Jan 12, 2014

Going, Going, Soldes!: Petit Fiancé des Pyrénées


It's the annual winter Soldes -- held in Paris from the second Wednesday in January till early February. The summer Soldes take place here from the end of June till the end of July. These two periods are the only time when it's officially approved to advertise and hold major store-wide sales. To an American this seems like crazy over-regulation, so I must tell you that there are indeed small sale racks and various "promotions" throughout the year. But they are nothing like this...

On the first day of the Soldes, more than half the store might be marked down, 20-40 or even 50%.  The point is truly to clear out the previous seasons' inventory and make space for the new stuff. And today, the first Sunday of the Soldes, the stores are even allowed to remain open for business; given that even grocery stores are closed on Sundays that's near miraculous. A couple weeks in, the stores proudly announce their second markdown, tacking on at least 10 or 20% more discount. Eventually, they have a third and final markdown toward the end of the month, and goods might easily be even 80% off. Most of the racks are picked over, of course, but whatever treasures are left can be had for a song.

My favorite Soldes moment: My friend Sarah, who is not really a French speaker, is rifling through racks of pretty shirts when her vacation here coincides with the summer Soldes. She looks up disappointed and moans, "but these are all sold!" Well, the word for "Sale" is "Soldes" (pronounced "sold") and the word for "sold" is "vendu", so that's another one for the list of faux amis. Once that is cleared up, we go on a shopping spree. Gigi needs some new summer clothes, and Pippa needs new shoes (Baby needs a new pair of shoes!), and I am able to stock them up with some fun French fashions for really very little.

Santa likes the Soldes, too, and each year the girls end up with huge Christmas boxes of treasures collected at the end of January and July. It's just hard to resist when some beautiful new piece of children's clothing slips through to the dernière démarque (last markdown) and can be had at 80% off for 4€.


In general, I'm not much of a shopper, for which Anthony is grateful. But during the Soldes, I shop till I drop. And then Anthony's relieved once I stop.

THE CHEESE: Petit Fiancé des Pyrénées

It's a stinker. So much so that we end up throwing away a little nubbin at the end, just unwilling to waste our cheese calories on this when there are others we prefer in the house. And yet it's often considered a really gourmet, highly desirable cheese. It's a farmer's raw goat's milk cheese created by Marie-Suzanne and Philippe Garros at the Cold Del Fach farm in Loubières, from Ariège in the Pyrénées. It's unusual both in that it's hard to find and also in that it's a goat cheese made in the style of a cow's cheese, in this case Reblochon, which it resembles.

Petit Fiancé des Pyrénées is a semi-hard cheese in a round disc about the diameter of a CD (remember those?) but several inches thick. Despite our thrown-away nubbin, you may love it: strongly flavored of goat, with floral, earthy, and nutty tones, and a gooey texture that's firm until it melts in your mouth.


It's an oddball choice for a cheese, but bear with me: There's a lovely little boutique in the 6ème arrondissement called "La Fiancée du Mekong". It sells very colorful Asian-influenced stuff that I love, but to avoid temptation, I only allow myself to walk in there during the Soldes. So in honor of one little Fiancée, I give you a Petit Fiancé.


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