Sep 14, 2014

Mainely French: Ty-Pavez


There's a lot about Dinard and the Breton coast that reminds me of our near-annual family trips to visit my sister's family in Maine. And it's not just the cold water. The craggy coast has a lot to do with it. Dotted with tiny offshore rocky outposts, it's the kind of coastline that lends itself more to contemplation, art, and fresh air than to sunbathing and snorkeling.

Where there's a rocky coast, there are tide pools.

A low-tide favorite: digging their own hot tub. Which is actually a cold tub, of course. But after all that digging, it probably feels pretty refreshing, especially when you need to wash off all the sand. Wash it off in the sandy cold tub, that is.

Instead of Maine lobster, the local catch here is moules (mussels). We eat plenty, though not actually ones that we find ourselves. We're quite content to play at the beach, and buy our mussels at the market.


To my surprise, this isn't the kind of place that eats seaweed. Pity, because it looks like we could collect plenty of that without any effort at all.

Where there are tide pools, there are tides and, evidently, boats parked on mud. But this low tide phenomenon won't last long; they'll be floating again soon. The high and low tides here can be very extreme. Entire beaches, along with docks, sidewalks, and even roads, appear and disappear.

Along with the expected ocean-dwellers (boats, mussels, seaweed), a small fox lives along the beautiful Dinard coast, in an alcove right there next to the beach.
But this isn't Maine. Besides the French everywhere, the bakeries, the Breton crêpes, and the moules frites (mussels and fries), I'm constantly reminded of that fact simply by looking across at the medieval walls of St. Malo.
The unusual name of this cheese is thanks to the local dialect. Where you see "ty", it basically means "chez" -- "home of" or "house". It's a hard, local cheese made from raw cows' milk with seaweed.
That makes it one of the more unusual cheeses I've tried, but not the best. It's rubbery and flavorless, frankly. Even the salt you'd expect from the seaweed and cheese combination doesn't come through. When I say bland, I mean really quite bland. It's all chew and no "wow".

I say I'm surprised that people don't eat seaweed here, but I'm even more surprised to find seaweed in a local cheese. My French friends and I all agree, wholeheartedly, that it doesn't really belong in a cheese and that it mostly serves as a gimmick to get tourists to buy it. Well, it certainly works for me; I buy a piece specifically because of the seaweed, even though it ends up tasting like nothing.


  1. At the risk of being a pedant, it's "mussels", not "muscles". :) Otherwise, loving your mini-essays!

    1. Thank you, Dan the lawyer. I think I love you. I've gone back and corrected that. I'd like to blame it on living in France too long, but the truth is I think I've always just pictured that word written like its homonym. Now I know!


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