The Washington Post broke a big story last week. A big story by foodie standards, that is. It seems that one of G.W. Bush’s last acts as our President was to levy taxes on luxury food products which are produced by and exported from European Union Nations. The focus of the WaPo’s story was Roquefort cheese, which will be taking the brunt of shit-stick by receiving a 300% tariff–effectively banning it’s export to the U.S.
Roquefort is a small village of 600 people and is located in the south of France. Some 4500 people herd ewes on 2100 farms in and around the Larzac Plain. Their beloved product and staple of their economy joins French truffles and Italian sparkling water but has the special designation of being the only product with a 300% duty.
This measure, seemingly an afterthought (like who cares about the people in France?-we only pretend to like you) smacks of “the Ugly American”. Bullies, who ever thought and still think that the term “Freedom Fries” is pithy. It isn’t, and it never was. Hopefully we can protest in support of Roquefort cheese and France’s ability to export it to the U.S. fairly. Roquefort has already survived here with tremendous popularity, despite having a 100% duty. The earthy, blue-veined, creamy cheese it worth it.
Local cheese shop owner, Jill Erber, wrote a response on the website of her shop, Cheesetique. In it, Erber states”I was shocked and awed not by that cavalier attack on our broad free-trade liberties, but by the specific violation featured prominently on the front page (albeit below the fold): little old Roquefort is under attack! That sublime product of lactation, coagulation, and fermentation has always held a special place in my heart, despite its high price tag and limited availability. Not only do I have a particular affection for Roquefort, but so do Cheesetique’s discerning customers, who marvel at its romantic story of creation, rustic approach to production even today, and exclusive availability. Your love of raw milk Roquefort has made it a staple in many of my cheese classes and one of the most popular and consistent sellers at Cheesetique. Since opening our doors more than four years ago, we have never been without Roquefort Papillon (I prefer this brand above others, though we have also carried Carles, which is outstanding). We have sold hundreds of pounds of Roquefort despite its title as the most expensive cheese consistently carried at Cheesetique.”
Erber, in protest, is selling Roquefort at cost, for $20/lb. She predicts that its availability will be “only a matter of time”. The ban goes into effect mid-March.
As a foodie, I’m fighting back. I have signed petitions and will buy Roquefort until I can’t any longer. I know this is not high on our new President’s priority list, but I hope that President Obama will soon have an opportunity to remedy this ridiculous measure, and allow Americans to enjoy free trade-you know, that thing our founding fathers espoused. In the words of Ronald Reagan, “Our trade policy rests firmly on the foundation of free and open markets. I recognize … the inescapable conclusion that all of history has taught: The freer the flow of world trade, the stronger the tides of human progress and peace among nations”
So, on to the recipe! I was inspired to make mussels with a white wine and Roquefort sauce, inspired by local chef and restaurant owner, Teddy Folkman. Folkman owns a popular neighborhood joint in D.C. called Granvile Moore’s. GM specializes in moules and frites, and Folkman actually appeared on Food Network’s Throwdown with Bobby Flay. His version of mussels with blue cheese blew the shells off of Flay’s dish, and he won, hands-down, according to the judges who happened to be local food blogger Jason Storch (DC Foodies) and his wife Amy.
Here’s the recipe, courtesy of Metrocurean and Teddy Folkman:
Chef Teddy Folkman’s Mussels from Throwdown! with Bobby Flay
1 pound rope grown PEI mussels
4 tablespoons blended oil (40 percent extra virgin olive oil, 60 percent canola)
1/3 cup applewood smoked bacon, diced
1/3 cup thin sliced shallots
Hook’s Blue Cheese, or a similar mild, creamy blue Roquefort
1/3 cup white wine, preferably a dry Chardonnay
juice of 1 lemon
1/3 cup baby spinach, cleaned and destemmed
Heat oil in pan with bacon until bacon is rendered and is slightly browned. Add shallots and mussels and toss ingredients together. Add white wine and lemon juice and toss ingredients together.
When mussels start to open, add half of blue cheese, melting it into the broth. As soon as all mussels are open, toss in spinach. Season with sea salt and black pepper to taste.
Plate and top the mussels with the remainder of the blue cheese. Serve with a French baguette and frites.
Recipe courtesy of chef Teddy Folkman and Granville Moore’s.