Oct 31, 2014

Intolerance Intolerant: Façon Brie de Chèvre


Just before my breast cancer diagnosis (so no relation, honestly), Anthony reads the related books The China Study and Whole and suddenly decides to adopt a whole-grain, plant-based, near-vegan diet. Within a week, the girls cry -- actual, literal tears streaming down their faces -- when Anthony brings out a quinoa salad and roasted vegetables to the dinner table. "No more quinoa! No more lentils! My God, we need real food!"

I turn to Anthony and say, "I'm sure I should support you and criticize them for being picky or ungrateful. But I gotta tell you: I can't stand it anymore either. I'm so sick of these grains, and I'm hungry all the time." Ironically, Anthony was always the one I was afraid to send to the grocery store because he would come back with some horrible processed snack food, and I've always been the vegeholic and (moderate) health-foodie, so this is a turn around.

While we've brought back "cheating" food (and some chocolate chip cookies along with a little fish, chicken, cheese, duck liver pate, and heavy cream), it's mostly -- though not exclusively -- the girls and I that are doing the "cheating".

Sure, you can write it all off as us just being a stereotypical Bay Area pseudo-vegetarian, health-food, crunchy granola family. But the truth is, this is a trend that's growing in France. Growing more slowly than in the US and the Bay Area specifically, but growing nonetheless. Look, here's a menu offering not just lentilles (mis-translated as "lens") but also wheat mix or quinoa. It's enough to make our girls weep.

While I can still invite 12 children over (or adults, for that matter) for a birthday party lunch and have not one single special dietary request (yes: I can serve meat, white flour, refined sugar, dairy, and nuts!), I do know of a couple of people who eat exclusively gluten-free. They are French (identical twins) and actually, medically unable to eat gluten. But the difference is that I rarely see "gluten-free" touted to the mass market. Certainly the "organic" thing -- called "bio" -- is here in full force, however.
As far as I can tell, a French host wouldn't normally ask if there are dietary restrictions, and a French guest just expects to eat whatever you serve them. It's quite refreshing actually (until somebody tries to serve me veal brains, that is). The French continue, for the most part, merrily on their way, eating white bread just oozing with gluten and refined white flours along with white sugar and a whole lot of dairy.
We now have almond milk in our fridge, along side some fabulous cows' milk cheeses. It's a bizarre mixture. When I tell my friends that Anthony's on a push to get us to eat pseudo-vegan, one moans, "Just don't try any soy cheeses for your blog. If they make a cheese out of soybeans, I don't want to know about it." Well, they do make a curdled, strained soybean product in the same manner as a cheese: it's called tofu. I genuinely like tofu, but make no mistake: it's no cheese substitute, and I won't be including it as a cheese on my blog.
When the quinoa and lentils (beans, not contact lenses, that is) get to be too much, I believe that this is the antidote: the ty-kouign (more regularly called "kouign-amann" and pronounced "queen-ya-MAHN"). Absolutely chock-full of white flour, refined sugar, and about a billion pounds of cows' milk, full-fat butter, there is quite possibly absolutely not one thing about this dessert that is good for you. Except for the fact that it is delicious.

THE CHEESE: Façon Brie de Chèvre

The cheese is labeled "Fromage de Chèvre Fermier au Lait Cru" which means, somewhat generically, "Raw Milk Farmhouse Goat Cheese", but it is called "Façon Brie de Chèvre" (meaning "Goat Cheese in the Style of Brie") by the farmer that makes it in Saint-Julien-aux-Bois in the department of Corrèze, region of Limousin, in southern France. So who am I to argue with the creator and crafter of this cheese? He even raises the goats himself, along with his wife.

Looking like a small flatbread, it's not nearly as thick as a real Brie, nor is it as firm. Really, it doesn't particularly look like a Brie, but it's made using the same methods as a Brie -- but with goats' milk instead of cows' milk. That's because, as the farmer tell me, "I started having problems digesting cows' milk. It's really not meant for humans to consume cows' milk. Goats' and sheep' milk is much better for the human body. That's all my wife and I eat now, and we feel so much better!" I know I'm on the outskirts of Paris, looking at French products, but I'm beginning to feel like I'm back in San Francisco. Oh yeah, and the cheese is organic, too.

I'm standing in a market that brings together French cheese, meats, and artisanal products, but they're not all this alternative -- literally, in this case, offering alternative ingredients to up the health quotient of the product. For example, I also try (and buy) some caramel sauces from Dame Rhubarbe. Which are not healthy at all. Take that veganism!

The Façon Brie de Chèvre doesn't really taste exactly like a Brie, but it does have a deeply golden, buttery color and flavor that certainly make it seem more like a Brie than a goat cheese log, for example. It's got a strong flavor, salty and tangy, but not terribly like goat. So all in all, I call the milk replacement experiment a success, and if you're looking for the feeling of a great cows' milk cheese without the cows' milk, it's a good place to start.


It's so Bay Area, frankly: a cheese made in the style of another cheese in order to use one type of milk that is perceived to have better health benefits; it's the same concept as tofurkey or nutloaf. And, like almond milk, a Brie made of goat milk (organic, of course) is great for people who are allergic, intolerant, or simply imagine themselves to be incapable of digesting cows' milk.


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