In Two New Books, Cheese Plates Go Wild
I’m going to say it: 2016 is The Year of the Cheese Board.
The first sign: the mad boards popping up all over Instagram (just search #thatcheeseboard). Also leading up to this moment: a fleet of cheese-focused restaurants, bars, and small groceries which have grown in stealth and wealth over the last decade. To the west, Mission Cheese. To the east, Casellula Cheese & Wine Café.
Now, two new books devoted to the art of cheese plating have landed on my stoop. Ohh, sweet glory – I couldn’t be more elated. Cheese + Ikebana, this is happening.
Here’s what these 2 new arrivals have to offer…
COMPOSING THE CHEESE PLATE: RECIPES, PAIRINGS, & PLATINGS
By Brian Keyser & Leigh Friend
What this book offers: Straight-forward guidance about how to catapult the best artisan cheeses into revelatory moments with Leigh Friend’s sublime – and often surprising – recipes, like Spicy Curry Cashew Brittle and Coffee Cajeta. Peppered throughout the book, Keyser provides stellar pairing logic, like this nugget, which moved me to go “ahhhh, so true”: a jolt of acidity can make a cheese seem less stinky.
Who this book is good for: Anyone looking for some palate yoga – the pairings in this book are extraordinary and worth stretching for. Want to amaze your friends, lovers, house guests? Uhmmm, who doesn’t want to be dazzled before bedtime by a presentation of Salted Chocolate Graham Crackers paired with Bayley Hazen Blue?
Organization: This is a condiment cookbook interspersed with cheese boards and short break-outs about cheese-centric topics, such as “Regionality” and “Affinage.” Composing the Cheese Plate isn’t trying to be an encyclopedia or a catch-all for budding caseophiles. Phew. Presentation and pairing are the focus. Smartly, the authors offer a key cheese pairing for each recipe, along with broad suggestions for anyone who may not be able to source specialty cheeses. Most recipes contain 3 to 6 ingredients, making them easy for beginners.
Most brilliant pairing: Casatica di Bufala + Coconut Macaroons (Imagine a dense, fudgy buffalo milk cheese with notes of bread dough and Brazil nuts paired with light-as-air cookies. This pairing is your Italian nonna kicking her shoes off in the tropics.)
Cheese Styling: Simple, well-lit, mostly white backgrounds are very much in keeping with the presentation of cheese boards at Casellula in NY (I visited recently; it was fabulous). Tight crops and pristinely cut cheeses suggest fastidiousness and guarded pleasure – my only criticism. Cheese boards this gutsy should exhibit just a bit more ooze and allure?
To order: Composing the Cheese Plate
THE ART OF THE CHEESE PLATE: PAIRINGS, RECIPES, STYLE, ATTITUDE
By Tia Keenan
The author: Tia Keenan is a chef-fromager based in New York who has worked with many clients, from Murray’s to Disney. On social: @kasekaiserina
What this book offers: A lavishly photographed and lovingly written series of themed cheese plates with phantasmagorical titles, such as “Mission: Epoissable” and “Burrata Wishes, Caviar Dreams.” Don’t be surprised if you see matcha marshmallows and cranberry-gin compote lining the decks of these ocean liner-esque cheese boards. The compositions are inspired, whimsical, outré.
Who this book is good for: Your crazy aunt in the Hamptons, your 21-year-old nephew who has a yen for cheese and Star Wars (notice the platters in the photo below), anyone ready for next-level cheese action.
Organization: The book opens with a short series on “Foundational Flavors” and “Foundational Textures” with important clues to building great boards, such as: Balance between the weight of the cheese and the accompaniment is crucial. What follows is a series of 37 cheese boards with recipes and rich photos, plus detailed descriptions about each cheese and each pairing. Each board includes drink pairings, sometimes for wine but also for things like White Flowering Tea. Lovely.
Most brilliant pairing: Shropshire Blue with Toasted Nori and Honeycomb (I love Keenan’s explicit tasting notes about this cheese: peanut butter, roasted radish, and tin…)
Cheese Styling: Photographer Noah Fecks and Reclaim Design prop out this book in a way that feels, at turns, dreamily over-the-top and yet wondrously clever. Think Frank Zappa meets cheese. Wild china patterns offset rind textures, a batik print sets off a fondu party, tile and linoleum creep in behind figs and poppy-red jam. Oh lawd, I have been waiting for a book like this — one that embodies the theatrical process of of plating and presenting cheese.
To order: The Art of the Cheese Plate
The Cheese Ball is Back! Save the Date: Madame Fromage’s 2016 Cheese Ball is set for October 30 at the Ruba Club in Philadelphia! I just booked both floors of the club, so we can build the city’s biggest cheese board on the main level, then head upstairs to dance to some dairy disco. You heard me right.
Ticket link and further details coming soon. All proceeds for this year’s ball will benefit the new Pennsylvania Cheese Guild. Whaaaat, you’ve never heard of a Cheese Ball?!