April 11, 2014

Goat Cheese

On a hilly farm in the tiny village of Blancey, Sébastien Roussel, a 30-ish guy, owns and operates a goat farm. With his herd of a couple dozen goats (plus the necessary bucks), he makes cheese, yogurt, fromage blanc, and other little tidbits from goat milk.

Fresh cheese in molds
He grew up an hour or so away from Blancey, but has no roots there, no family, no traditions. It is strikingly courageous in rural France to find anyone (much less a young bachelor) who has the desire to move away from the comforts of home into a new place and start something as audacious and back-breaking as milking goats. He admits he works all the time. It is a one-man show, with the exception of an intern. He sells at markets in the region as well as a couple of conveniently accessible supermarkets, and welcomes visitors/consumers to the farm every Wednesday evening.

Kids go for 3-4 euros each to other farmers
On a recent visit, he gave an extensive tour of the operation, including the milking parlor (which holds 12 goats at a time); the chicken coop, whose population was recently reduced by a dozen thanks to a local fox; the cheese making room, an immaculate white ode to cheese; the different aging rooms, whose temperature is controlled by old-school oscillating fans); and of course the goats, for whom he whistles. 

They come bounding down the hill towards the trough he has just filled. Sébastien points out that, unlike cows, goats are curious and will come right up for a nuzzle or a pat. Because there is not a lot of goat cheese production in the region, the locals have been more curious than threatened, a change from another region he has spent time in, where competition was fiercer and the welcome decidedly cooler.

And now you know where goat cheese comes from
Back in the store, he dips a mi-frais into a Tupperware of garlic and fine herbs, just one of the several options available. Coupled with some yogurts, the astonishingly beautiful countryside, and the kind of conversation one can only get from a young guy who works all day on a farm by himself milking goats, it is a great afternoon and a little treasure in Côte d'Or.

What: Goat cheese farm
Where: Blancey, Côte d’Or, Burgundy
When: Wednesdays from 6-8pm at the farm; at the Pouilly-en-Auxios market Friday evenings and the Saulieu market on Saturday mornings
How Much: Cheeses are 2 euros

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