Dec 13, 2013

Life-Changing, Mind-Blowing...: Bleu de Severac


Fill in the blank:

A: My husband is away on a business trip in China. I have encouraged him to have life-changing, mind-blowing ____________ while he's there.
B: And while the cat's away, the mouse will play, so I take the opportunity to have some life-changing, mind-blowing ___________ myself.

Answers to above:

A: dumplings
B: macarons

I have always claimed not to like macarons. It should be noted I don't like Oreos, either. Or whoopie pies. Or buttercream frosting, all of which I find cloying and gritty. But then a friend introduces me to Pierre Hermé macarons. And even though I've always said I'm not that kind of a person, I must admit I not only love it, I just cannot get enough. More! More! The "cookie" part has a pleasant crackle as you bite through it, and then a sticky chewiness that's just right. But it's the filling that makes the biggest difference to me: intensely flavored, creamy smooth, and not too sweet. The flavor tastes like real salted caramel, or real raspberry, or real (you get the idea) and not fake-frosting.

This picture, by the way, is not of Pierre Hermé but rather of the only other macarons I've ever tasted that I liked. And that's because I help make them! My friendly neighbor Loredana, who has a baking degree from le Cordon Bleu, invited me to watch, learn, and sous-chef. So some of that handiwork is mine.


But given how much time, effort, and expense it takes to make them -- along with the hassle of procuring specialty ingredients -- I think I'll stick to buying them on special occasions at Pierre Hermé, and turning up my nose at them the rest of the time. Oh, I may re-try the world-famous Ladurée once more to see if I give them my stamp of approval.

And, while we're at these macarons: take a look at this hairstyle. I call them buns, but send Pippa off and expect to hear that her classmates make Princess Leia jokes all day. But no, the French call them "macarons" -- for the obvious reason.

Anthony, meanwhile, has been gorging on dumplings, every which way. He's had them fried, steamed, boiled, salty, porky, seafoody, sweet, soup-filled, custard-filled, and -- of course -- Shanghai style. He's had them for breakfast, he's had them for dinner, he's had them late into the night. And he threw in some noodles just to spice things up a bit. Oh, and he's had them spicy. Here's a picture of who my husband has been seeing a lot of during his week away from the old ball-and-chain-and-cheese:


I am relieved to report that even after the most mind-blowing dumplings of his life, he comes back to us in Paris in the end. He arrives off the plane with a gift of bean-paste mochi dumplings.

THE CHEESE: Bleu de Severac

Bleu de Severac is a sheep cheese from southern France, in the mid-Pyrenees. Aged a minimum of 6 weeks, it follows the general fabrication process of a Roquefort, but is not a Roquefort, because the affinage process does not take place in Roquefort-sur-Soulzon with its specific bacteria and molds, but rather in about 50km away in Severac-le-Château.

The farm at Severac-le-Chateau, where this has been made by mother and son for twenty years, welcomes visitors. I just hope they give samples. Being closely related to Roquefort, Bleu de Severac of course has the pungency typical of a blue. But there's something else special here: a distinct sweetness at the finish. It's super velvety, and slightly yellowy-orange, and is just a creamy, dreamy dollops of heaven. Some experts consider this cheese to be what a Roquefort used to be, before its AOP status forced standardization on the manufacturing method.


Bleu de Severac is heavenly. Paradise. Mind-blowing. I think if I could only eat one blue for the rest of my life, this very well might be it. This is the cheese that causes Pippa and Gigi to change their minds and decide they like blue cheese after all (especially Pippa, and especially with pear).


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  2. Where do you find the Severac? Will I find it in the fromagerie near our place (Place Maubert) or one of the ones on the island, or will I need to rouse myself to get to one of the markets?

  3. I'll check Laurent Dubois (one in Place Maubert) when it's open again (closed today) and see if they've got any. They certainly might. The place I know you can get it right now is the Beillevaire store at 8 rue Delambre in the 14th. I suspect the Beillevaire store on Rue de Rivoli/Rue St. Antoine in the 4th, near St. Paul metro, would also have it, though they're a little smaller than the Delambre outpost.

  4. I can't imagine how difficult it is to make macarons, but they I love them. I'm ok with dumplings - too much starch though if you eat a lot. That blue cheese sounds marvelous, but why do some people spoil the fun of eating cheese when they say it's full of cow mucus?


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