Candes Saint-Martin, my favourite spot in La Touraine.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Musical Cheeses – part 1

One of my very first posts when I started this blog in May last year, was dedicated to the annual Brass Band Festival in Amboise. One of the most remarkable instruments in a brass brand is undoubtedly the sousaphone or helicon. Every self-respecting brass band or village fanfare has at least one.

“L’ Hélicon”, however, is also the name of one the village restaurants we’ve discovered during our return journeys from the Loire Valley. Finding it was pure luck, as it is situated way off the main road. In fact, we were attracted by the name of the village in which it is located: Chaumes-en-Brie, Chaumes and Brie being the names of two cheeses that have strictly nothing to do with each other.

The Brie region is part of the Seine-et-Marne department, East of Paris. It has given its name to a creamy white-crusted cheese which boasts the AOC-label ‘Brie de Meaux’, Meaux being the region’s main city. The Brie cheese is almost as famous as the Camembert from Normandy. Their texture is slightly similar and they both are at their best when they are well ripened and somewhat runny.

Now as far the Chaumes cheese is concerned, that’s a completely different matter. It is made by the “Fromageries des Chaumes” which is situated on the western side of the Pyrenees mountain ridge that forms the border between France and Spain.

Chaumes is an orange-crusted cheese. During the ripening process it is regularly washed and rinsed in a mixture of brine and some controlled bacteria, giving it its typical colour and flavour. Under its orange crust it hides a creamy golden texture. The taste is soft and yet very distinctive.

So, imagine our surprise when one year when driving through the Seine-and-Marne department, we saw a signpost indicating the village of Chaumes-en-Brie some 12 kilometres off the main road to Coulommiers, where another famous French cheese by the same name is produced. Curious and hungry – it was almost one o’clock – we decided to go and take a closer look at this village with its intriguing name.

After driving up and down a winding road, we arrived at a bridge. A sign indicated that the stream beneath it was called the Yerres. On the other side of the bridge was a “Logis de France” hotel called “La Chaume’Yerres”. This is a clever play of words as the French word ‘Chaumière’, which is pronounced in exactly the same way, means ‘Tatched house’. Although it looked very inviting, it was a bit too posh to have a simple lunch.

A bit further up the road we saw another discrete neon sign, indicating the presence of another restaurant: “L’Hélicon”. Although the exterior looked a bit run down, the menu was very attractive. So we parked the car in the nearby church square and walked over to the restaurant.
(to be continued)



chm said...

Can't wait for the next post about the Hélicon if my internet connection behaves.

There are three Brie cheeses: le Brie de Meaux, le Brie de Melun and le Brie de Coulommiers.

Jean said...

Chaumes is one of my favourite cheeses.

ladybird said...

Chm, Lovely to read you! As far as Brie is concerned, did you know there is a 4th one (maybe it's not AOC???) as you will discover in tomorrow's post!

Jean, Chaumes is a very nice cheese indeed and I used to be very fond of it until a friend of mine had a very bad experience with a slice of Chaumes that she had bought at the local supermarket (PS. I don't know who was to blame !). In order not to offend my readers, I prefer not to go into details :))