Crème fraîche (pronunciation : /ˌkrɛmˈfrɛʃ/, lit. "fresh cream") is a soured cream containing 30–45%. It is soured with bacterial culture, but is less sour than U.S.-style sour cream, and has a lower viscosity and a higher fat content. Wikipedia
Truffles. Homemade chocolate truffles. It was 2005, we were about to host over 40 people at our house for our Absolut Thirty birthdays bash and my chocolate truffles were on the top of a very long menu. I find truffle making relaxing and theraputic, and I always look forward making them. On a Saturday morning, we headed out to find the ingredients.
The recipe called for semi-sweet, bittersweet chocolate, and crème fraîche. I found the chocolate at Williams Sonoma. All we had to do was pop into a grocery store on the way home and get the crème fraîche. I figured that in less than half an hour I would be elbow deep in chocolate, completely relaxed. I was wrong.
We stood in front of Jewel’s dairy isle in disbelief – there was no crème fraîche. Could they be all out? Maybe it was in a different section, only I couldn’t fathom where it could possibly be other than next to sour creams. I finally found a stock boy and asked for help. But he looked at me as if I was an alien and directed me to customer service.
“I was wondering if you could help me find crème fraîche, please?” I said in the nicest possible way to a short rotund woman with large teased 80's hairstyle behind the customer service desk.
“What, honey? What are you looking for?” the woman replied.
“Crème fraîche,” I repeated slowly.
“I don’t know what that is, honey,” the woman said. I almost choked.
“It’s a dairy. It’s kind of like a sour cream,” I said in disbelief.
“Oh… Let me call the dairy manager then.” She paged the dairy manager and had a small hushed discussion over the phone before turning back to me. I was slowly starting to steam: no one calls me ‘honey’.
“He said that we don’t carry that. He doesn’t even know what that is. It must be a specialty item, you might want to try a gourmet foods store.” I could not believe this, as far as I could remember I could get crème fraîche anywhere when we lived on the North Shore. But then we moved to the Western Suburbs.
“Thanks,” said I through clenched teeth and left the store. Our half an hour was wasted and I was nowhere close to my truffles. We got into our car and the only gourmet foods store Terry could think of in the vicinity was Whole Foods in Wheaton, 30 minutes away.
There they were: little containers with hot pink lids. Crème fraîche. It was next to sour creams, as it was supposed to be, and I bought more than I needed. Whole Foods was nowhere near our house, I wasn’t planning on returning. With my bounty safe and secure in our basket, we proceeded to check out all the isles and grab everything else that might be considered “gourmet” in this part of the world. ‘We moved to the freaking boonies…’ I thought as I raided the isles, ‘how could you be a dairy manager and not know what crème fraîche is?’ I still had a look of disgust on my face when we finally pulled into our garage.
A couple of years later, Trader Joes opened a block away from me. In their dairy isle, next to sour cream, stood a little tower crème fraîche containers. Finally, I could call Batavia home.
Recently, Terry was out picking up a couple of items from Jewel. I was cooking and realized I needed champagne vinegar. I texted him, figuring that, by now, Jewel would have something like this. After a long while, Terry texted me back: "It must be in the same isle as crème fraîche".