Most of the cheese books that I've read are strictly informational guides. Organized by production method, milk type, or age, these books are useful for the academically inclined, but are rarely fun to read. Cheese cookbooks often suffer the opposite fate, so light-weight that it's hard to learn anything about pairing, cooking, and experimenting with a wide variety of cheeses. This whole situation is a shame, since so many cheesemongers and cheese aficionados are joyously enthusiastic and bursting with knowledge.
A new cookbook and cheese manual out of Philly, Di Brunos Bros. House of Cheese marries expertise with narrative, for a book as engaging as it is informative. Written by cheese blogger Tenaya Darlington, this title is half cookbook, half cheese guide, and half love poem (okay, yes, I know that's three halves). Darlington categorizes cheese not by culinary type or ingredient, but by personality. There are vixens (triple cremes and the like), rockstars (famous, revered, and rare), mountain men (alpine-style hearty types), and stinkers, along with several other titles that describe not just the flavor of the cheese, but also the sensation one gets when sniffing, cutting, and enjoying a slice.
Darlington carefully curated her list of cheeses with the help of the cheesemongers at Di Bruno Bros.—the famed Philly store from which the book gets its name and inspiration. Many expected cheeses, like burrata and Parmigiano Reggiano, get their due, but there are far more idiosyncratic types listed than the ordinary. As such, Darlington offers many suggested substitutions for her selections. And given the long descriptions of each variety, it's easy to look for alternatives with the same personality.
In addition to the humorous and well-informed pages on each cheese, Darlington offers pairing suggestions, cheese board schematics, and thirty recipes highlighting signature cheeses from each of her personality categories. These recipes are often simple, savory creations designed to highlight the cheese choice. Salads and pestos are abundant, and cheesy favorites like macaroni and cheese and fondue make appearances. Still, simple does not mean boring—almost every recipe is shot through with bright zippiness or uses a novel cheese in an unexpected way.
From burrata with heirloom tomatoes to Limburger mac and cheese, it'll be a fun, dairy-filled week. We'll also get a taste of pickled feta paired with strawberries and olives, dip into smokey almond and Foja de Noce tapenade, and indulge in an over-the-top bacon-maple grilled cheese loaded with Cabot Clothbound Cheddar.
Win 'Di Bruno Bros. House of Cheese'Thanks to the nice folks at Running Press, we have five (5) copies of Di Bruno Bros. House of Cheese to give away this week. All you need to do is tell us about the one cheese you couldn't live without in the comments section below.
About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer and personal chef living in Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American and Berkeleyside NOSH, and she blogs at cookingwolves.wordpress.com.