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Oct 20, 2014

Non-professional Seafood: Tommette de Chèvre

THE STORY:

When you see this sign: "Exceptional Mussels Amateurs Should Meet Chez Léon!", you do not need to run in fear. These are not, in fact, non-professional seafood chefs or what we would call "amateurs". These are meant to be "amateurs", the French word, which comes from the same root as "aimer" ("to love") and means "lovers of" or "fans".

 

You'll find that many of the most exclusive wines, food products, and even cultural activities (operas, ballets, etc.) will use this word: "Perfect for amateurs of ...!"

So if you are a seafood fan, you can try the mussels at this restaurant (according to their own ad, that is). I'm still hoping the chefs are paid professionals.

THE CHEESE: Tommette de Chèvre

Tommette de Chèvre, sometimes simply written as Tommette Chèvre, is just what it sounds like: a small wheel of hard goat cheese. It comes from Savoie and Haute Savoie in eastern France, near the Swiss / German borders and Alps country. When I say small: a regular tomme might be the size of a small car wheel, or at least a bowling ball. This cute tommette, on the other hand, is about the size of a grapefruit.


Generally a farmhouse cheese, as is the case with the sample Anthony brings home from a trip to mountain country, it's made from pressed, cooked, raw goats' milk. It's then aged 1-2 months, at which point it has formed the thick, chalky gray crust that is one of its most obvious characteristics. Frankly, I could have written that "thick, chalky, gray crust" as well. It's not just the color, but also the texture that's chalky. I may not know you that well, or even at all, but I'm pretty sure you don't want to eat the crust.


The cheese itself is more creamy and moist than crumbly with a mild goat taste. When goat cheese gets very hard and aged like this, it reminds me a little bit of Parmesan, and this one is no exception: a bit salty and nutty. But this is milder than a good Parmesan -- a simple, rural cheese that seems like the kind of thing Heidi might have eaten with her grandfather.

THE CONNECTION:

You will frequently see cheeses described as being perfect for "amateurs" -- amateurs of goat cheese, for example. In my case, it's really true in both senses: I am both an amateur (in French, a fan of) goat cheese and also an unpaid, non-professional goat-cheese-eater.

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