I feel so deprived

I feel so deprived

On this side of the Atlantic, I can find Oreo cookies and I can find smooth peanut butter. I can find Newman’s Own microwave popcorn and I can find Aunt Jemima pancake mix. I can find Philadelphia cream cheese and I can find Graham Crackers.

But I miss my honey-frosted mini-wheats, I miss Barbara’s Bakery Cinnamon Puffins, I miss decent tortillas and chunky salsa, I miss the Jiffy corn muffin mix, and most of all, I miss Reese’s Peanut Butter cups.

Particularly the mini, bite-size ones, we used to have bucketloads of at my office.

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Chicken Nuggets and Root Vegetable Fries

A Take Chicken Nuggets and Fries

A Take on Chicken Nuggets and Fries.

My sister Céline came to have dinner with us the other night. She has recently started working for a major French car company, and part of the integration process for new hires is to go through four weeks at one of the factories, working the line just like the other workers. This is a trying experience to say the least (a loss of 6 pounds, a large bruise on the hip, a swollen and bandaged wrist – how’s that for good working conditions?), and the end of the day sees her thoroughly exhausted and achy, her head spinning from the infinite chain of cars she has worked her way through.

This sounded like the perfect time to provide a little comfort with a mock fast-food dinner, home-made and healthy.

The three of us ate these chicken nuggets and root vegetable fries with pleasure – and our fingers -, chatting away until Céline’s fight against her shutting eyelids and general sleepiness became a lost cause. At which point she dragged herself home, a couple of metro stations away, for a few hours of deep and blissful sleep.

A note on variations : I made the root vegetable fries with potatoes and celery root because that’s what I had on hand, but they would work equally well with any and all types of root vegetables, including carrots, sweet potatoes, turnips, parsnips, beetroot, etc. Mix ‘n match to your heart’s content! You can also experiment with the spices you sprinkle on, as well as the spices that you add to the chicken breading : cumin, paprika, ginger, onion flakes, celery seeds…

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Notes from the Salon du Fromage (continued)

Notes from the Salon du Fromage (continued)

And here is the second batch of notable tidbits from the Salon du Fromage! (Read the first part here.)

Mont d’Or is a cow cheese, soft inside a thicker rind, wrapped in pine bark and sold in a round wooden box. A popular and wonderful way to eat it is the “Boîte Chaude” (Hot Box), where the Mont d’Or is oven-baked in its box, with a little white wine. Les Monts de Joux, a cheese producer from the Jura, sells their delicious Mont d’Or in a fun DIY kit, which includes a small bottle of vin d’Arbois and all the necessary instructions to prepare your own Boîte Chaude. Baked Mont d’Or is, in my experience, a great dish to share with a few close friends, along with a nice salad and good crusty bread : each guest helps himself, more or less messily, to a spoonful of gooey and tasty cheese. And before long, everyone resorts to just dipping his bread directly in, then passing the cheese on to his neighbor. A wonderfully comforting and laid-back pseudo-meal.

– A producer from Poitou-Charentes was offering fresh goat cheese flavored with herbs and condiments in convenient little trays, petit-four style : balls of goat cheese rolled in raisins, chopped walnuts or shallots flakes, or small triangles sprinkled with herbes de Provence, dill, crushed pepper or cumin seeds. Reminds you of something?

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Notes from the Salon du Fromage

Notes from the Salon du Fromage

Is there such a thing as eating too much cheese? I think not, although I did try my best at the 8th edition of the Salon du Fromage, last Sunday.

The Salon du Fromage is held every other year during the Salon de l’Agriculture, at the huge Porte de Versailles exhibition center. While the Salon de l’Agriculture is open to the general public – hordes of families can be seen going there, and my metro was full of those kids, shiny-eyed with expectation : “et alors y’aura des vaches, maman? et des moutons aussi, maman, einh, y’aura des moutons, aussi?” (“and will we see cows there, mommy? And sheep too, mommy, say, mommy, will there be sheep too?”) – the Salon du Fromage is a smaller affair, held in a different hall, and open only to professionals.

Its purpose is to bring together all the actors of the fascinating little world of cheese : cheese producers, cheese refiners, cheese distributors, cheese importers, cheese co-ops, sellers of cheese-related supplies, and a host of miscellaneous cheese enthusiasts. I’ll let you guess which category yours truly falls in.

And here are a few nuggets drawn from the notes I took while wandering around the alleys, chatting with the exhibitors and my fellow visitors, trying to juggle my notebook, samples of cheese, an increasingly greasy pen and an ever-growing collection of recipe cards and leaflets.

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I Don’t Believe We’ve Been Properly Introduced

I Don't Believe We've Been Properly Introduced

How about playing a little guessing game?

The first reader to correctly uncover the identity of this UFO (Unidentified Food Object), as well as the reader who comes up with the most unlikely or the funniest suggestion, will each get the wallpaper of their choice, signed to their name with a little note.

Not to mention the fame, and my respect and consideration for at least a couple of days. How’s that for a tempting prize?

UPDATE : WINNER ANNOUNCEMENT!

Well, dear readers, the UFO was in fact, <drumroll>… plaited mozzarella! Or more accurately a tresse de mozzarella, kindly given to me by a French producer at the Salon du Fromage – the tale of which will follow later today.

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