Jun 21, 2014

Joyous Cacophony: Beaufort Eté

It's the official kick-off to summer, and all over France you can not hear the melodious sounds of birds chirping because they are drowned out by the sounds of a million bands playing on the street. I'm probably exaggerating, but not by much, because this is France's 33rd annual Fête de la Musique, or Music Festival.

This year, as it falls on Saturday, it's a real doozy, all day and all night. Bands everywhere, in seemingly every nook and cranny, play out. There are dancing bands, classical bands, Latin bands, oompah bands, gospel bands, sing-along bands, and kids' music bands. There are huge bands, people playing instruments by themselves, and a cappella groups. Some have huge followings, while others are groups of friends or even just random people playing and seeing if a crowd forms around them. (Spoiler: it always does. It's Fête de la Musique!)

Some groups have dancers: In previous years, the girls have performed hip hop for the fête, and I've performed hula (yes, in sneakers. Get over it).


But this year, we have no other performance commitments for the night, and we're older and wiser. We know it's all about the music. So you will not be surprised to hear that the band gets back together for a festival performance -- my girls and their friend, that is. I personally think the kudos should mostly go to the other dad, Tom, not only for organizing and playing, but for the constant, dizzying pace of guitar accompaniment he needs to improvise as the girls disregard all rules of key, rhythm, and verse-chorus order.


Not content with just one crowd, they bring their act up to the bridge after singing down along the quai. A DJ who's set up there lets the girls butt in to his space for a few songs, and he's rewarded with about 30€ in his tip jar in 5-10 minutes.

And then the DJ takes over, and we all get the party started...

...a party that continues long after we call it a night. You might not be able to tell, but that mass of people blocking the bridge is basically a fresh-air nightclub, thumping, jumping, and generally pumping up the jam.

Everywhere you walk, especially near us in central Paris, you can hear a combination of applause, hoots and hollers, and usually more than one kind of music at a time. Take my word: cacophonous. But joyous!
THE CHEESE: Beaufort Eté

Beaufort Eté is an ancient cheese, cited even 2000 years ago by the Romans. Named after the Valley of Beaufort, where it originates, it's a raw cow's milk cheese that has been made every year over the millennia from the milk gathered when the cows are grazing in the high pasture between June and October. Beaufort d'Alpage has a more specific definition: of milk gathered twice per day in traditional methods from cows of a single herd grazing about 1500m. Beaufort has had its AOC status since 1968.

Though it's a hard cheese, it retains enough moisture to be kind of buttery and even soft in the mouth. The fruit and salt flavors are permeated by herbs and flowers from the cows' diets. Its flavors develop from the first brining and continue as it matures for at least 5 months and sometimes as much as over a year. The cheese is sweet and nutty, in the same family as a Comté.


As the Fête de la Musique is always held on the summer solstice, the first official day of summer and the longest day of the year, what better cheese than one whose name (and taste and sunny golden appearance, frankly) also celebrates summer?


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