!  I am a convert.

Bon appétit to cheese lovers everywhere and a special thank you to the BFF and Grande Burger Flipper for this experience!


Richard Goodman said...


Thanks for the post on my blog, A Geezer's Journal. I'm curious as to how you found the blog. In any case, seeing you're a Francophile,I thought I'd let you know about my book:

A Figure of Speech: French and Spanish Immersion said...

Fantastic! I've just discovered your blog. As a fellow francophone in the Triangle, it's great to see your experiences both here and abroad - all familiar and foreign at the same time. What is your favorite francophone thing to do in NC?

The Sabbatical Chef said...

I am very glad you found me, too! Favorite Francophone thing to do in NC? I love French restaurants-- Vin Rouge and Rue Cler here in Durham are awesome, French movies at the Carolina Theater in Durham and the Chelsea in Chapel Hill, art exhibits at the Nasher at Duke and the NC Museum of Art in Raleigh, visiting NC vineyards isn't Francophone but reminds me of doing the same in France. Planning my next trip and waiting until my French friend arrives with her students every April. Teaching French helps me get my fix. Do you have ideas for me?

The Sabbatical Chef said...

I am very flattered that you stopped by! I read French Dirt a few years back and loved it. A great, great story. Editors from Algonquin asked me if I'd read it when I pitched my book to them at Flyleaf last summer. Have you written anything else? Do you go back to France?