Tag Archives: french cheese

Team Castelli at the cheese fair

Slow Food Cheese stash 2015

Slow Food Cheese, (Bra, Piemonte) – it just keeps getting better and better. A pity that this occasion happens only every 2 years because like all the fairs before this one, Cheese 2015 had us sniffing, tasting, and buying a good variety of items that we probably would’ve never seen in our lifetime. The weather was ideal – sunny yet cool – on our late Sunday afternoon and Monday morning visit, and for whatever it’s worth, we now know that Monday (the last day of the fair) is waaay less crowded than the weekend. We even scored some freebies!

The new addition this year were food trucks to help sate the appetites of the masses. Beer on tap at the beer piazza and Ales&Co booth were very popular stops, while the street food vendors pumped out lots of fried things. Switzerland did not make a repeat appearance with their raclette station this time around, so I’m really happy that I got to make a video of them in 2013. Oh why, Switzerland, why? I was looking forward to some melting cheesy goodness!

As Team Castelli is comprised of a foursome, I gotta say that the dynamic duo were patient and well-behaved although the doxie was shaking in his boots. People kept asking me why I would put a muzzle on a little dog (like I was mean or something). At first I replied that he bites when stressed, but eventually switched to “because he eats all the shit on the ground”. With a knowing nod of their heads they believed that response over the biting issue. He didn’t get to be toted along in the trolley, but to make up for all his troubles, I let him nap on the Spun chair that was in our b&b. Look at the westie sleeping like an angel. Tired and stuffed from sneaking cheese scraps on the ground.

Mister having fun in the Spun Sleeping Westie on a Spun

It’s all about personal taste when it comes to cheese and ours run along the more pungent notes. More photos can be seen in my album on Flickr but rest assured that this isn’t the last you’ve seen of cheese on my blog. Just yesterday we attended a cheese sagra and bought – you might have already guessed it – MORE CHEESE!

Provence unpacked

Baguettes for the freezer, wine, a couple of rose plants and various only-in-France items. The difference between two days in Provence (compared to last year’s 6) is going home with less stuff. The flipside to that is that less becomes more with every bite of cheese, every sip of wine, and everytime I lick my fingers clean of those potato chip flavors that aren’t available in Italy. A visit to Le Petit Jabron’s farm is totally optional as their products are sold at Super U (large shopping center just north of Sisteron). For yummy sandwiches, breads and desserts, Boulangerie Marie Blachère in Peipin is excellent, and so is the Intermarché next door.

Cheese purchases in Provence
On the board…an assortment of goat cheese from Le Petit Jabron

Provence unpacked 2014
I have a real weakness for new potato chip flavors, and the Wasabi one was spicy!

Radis noir
What, you never seen a black radish before? It isn’t hot like the smaller red radishes, and it’s probably a little old since the interior was a bit woody.

Not yet lavender time in Banon
Having found the perfect petit village that is Cruis, maybe there’ll be a same time next year?

les Goats N’ Roses (part 2)

Abbaye de Valsaintes
View large
Left: Le Berger; top right: small section of the rose path; bottom right: hummingbird moth

Moth is an aficionado of roses, so when I learned that the Abbaye de Valsaintes cultivated several HUNDRED varieties to admire and perhaps even purchase, I didn’t even bother asking if he wanted to have a look. Situated just southeast of Simiane-la-Rotonde on the D18, it’s about another 2.5 km inland on a narrow access road. Dogs allowed (on leash) and the price for the entrance fee is only 6.50€ for adults.

Abbaye de Valsaintes lavender
Lavender?!? – view large | Top left: the abbey’s 17th century church.

Most likely due to its warmer and drier climate (the abbey sits in a natural “bowl”), this was the only place where we saw lavender in bloom. Ok just patches of it, but finally, lavande! On the other hand, many of the rose blossoms seemed to have succumbed to the heat, so it wasn’t as lush and vibrant as we had expected. A good thing we could retreat into the cool interior of the church, where a collection of present-day stained glass windows added a touch of color to the walls. Upon admission at the garden entrance, you receive a pamphlet that tells a bit more about Valsaintes history, like the fact that monks once called this place home until the French Revolution in 1789!

Les vitraux
Les vitraux – view large

Leaving Valsaintes smelling like roses (quite literally!), we headed out to find a picnic spot. Nailed all the essentials: wine, cheese, a baguette, sweets and something that I had never tried before – brindille, a very long and thin dried sausage from Melchio’s charcuterie in Banon. We always plan ahead, from the folding picnic table and chairs to the cheese knife, but everyone knows that the french are the true picnic pros, n’est-ce pas?

A birthday picnic in France

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”
~ Virginia Woolf

Have you had your banon today?

Made from unpasteurized goat’s milk and wrapped in chestnut leaves, banon is pungent and deliciously creamy. It is one of our favorite french cheeses, and come to think of it, we really should’ve bought more than just seven.