Essential Cheese Books

by Caitlin Griffith
December 2, 2016

There’s never been a better time to enjoy cheese in the US, thanks to an explosion of interest in artisan cheese making and aging. These four new books make the best of the bounty, setting readers up for success in serving and pairing.

Charlotte Kamin, who launched the Bedford Cheese Shop in Brooklyn in 2003, teamed up with Nathan McElroy, who manages the Manhattan branch of the shop, to take on the basics in A First Course in Cheese. The duo goes deep, explaining the cheese-making process in detail, including essays on mold and chemistry, then dive into an encyclopedic array of cheeses from around the world, with tasting notes and pairing ideas.

In The Art of the Cheese Plate, Tia Keenen presents a visual feast as well as plenty of useful tips on serving cheeses and pairing them with both food and drinks. Pulling on her experiences at places such as Murray’s Cheese, Lucy’s Whey and The Modern, she goes far beyond fruit and crackers when it comes to pairing, offering recipes for accoutrements such as “poppy seed caviar” or Champagne ganache, made with caramelized white chocolate. Under “Drink Me,” she posits specific pairings with a pithy descriptor as to why it works. If you’re unable to find the bottle she suggests, Keenen also lists the qualities that make the pairing shine. It’s not just the red-versus-white debate; she includes cider, beer, amari, sake and tea. Instead of feeling hemmed in by suggestions, Keenan’s imaginative pairings inspire exploration.

At Casellula, a wine-and-cheese bar just north of NYC’s theater district, the draw isn’t just cheese, but the wild and delicious accoutrements invented by Leigh Friend. In Composing the Cheese Plate Friend and Caselulla owner Brian Keyser lay out their approach to creating a cheese place, from the importance of seasonality and regionality in cheese to the power of a pairing to show a cheese in a new light. Insightful tips on cutting and storage help to insure that your cheese will be in peak shape after you get it home, while Friend’s recipes for condiments such as cardamom-poached butternut squash, pickled fennel to rosemary rhubarb jelly will insure that your guests are blown away. At the end of the recipes is a helpful chart, detailing three different cheeses (or styles) to pair with each condiment. It’s endless entertainment for your taste buds.

The Oxford Companion to Cheese, is just the tome to stock next to these three. Editor Catherine Donnelly complied 855 entries specifying every particular you can imagine about cheese, from over 300 experts. Covering everything from Abbaye de Tamiè, a washed rind from the Savoie, to Ziraly Panir, a pot cheese from Iran, this is an essential reference for any turophile. Full disclosure: Our own W&S Executive Editor Tara Q. Thomas provided the entries on pairing wine and cheese.

The Oxford Companion to Cheese, edited by Catherine Donnelly (Oxford University Press, 2016); $65

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