”It is so easy to get lost – a scenery with melodic hills, 3m3 fog, grabbing conversation on France Culture and there you are – driving in a completely unknown direction.” I am thinking about this and it is already happening.
At this time of year, the fogs are permanent.
“In this season fogs look like enormous clouds of sour goat milk. Like ghosts, who flutter their ethereal transparency, but once you come closer, you see how rather thick and quite real they are.”
Do I care wheater it is really so cold outside and everything is frozen frost! It’s just that due to the poor visibility, the car barely moves. The milkiness around me is getting thicker and thicker, and for a moment I catch myself in a daydream in which I dig a hole in the fog with a teaspoon – I dig just enough for a goat’s head to go thrоugh. I am thinking about it and it is already happening.
A clever snout with kind and lively eyes looks at me through the windshield. And if this is a mirage, it has now tripled – further away a second and a third goat head appears. I am surrounded by a peaceful herd – they ramble in the fog just like me.
It is easy to get lost – you just need some spare time; and to find your way after that – a nose with a good sense of smell. This is exactly what happens to me in this strange November morning: in my long way back to Bordeaux I find myself right in the heart of the softest milkiness.
First is the sign «La Ferme du Chatain», then – the silhouette of a woman, and finally – the contours of the building behind her. This encounter and all the encounters this morning bring a sense of something unexpected. The woman is Laure Fourgeaud, an emblematic figure in the French goat cheese production. She and her husband Laurent are the owners of «La Ferme du Chatain».
“On the 7th of November, according to the Chinese calendar, the winter officially starts. This season is ruled by the female principle Yin. The moon, the night, the darkness, the cold and the ice are also related to this principle, as well as some foods. During the period Yin we need more of the Yang elements to bring warmth to our bodies. And since we speak about cheese, it will be interesting to mention that of all cheeses only the goat cheese belongs to the Yang group, while the cow and the sheep cheese are Yin.
Well, it looks like this road, by its own device, has taken me straight into the soul of the French goat cheese tenderness, to «La Ferme du Chatain».”
I tell this story to my daughter and, meanwhile, I carefully arrange on the table the precious tiny figures of goat cheese. I am sure she already thinks that I am using this story as bait for her to taste my new findings.
“And then?” – an unexpected question. – “There is so much aroma in these forms!”
“Well, there you go – architectonics of taste! Architectonics of taste, darling!”
ARCHITECTONICS OF TASTE
As a top climber among the mammals, the goat can reach heights where no human can get. This is a particularly important skill when looking for food – known as one of the cleanest animals in the wild, the goat’s climbing skills help this animals reach the fresh new buds of the shrub and tree branches, as well as the freshest new vegetation – all untouched. The domestic goat never eats food from the ground, nor from dirty human hands. Therefore, the goats require living conditions with an exceptional hygiene, as well as calm and kind attitude – this is essential for the sensitive goat nature.
In Philosophy, Architectonics is the scientific and natural coordination of all parts that make up a system. It is about the Art of the system, with its prescriptions and structure.
In the Gastronomic Art, Architectonics is the construction of an absolute symbiosis of primary products, their combinations, the methods of their processing, and the creation of a completely coherent new product. It is about the Art to combine tastes, textures, create new ones based on certain rules, and break them down without disturbing the sense of harmony.
THE BASE: NATURE AND CHOICE
In “La Ferme du Chatain” everything is a matter of precise choice – the Anglo-Nubian goat breed is known for its lower productivity, but at the same time with the exceptional quality of its milk which is richer and fatter, in short – the ideal one. Dried alfalfa, corn, broad beans, spelt, barley and oats, grown according to the requirements of organic farming, are the goats’ main food. Bred in a relaxed setting and cared for with love, goats live on “their” farm!
Such a serious occupation as the raising of animals and the production of cheese and dairy products must be necessarily backed up by solid knowledge – after obtaining a professional certificate for the breeding of small ruminants from Lycée Agricole in Coulounieix-Chamiers, Laure Fourgeaud devoted herself to the study of cheese making techniques in the École Nationale d’industrie laitière Aurillac. In the search for better and better flavors, Laure and Laurent have equipped their farm with a lab. This is where under the master’s hands true masterpieces are born!
A LABYRINTH OF TASTES. THE FINDING.
“One literally gets lost in this Cité des fromages!”
“Let’s make a map!”
We decided to describe the labyrinth.
“Where to start, how to go on and what is the last point in this journey of tastes…?”
As we know from the fairy tales – in every story there are helpers :-). My helper in this case isn’t anyone else, but Laure Fourgeaud herself. During our meeting, she gave me directions on the order of tasting. We just have to follow them, armed with a sharp knife, a nose, and a palate. And here is our map:
1. Round Goat cheese, natural flavour:
Ivory colored thin natural rind of white mould (with some blue touches which indicates the ageing). The pâte is soft ; with a marble-like texture, while the taste is tangy and pleasant, with long and nutty finish.
