Jul 30, 2014

Paris Plage: Tomme Brulée


It's the 13th year that Paris has closed off the quai in the heart of the Right Bank and turned it into a huge play ground called Paris Plage (Paris Beach). They import tons of sand -- sometimes we see it coming down the Seine on a barge -- and lay it out neatly in special areas. In other areas, they provide games, activities, snack booths, free water, bathrooms, works of accessible art, shade, cooling stations, and a variety of comfortable beach seating. The only problem is, you can't swim anywhere.

Since you can't swim in the Seine, Paris Plage kindly provides the occasional misting station. Yes, I realize I have photographed a sign that clearly shows I am not allowed to photograph here. But I'm not always the biggest rule follower, and -- beyond that -- I'm 99% sure that it's there so people don't photograph other people's children (and other people) frolicking in the mist in their bikinis, or half-naked. Whereas I feel fine about snapping this shot of only my own child, fully clothed, and not looking at all like she's in the sexy scene from Flashdance.

I'm not the only one taking photos, anyway. It's a pretty photogenic event.

They even have a special annex set up in the square of Hotel de Ville, where animators run the kids through rugby maneuvers. Between the backdrop, the imported palm trees, and the colorful T-shirts, I pretty much feel as if they've set this up just for the photo op with Notre Dame in the background.

The following day when we go back, they've set up a bunch of beach volleyball courts. Either way, it comes as something of a pleasant surprise to stumble across it in the heart of the city. Whether playing on it, in it, or with it, the sand is probably the biggest hit for the kids, of any age.

But our family is also partial to the patanque courts (bocce ball).

This year's nods to culture include an exhibit of bathing-themed works from the Louvre. It's an original exhibit, but not an exhibit of originals: the paintings are printed on weatherproof, waterproof tenting.

And, even more striking, an Eiffel Tower comprised of 324 bistro chairs, celebrating the 125th anniversary of both the Tower and the bistro chair.  


It lasts for about a month, from mid-June through mid-August each year. And everything, including the patanque courts and fresh drinking water, is provided for free. Well, everything except the snacks -- all very healthy, as you can see.

THE CHEESE: Tomme Brulée

The "brulée" in Tomme Brulée, as in popular dessert crème brulée, means "burned". And burned it is. To start with, it's just a regular raw sheep's milk fat disk, known as a tomme. Then, at the end of the approximately three-month aging period, it's burned in much the same way the crème brulée is: with a naked flame.

Like so many sheep cheeses, it comes from the Basque region, from the foot of the Mont Baigura. The milk comes from the local breeds: Basco Béarnaise, and red-headed and black-headed Manech.
The twenty of us tasting it mostly agree that it's very striking, very well-named, and very unusual in appearance, but also that the taste doesn't live up to the hype. It's a pretty regular, hard-but-moist, mellow sheep's cheese, and both the cheese itself and the crust are very mild. The hint of burnt taste doesn't go far enough, in my mind.


"Brulée" is "burned", and now so are a lot of pasty-white city folks sunbathing along the quai of the Seine, thanks to Paris Plage.


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