My backyard rosemary and lavender plants are fragrant. The sun is shining. Mon véranda is decorated. With products Made In France, you’re Made for Summer.
France season has officially arrived in my house.
Sure, you could say summer, but in LA summer is a long season. But France season? Oh, that’s the loveliest. There’s bright blue skies and always a whiff of flowers on the air. Our usually slow SoCal life gets a bit slower (’cause you’re gonna sweat through every last piece of clothing you own if you move too fast). “Oven-free” or “no-heat” dinners are a must.
Obviously, a French wine & cheese board isn’t the most original dinner. But who needs to break the mold when the individual ingredients are too good to mess with?
When I worked in the wine industry, the rule of thumb for food pairings was “eat what the people who make the wine eat.”
And that’s beyond easy to do when you’re working with wine made in France!
First up, one of my favorite wine labels- Georges DuBœuf (Zhorzhs Do Boof). You’ve seen their wines before when I recommended Beaujolais Nouveau for Thanksgiving. Georges DuBœuf is the KING of Beaujolais (bow zho lay)– an excellent value wine, made from 100% gamay grapes (think a fruitier Pinot Noir).
But Georges DuBœuf produces wines in other regions, too. Pouilly-Fuissé (poo-yee foo-say) is a region in southern Burgundy that produces some of the world’s best Chardonnay.
Now let’s talk about a wine that makes my heart just sing: VOUVRAY! Hooray!
Saget La Perriere sent over a divine Vouvray (voo-vray), which is 100% chenin blanc, a grape that’s sorta under-used in American wine, IMHO.
Vouvray is made in France in the Loire Valley, a wine area of France American aficionados have been obsessing over for the past few years. It starts of with a dry, not-too-sweet taste, then blooms into tasting like honey or pears as it warms up in your mouth.
Now… what to eat?
A baguette, obviously. We picked up ours from La Brea Bakery in LA. Easy Peasy.
Then… the cheese.
Most people don’t know that cheese in France is almost as region-specific as wine. Each area where the cows are fed and the cheese is aged imparts a unique flavor on the cheese!
St. André is some heavenly cheese. It’s as smooth as butter, and just about as rich tasting. Made in Normandy, it has a saltiness on the tongue that’s literally from the sea breezes in the South of France. The center of the cheese is naturally smooth and spreadable, making this the ideal cheese for a party.
But I would be remiss if I didn’t spend time talking about my favorite thing I had for dinner: St. Agur blue cheese.
A rare blue cheese made from cow’s milk, the cows of St. Agur graze in Auverge, on over 120 different types of herbs and flowers– and you can actually taste them in the cheese.
The threads of mold (yeah, it’s mold, c’est la vie) are salty and briny and cut through the richness of the cheese. It pairs wonderfully with bold red wines.
I admit: I turned on my stove for this dinner. A cardinal sin when your central A/C is already working overtime. But I needed a little salty nosh to help highlight all the spectacular hidden flavors of French wine and cheese.
Enter: La Baleine. French salt.
“Do you really have to pay for French sea salt?” I hear you asking. (“Pay for” is a little harsh– it’s like $3.99.)
Well, yeah. Sustainably harvested from its sources, which are geographically-protected preserves, La Baleine’s salt is the original sea salt in America, hitting the market over 30 years ago! La Baleine’s grey sea salt is actually hand harvested, too, and the harvesting process releases no CO2 into the atmosphere. Like Champagne, Guerande French Grey Sea Salt is region specific, and can only come from Guerande.
To incorporate it into my dinner, I made French Toasted Almonds
- 1-2 tbsp quality olive oil
- 1/3 c raw almonds
- 2 tsp La Baleine Guerande French Grey Sea Salt
- 2 tsp Herbs de Provence
- In a small skillet over low heat, add 1-2 tbsp olive oil, until the bottom of your pan is covered. Add the almonds and shake the pan until covered in oil, and in one layer.
- Sprinkle with La Baleine Guerande French Grey Sea Salt to taste, then coat in Herbs de Provence.
- Toast lightly for 10 minutes, or until fragrant. Serve warm
Are you ready for France season?