This glossy quarterly is lovingly dedicated to the making, serving, and loving of cheese. Each issue features several well-written stories about movers and shakers in the cheese world, including some fascinating topics like the emerging dairy culture in East Africa, for instance. The photography is splendid, if somewhat self-conscious (there's an actual cheese centerfold), and the information is priceless. There's even a directory of great cheese retailers in the back of the magazine. A one-year subscription (4 issues) is $30; individual issues are $9.95.
Cheese and wine go together well, but cheese and beer often go even better! Pastoral, one of the Midwest's finest retailers of artisan-made cheese, offers the delightful combination of hand-crafted cheeses and craft-brewed beer.
Cheese of the Month Club
Want to give the gift that keeps giving? Pastoral and nearly every great cheese retailer offers a Cheese of the Month club. Usually around the middle of the month, you get a box with two or three hand-crafted cheeses, descriptions of each, and perhaps a condiment or package of crackers. It's like getting a cheeseplate in the mail every month.
Slate Cheese Board
Slate makes a dynamic surface for cheese plates. The textured surface conducts light theatrically and the depth of color highlights the nuances of the cheese. Some of the best slate boards come from Brooklyn Slate. The slate, which is sourced from a family quarry in upstate New York, comes in red, black, or "natural edge." Depending on the size, they range from $24 to $28.
Who Cut the...
I'm not a big fan of cheese planes; they yield a nice thin slice of cheese but ruin what's left. Instead I prefer a good set of cheese knives. Anyone, even those with minimal knife skills, can slice themselves a piece and leave the remainder of the cheese in good condition for future nibbles. This set of five is $19.99.
Gift Certificate to Your Local Cheese Shop
It doesn't get any more compact and easy than this. You can call almost any really good cheese shop and order a gift certificate and have it sent to your recipient. They can use it towards a specific purchase, or just wander up to the counter and discover a new one. Often when I'm on the counter at Bedford Cheese in Broolyn, I have fielded inquiries that begin, "I got this gift certificate and don't know where to start..."
Books for the Connoisseur and the Budding Expert
For years Steve Jenkins book, The Cheese Primer, was the cornerstone book on cheese, but it was published in the early '90s. Now, two books by Max McCalman and David Gibbons have surpassed it as the books every cheese lover should own. Their 2005 work, Cheese: A Connoisseur’s Guide to the World’s Best, is an ideal starting point for people newly smitten with hand-crafted cheese. The book lists dozens of great cheeses with fantastic photography, and detailed, easy-to-read descriptions of each. McCalman's more recent masterpiece, Mastering Cheese, is a deeper book going into the history and science of cheesemaking.