two things that i have discovered for which The Internet is not very good:
1. finding a decent cocktail bar in Montréal (does such a thing exist? and i don’t mean that Mixologist Circus Nonsense, i mean a decently classy place where they know what they’re doing and one can ape the nouveaux riche and order a Manhattan in a rocks glass unmolested)
2. identifying and researching cheese. i mean, What’s Up With That. even french wikipedia is of limited utility, and i was pretty sure cheese was the entire reason that thing was invented.
on the topic of which, some cheeses i have recently eaten and enjoyed –
– a raw milk camembert which i believe is called, let’s say, Philippe 1er. it was or is currently on sale at La Vieille Europe (3855 st-laurent), which for all its fanciness is actually pretty reasonable with a lot of its not inconsiderable selection of cheese and charcuteries. the cheese was not so smelly, i believe cow milk, and surprisingly strong in a pungent, mushroomy, almost truffly fashion, and i think would go very well with the same, on toast or something. highly recommended, although i apologize that i cannot do better than this for help in identifying it:
–Brin d’Affinois – another soft, washed rind cow’s milk cheese (this one pasteurized, however), with a little of that slight ammonia smell that often deceptively emanates from bries that just taste like smooth delicious butter, which this one does! i picked it up for something like 6$ at La Foumagerie (4906 sherbrooke O.), and it oozes like a motherfucker, but i must admit, goes less well with the honey figs i bought to accompany it. my fault, not the cheese’s, i shouldn’t think. i just don’t know what i’m doing.
similar in price and taste, which for a while they were inexplicably giving away free at IGA with bottles of some horrible new zealand wine (which actually worked out rather well, because at 11ish dollars, it was like buying the cheese for 5 bucks and getting a tolerable bottle of white cooking wine for 6$. or if you please, the cheese at a steal of a deal for 4$ and said bottle of wine for 7$, etc etc), is Champfleury, a Québecois cheese which you can find just about anywhere.
– Perron. this is news i imagine to no one who lives in Québec, but this cheese is great. i’d had it served cold with olives at Cheval Blanc a couple of times and liked it fine with an IPA or even a stout (which apparently goes against the usual cheese-beer pairing logic, but obviously who cares), but then just this past weekend i was in Sherbrooke (let’s not get into why) and was recommended this microbrasserie called Siboire (which despite being in the train station was very fancy, and decorated somewhat shamefully to my tastes, utterly repellent to my companions. lots of exposed brick and copper and big ‘roughly hewn’ blocks of black wood for stools. totally cute.).
there i had (see above), along with a totally effing delicious IBA (India Brown Ale, which i’ve never heard of, tasting pleasingly like a cross between an IPA and an English brown ale) a grilled cheese sandwhich made with what i have to assume to be a mixture of Perron’s cheddar and swiss, because it certainly did not melt like cheddar cheese, fried supposedly in “beurre de foie gras,” although i can’t imagine that the foie gras content was very high as the sandwich only cost 6$. it was also served with pickles and a few olives, which further Made My Day.
this (the foie gras, not the pickles) caused no little consternation among my companions, manifested in two fashions (a lot pairs in this post, i’m noticing):
1. from one, the perfectly legitimate complaint articulated by my friend that like black truffles, foie gras is one of those ingredients tacked on to all manner of dishes in order to impart an air of the gourmet/another order of magnitude to the price tag. which complaint however is an offshoot of the (in my opinion less accurate) contention that neither of those things actually taste very good and that their consumption is solely conspicuous an act of social/economic self-marking, like drinking Vitamin Water or eating gold. while both of these foods certainly function in that manner, i do not believe that it is fair to reduce them to such a state. i do not care much for foie gras (the ethics thereof i won’t at the moment get into, but Mark Caro has a good book on it, and here’s an interesting note on the gastropolitical dimensions thereof by Rachel Laudan), but i do quite enjoy truffles, and while the economic processes of the valorization of artisanal foods do involves some chicken-bone-derived crazy mysticism, we still can’t farm truffles and since most of France got blown up there’s just not so many of them to go around, so combine that with a culture of luxurious excess, and you get mysterious stinking earth poops that are sometimes worth more than gold.
2. from the other, “Foie Gras? Fuck you, i hate you.”
– they (the bar) also served a Tortillon, a very salty, tough, braided cheese i’ve only seen so-called again at Cheval Blanc, and which in every other context seems to be known as Tressé or ‘Armenian string cheese.’ you can buy it around Montréal in middle-eastern grocery stores and most decent cheese shops, and it usually looks like a tight knot of fibrous cheese-rope (thick, like the kind of cheese rope you’d use to moor some manner of cracker-boat), speckled with little black cumin/nigella seeds that give it a hard to define yet unmistakable taste which i’ve heard described as a savoury evocation of strawberries (maybe? well you can bet that if i did hear that somewhere, it wasn’t in those exact words, but i’m pretty sure that’s what they said)! otherwise, it reminds one quite a bit of Halloum or Akawi, and like those, it is also fryable (although beware, owing to the thinness of the individual strands, it crisps up pretty fast. also, once it’s out of its packaging, don’t keep it in water like i did, otherwise it’ll swell up and be Totally Gross)!
confused by the name, which appears to be specific to Québec microbrasseries, and totally unhelped by The Internet (thanks for nothing, information cloud), i eventually via resort to the Paperpedia (aka uh, French Dictionary) managed to ook out that a tortillon in french refers to those little twisty circlets of fabric that one wears on one’s head in order to carry about a pot or basket or whathaveyou.
this may not seem like an impressive amount of research to y’all, but do appreciate that for one of such meagre bilingual means as myself, the definition of tortillon as a “bourrelet qu’on pose sur la tête pour porter un fardeau” did not constitute the end of my inquiry.
so consequently, i suspect the name derives from those thingers which….uh, Armenians presumably use? i’m willing to believe that this is the kind of thing that Québecois believe, although if there are any actual francophones out there who want to debunk this notion, i would be grateful as alllllll hell.