2. Long Goat Log, natural flavour:
With soft ribbed rind ; the outer ivory layer is creamy rich. The brighter white interior is tender, still creamy and spreadable but we can observe that with aging it became more firm and chalky. The taste is evocative of gentle flavour of goat milk, buttery, slightly tangy and sweet.
3. Long Goat Log, covered with charcoal powder:
The ribbed rind of natural mould is much firmer like that of the Goat Log natural flavour, covered in salted powdered charcoal which is edible ; it appears dry. The pâte is fine textured, smooth and firm. The cheese is mature, balanced, round, with salt sourness, and walnuts/hazelnuts aromas.
4. Truncated Pyramid, covered with charcoal powder:
It reminds the ‘ Truncated Pyramid of Valençay’, it is shaped in the way it was done by Napoleon (according the legend !) .* With a dry and firm texture and covered with powdered charcoal rind of natural mould. The cheese has a mild, buttery taste, tangy and fresh.
* It is said that the cheese in question was originally shaped like a perfect pyramid. On his return from from the disastrous campaign in Egypt, Napoléon stopped at the castle of Valençay and seeing the cheese that reminded him of the Egyptian pyramids, in rage chopped the top off with his sword.
5. Goat Round, covered with Salish Salt:
Cheese with a firm rind of natural mould covered with Salish salt.
The tradition to smoke the natural Pacific salts comes from the time before Columbus and it was brought namely by a tribe called Salish. They had settled on the teritory of the state of Washington and had practiced it with special cares. The salts are extremely specific because of their nature : they are slowly smoked over Red Alderwood and absorb the full flavours of it.
The salt is not incorporated to the cheese body, it only covers the rind by bringing its specific aromas and flavours. The interior is bright white, slightly creamy ; the texture is firm and smooth. Even though the high salting power of the Salish salt, here it is perfectly balanced and keeps the ‘goaty’ flavours and the tender hints of acidity; it has a unique characteristic, uniting the flavours of butter and cream along with a long remarcable finish.
Wine & Cheese pairing 1: In my opinion, the wine that matches perfectly with these 5 cheese is Château Carbonnieux Blanc, 2015. Extremely expressive on nose & palate, with a beautiful mineral vertical structure, remarcable aftertaste with a refreshing acidity, an absolute harmony is created between these two refined creatures.
6. Goat cheese wrapped in a chestnut leaf:
My GOATCHEESEHEART is melting ! It is good enough to carefully unfold this mervelous creativity and to taste it, slowly !
The cheese is wrapped in a case of chestnut leaf, held in place with raffia. The leaves used by Laure are collected personally by her in the forest of the farm. The casing of leaves protects the washed-rind disc and allows the young, slightly acidic cheese to remain moist. The texture is creamy, smooth and sticky, the colour is tenderly creamy white ; it has strong fruity and woody flavours.
7. Goat Cheese with incorporated Saffron:
With soft ribbed rind and creamy pâte in which the saffron is incorporated ; in the pastel yellowish-orange shades of the saffron colour. Refined and perfectly balanced : the saffron aromas and flavours are melting into the velvety texture in an absolute harmony. The body is soft and slightly sticky, spreadable. The saffron appears on the mid palate and remains present on it in a long aftertaste.
8. Goat Cheese with incorporated Hot Pepper:
Similar visual aspect to the previous cheese (with the incorporated saffron): the texture is refinеd, creamy; the rind is soft, in the pastel shades of rose shrimp colour. The sensation of the pepper comes smoothly on the palate- it is a harmonious velvety blend of cream and spice with an extremely long aftertaste.
9. Smoked Goat Cheese :
Firm and coloured in smoky-creamy shades rind. The texture is very smooth and firm as well. On the palate is dense and rich, the smoke is in a perfect balance with the creaminess, it is persistant and brings us to an enormous aftertaste.
Wine & Cheese pairing 2: I chose the sweet wine of Château Rieussec, 2011 to accompany the last 4 cheeses . The nose is gently woody, with beautiful honeysuckle and accaia flowers notes and delicate aromas of a very swwet and ripen pear. It builds up a wonderful harmony with the saffron, with the spice of the chilli, the Salish salt and the smoke by giving even more character to them!
I truly believe that professionals like Laure Fourgeaud are real inspirational for the others! The first feeling I have had when I met her was that she is absolutely passionate person. And she transmited this passion to me: I foolishly felt in love with her cheeses! Then one day, tasting again and again the precious goat creatures, the inspiration grabbed me and with one of them, the Long Goat Log, natural flavour, I have created a new recipe for a dessert. Here it is:
THE HEART OF THE ROSE
Wine & Cheese pairing 3: At the end, I chose the Armagnac du Collectionneur of Ryst-Dupeyron to accompagny my dessert. Round, fruity, gourmand: bee wax, crème brûlée and cacao- in a delicious match with my fantastic creature!
And if you would love to read more about the universe and the work of Laure Fourgeaud, you can find it in her book: « MES CHÈVRES« . Instructive & Enjoyable!!!