I know that doctors often talk about how many people get depressed during the holidays. I’ve never experienced this, especially since I’m usually working a lot and running around like crazy. I don’t even find time to think about being down at this time of year. I’ve always been far from home during the holidays, but I find light and energy from the city of Paris and the comfort from friends and my French in-laws to get through this period.
But how about asking me how I feel the first week of January? The desiccated tree is put out on the sidewalk, the leftovers that are languishing in the fridge have been dumped and the out of town visitors are all back home. This is when I feel down!
I think much of that is because the perpetual partying has stopped. I know it sounds crazy, but in Paris during December, one can truly drink champagne just about every day from the 15th through to the 31st (or 1st of January as a mimosa?). There’s always a holiday cocktail, party, dinner or just a random Tuesday night at home with friends. We don’t need an occasion to pop a cork here in Paris. It makes sense when you hear that 60% of all champagne is consumed here in France.
This merry-go-round of parties, good food and wine drops off abruptly on the 1st of January and it leaves many of us grappling with what to do and how to handle ourselves.
I say: have another party! It needn’t be a fancy dress affaire with luxurious products like truffles, caviar and foie gras. Why not just invite your friends over for a simple apéritif dinatoire and a fabulous cheese plate? Sit around the coffee table and catch up after the whirlwind of the holidays.
Cheese is usually served after our main dish in France as a way of digesting (the probiotics in the raw milk cheese do help wonders). You’d also find yourself pretty full if you descended on the cheese plate before dinner, which many of us nations other than France have experienced. But for this simple and casual January get together, make cheese the main attraction.
Here’s a list of 5 fabulous cheeses to put on your tray. If you can’t find these, don’t fret, simply take this list to your local cheese purveyor and he or she will help you find alternatives.
1. Vacherin Mont d’Or : this is an unctuous and creamy cow’s milk cheese from the Alps that is made only in the winter months. Take advantage of this, as it will only be around until February or early March!
2. Young ashed goat’s cheese such as bonde de gâtine or Saint Maure de Touraine – these lovely and light cheeses will be perfect after the holidays.
3. Comté : This is an all-around wonderful cheese and always is a hit with every one of all ages.
4. Ossau Iraty: This gloriously nutty sheep’s milk cheese is so easy to love. Pair with something slightly sweet like quince paste or black cherry jam.
5. Roquefort: this is the king of all cheeses. It’s rich, but the flavors so intense and satisfying. We don’t eat enough of this amazing cheese so start your year off right with a big hunk of it.
In light of the recent holiday gluttony, avoid having a specific wine for each cheese. Just serve one red and one white. A medium bodied red such as a Côtes du Rhône Villages or a Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley will be fabulous and offer some refreshment value against these cheeses. For the white, I’d opt for a crisp and mineral wine, such as a Riesling from Alsace or Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley.
With this array of cheeses, some nice bread, dried fruit and nuts and a big bowl of clementines, your friends will surely cheer you right up.
Don’t think the party is over! Before you know it, spring will be upon us and we will have lovely wines and new cheeses to look forward to!
Interested in French cooking classes in Paris? Book a class with Cook’n With Class Paris – small group sizes, classes all in English.