Dec 20, 2014

Twinkle, Twinkle: Le Lunaire


Paris: City of Light. But City of Christmas Lights? Not so much. Paris is not a city that screams "Christmas!" -- it barely even whispers it. I'd say the city looks 95% unchanged for the holidays (the upside of this is I don't have Jingle Bells burnout), but still, we find our niches for holiday cheer. As good luck would have it, one of the few Christmassy and twinkly places in the city each year is right outside our window.

Literally outside our window, in this case: some of the lights strung up on Ile St. Louis are actually anchored to our balcony.


Our little corner of the island is a-glow, night...

...and day, especially since the daylight is so short-lived at this point: around 8:45am through 4:45pm. Even when it is "light", it tends to be gray, dark, and the sun is so low in the sky it feels like night is imminent. The lights are almost always on.

But the pockets of holiday bling are isolated, and subdued when you find them: the big city tree at Notre Dame, of course. Every year, they do the tree differently -- very vertically aligned this year compared to years past.
And the annex building of Hôtel de Ville, in the Marais.

Some of the stores have some Christmas spirit (the Galeries Lafayette most of all) but mostly on the inside. Except, that is, for the single brightest place this season -- the Ginza strip of Paris -- the Champs-Elysées.
It's not just the lights that make it so Ginza-esque: It's also the fact that the it's such a shopping zone and tourist destination for the dropping of the holiday euros, which is of course why the bright lights are there in the first place. They enhance the shopping experience with temporary Christmas markets.

When I think of Christmas lights, I think of houses done up in suburbs around the US, or Rockefeller Center in New York City, or the entire city of London. Paris may disappoint you. But if you're in Paris for the holidays, and need a little twinkle and bling, now you'll now where to go.

THE CHEESE: Le Lunaire

Suddenly, I am seeing this cheesemaker everywhere: Le fromagerie du Thouet. That's probably because he's started making cheeses under the name and guidance of Marie Cantin, one of the brightest stars among Parisian cheesemongers, and selling them at Monoprix, one of the biggest (and nicest) grocery story chains in France.

This cheese, Le Lunaire ("The Lunar"), is a raw goats' milk cheese, hand-ladled into molds in Azay-sur-Thouet, in Poitou-Charentes. This goat cheese may be one of the rare goat cheeses from that region that I won't rave about: the name may be lunar, but I think you'd be a lunatic to seek it out. Unless you really, really like plain cream cheese, that is, and enjoy spending a little more for the same taste.

It has a lovely texture -- thick, sliceable and spreadable. But the taste is bland. Not just bland, BLAND. It is less salty and less flavorful, if that's possible, than classic Philadelphia cream cheese. It works fine for texture under a honey or jam, but even then it's hard to get too excited about it. The most telling thing is that even with my daughters around, they just don't want to eat it, and they will normally devour creamy, mild goat cheese. Mild is one thing; this is something milder than that.

Other cheeses from this farm, made under the auspices of Marie Cantin, have a little more sparkle to them.


Q: What sparkles, occasionally, in the Parisian night besides the (occasional) Christmas lights?

A: The moon, of course. And in this case, the Lunaire body really is made of cheese.


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