Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Cheese Books for the Cheese Lover

Photo by Linda Olle, author of The Upper East Side Cookbook

I know the holidays are nigh upon us, but if you have a mouse in your life who wants to start a library of cheese books, let me make a few recommendations. These are the books I keep within grabbing reach. They are my Bibles, my inspiration, my everything.

If Ab Fab had featured a cheesemonger, Patricia Michelson would have played the role. She owns a cheese shop in London and has written several books on the subject; her prose is gushy, glorious, and full of observations like this one: “A mild Gouda-type cheese is nourishing first thing in the morning....” Her latest opus is the cheese atlas I have always wanted. Great photos. Great recipes in back.

This reads like a master class on making, tasting, and serving cheese. It is stunning in its girth and in its level of detail. I read this from cover to cover, then kept it on my nightstand and paged through it whenever I couldn’t sleep. This is a great book for anyone who wants to gain a comprehensive understanding of the dairy world right now. I love the suggested pairings (blue cheese and mangoes) , and I find “The Cheddar Lexicon” indispensable.  

If you want to stretch yourself, check out recipes for Blue Cheese Cheesecake and Smoked-Gouda Baked Oytsers with Chorizo. This book offers a great mix of recipes and big, juicy photos – though it should really be called the Great Big Wisconsin Cheese Cookbook since many recipes feature Wisconsin cheeses. I got this as a promotion and I wasn’t sure about it at first, but I find myself leafing through it all the time.

If M.F.K. Fisher and Truman Capote had been blood relations, they might have co-authored this quirky little piece of enchantment. It’s charming and strange – a cookbook/faux-memoir recounted by a protagonist named Parsley Cresswell. Parsley is an Audrey Hepburn-type who lives on the cheap despite her tony address. As she observes her caviar-eating neighbors, she whips up “Green Pie” and “Bird’s Nest Bran Muffins.” I have a feeling this will be a cult classic -- an appropriate gift for hipsters and dowagers alike.

This was my first cheese book. It was a great introduction to artisanal cheese -- how to taste it, how to pair it with wine. It’s simple, elegant, and very focused in its subject matter . The photographs are gorgeous, and the prose is clean and precise. I also like the wine pairing guide in the back and turn to it often. Give this to the person who needs a stepping stone into the cheese world.


  1. Hey Tenaya, the cheese I was asking about (at the Fair Food tasting) on Max's cover is Blaue Geiss, a description on pg 300 and a nice pic on 303. I want that cheese! Forgot to ask when I was at Dibruno's last week.

  2. Curious. I've never come across Blaue Geiss. I'll keep my eye out for it though. Cheers, Lakisha!

  3. Dear Madame Fromage,

    I'm so damned pleased that you included The Upper East Side Cookbook among your cheese books! The sequel is due, to be published in May or June 2011. You'll have an advanced copy! Thanks.

    In the Cheese Wedding Cake photographed, there are three Wisconsin cheese wheels: Crave Brothers (on top), Wisconsin Cheddar, and Hook's Paradise Blue. In a couple months we'll be making another, even bigger, that uses Wisconsin Sartori Bella Vitano cheddar/Parmesan. The hand models are my two nieces, Kristin Olle and Jennifer Olle. They'll be modelling for the next one, too, perhaps in black velvet opera gloves, a la the mysterious and fascinating Madame Fromage...

  4. Wonderful, Linda! So looking forward to the sequel -- will it be called The Upper East Side Cookbook II?

  5. That's a good idea, Tenaya! Clearly you are a wordsmith. Your writing is so good, it's rich, and yet it somehow contains no fat. Mature cheese, yet so fresh and youthful!