Feb 7, 2014

Choco-Lots: Trianzac Chèvre aux Graines Grillées


I wish that everybody who says how much healthier the French diet is could see what they eat for the most important meal of the day.

When Gigi was eight and we had just moved to Paris, her teacher once asked in class what all the children eat for breakfast. Only Gigi raised her hand to say "croissants." The teacher found it funny that only the American child eats the traditional, stereotypical French breakfast.

I found it funny because it's a big fat lie: that's a special breakfast for us, and Gigi just wanted to say that because it sounded French to her. In fact, we eat mostly cereal, fruit, milk, oats, and yogurt. But we do have croissants and pastries once in a while for a special weekend or guest brunch.

But for day to day breakfasts, it turns out than even for the French, the traditional French meal of croissants or pain and a big bowl of hot chocolate has been largely replaced by American-style breakfast cereals. But with a uniquely French twist. Chocolate. And more chocolate.  Sometimes caramel. But mostly chocolate. You think I'm exaggerating? Check out our choices, in one of the biggest grocery stores I've seen in France, here in the Normandy countryside. I call it the "choco-aisle":


You can see that even many of the "healthy" choices, like Fitness (see photo below) or the Muesli have been chocofied. Others have been honey-fied, though that might not show as well in the photos. Our local Monoprix has several choices of Special K, and all but one have chocolate in them.

It's not just a sample size of one family. From the families we've stayed with and also sleepovers they've gone to, it's clear our other French friends also have a deeply held belief in sugared cereals: Choco Puffs, Frosted Flakes, and Honey Balls, usually served in bowls without milk. The only acceptable alternate seems to be toast. You won't hear the girls complaining.

I recently went to the grocery store only to find that my favorite bag of organic granola (called muesli croustillant -- crunchy muesli -- as opposed to regular muesli) has been replaced by a chocolate version. Nothing says "healthy breakfast" like organic chocolate muesli.

Whenever we have a trip to the US, we bring entire suitcases back of non-sugary, oaty cereals.

We do manage to find some French cereals that we like and that aren't too sugary. On the other hand, sometimes I break down and buy the chocolate version.


Needless to say, after a lifetime of plain Cheerios and homemade granola, the girls find breakfast here cocoarifically chocolicious!

THE CHEESE: Trianzac Chèvre aux Graines Grillées
The name of this raw goat's milk cheese, Trianzac Chèvre aux Graines Grillées (Trianzac Goat Cheese with Toasted Grains), is a mouthful. And so is the cheese itself. The toasted grains aren't just a gimmick. They add texture -- a lovely bit and chew and crunch to contract the creamy cheese. But they also add flavor: toasty and nutty come to mind, though I supposed when you're talking about toasted nuts, those are not terribly original adjectives. My adjectives may be unoriginal, but the cheese certainly isn't.

It's a relatively new cheese; in 2004, Sandrine Manette and Pascale Mugnier decided to produce a high-quality, unusual cheese, built upon the local agriculture of alpine goats and of the Massif Central. This is the same farm that produces the Tommette de Marilhou, and the incredible care they take with the goats shows. I am over the moon about this cheese even before I know who the producers are and that they have the stamp of approval from France's best cheesemongers.

It's rare to see this in any store, since it's a small-production farmhouse cheese from a small farm that only sells to the top cheese stores in the country. If you ever see it in the store, I recommend you jump at the chance to buy it.


This cheese represents what I think cereal should be -- and what some of the (rare) better mueslis are: whole grainy, nutty, natural, chewy, crunchy, and delicious.



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