MF’s 2016 Holiday Gift Guide
Forget introductions. Let’s talk about surprising the cheese lover on your list!
Cheese Boards by Artifaqt Design
This fall, I roadtripped out to Phoenixville, PA to meet cheese lover John Luttman and check out his handcrafted boards. I loved touring his studio, which is both a showroom and an extensive woodworking shop full of saws, woodworking tools, and stacks of local hardwood. The care he puts into his craft makes these boards stand out — I like John’s asymmetrical eye and his use of natural objects, which inspire his bowls and platters.
John designs alone and in partnership with chefs, like Eric Ripert. Recently, he developed some very small cheese boards (top left), which are great for serving small bites at the start of a meal or (listen up, cheesemongers!) for offering samples.
Di Bruno Bros. Cheese Gift Sets
Every year, I look forward to receiving the catalogue from my pals at Di Bruno Bros., the Philadelphia specialty shop responsible for my obsession. I love the range of gift boxes they create, especially those designed around parings. The Beer Lover’s Cheese Collection (top left) speaks to me because it includes so many of favorite cheeses: Reading Raclete, Colston Bassett Stilton, Harbison, Cabot Clothbound, Idiazabal, plus my favorite cured meat: Finocchiona.
Next to it (top right), The House of Cheese Plate includes some of my favorite pairings from the book that Di Bruno Bros. and I wrote together in 2013 — like Camembert and walnuts, plus Castatica di Bufala (a stunning buffalo milk cheese) that is delicious with Di Bruno Bros. Fig & Acacia Honey Jam.
New this year: Di Bruno Bros. just launched a cheese club, called Eat Like a Cheesemonger. Monthly selections will be chosen by VP Emilio Mignucci. Not to be missed!
Professional Cheese Knives from Artisan Geek
I’m a sucker for beautiful cheese knives, like these blades from Bharbjt, handcrafted by a third-generation knife-making family in Lombardy. My friend and neighbor, Yoav Perry, imports them and when I spotted these knives in his kitchen, I knew I needed to share them with you. Each one serves a slightly different purpose, like the “Firenze” with the huge curved blade, which is designed for breaking down firm wheels of Pecorino.
For the cheesemonger on your list: pair a couple of these professional knives with a copy of the new Oxford Companion to Cheese.
Shop: Artisan Geek
Books on Cheese & Cocktails by Madame Fromage
I’d be remiss if I didn’t include my own two books among this year’s recommendations, especially since they pair well together. In Di Bruno Bros. House of Cheese, you’ll find 170 great cheeses with beer and wine pairings. You can also enjoy some of my fave holiday recipes, like “Limburger Helper,” a very pungent mac’n cheese. The Brie wrapped in puff pastry with apples and dried fruit is one of my family’s favorite winter recipes — it’s great to serve at an open house or as dessert.
The New Cocktail Hour, co-authored with my brother André Darlington, was released this spring. André and I set out to write the cocktail book we couldn’t find — one focused on fresh ingredients and quality spirits, alongside tasting notes and food-pairing tips. Yes, that means cheese! This season, Anthropologie is carrying our book in their stores and online.
Yes, we have a new book coming out in late December — more details here soon!
Gourmet Tours with Cheese Journeys
The ultimate gift: sign your cheese lover up for a trip led by Anna Juhl of Cheese Journeys. I traveled as a co-host with Anna to England last year and to the French Alps this year — her tours are splendid. In Fall 2017, she’s returning to southern England for a second Cheddar Odyssey, a chance for you to meet the world’s best cheddar makers and stay at Cadbury Court. She’s also planned a luxurious Philadelphia & Chester County Cheese Getaway here in my part of the world, and I’m excited to be part of that very special long weekend — perfect for a couples or best friends.
The Oregon Coast? Italy? Anna has trips planned to those destinations, too. The focus is always cheese, but her trips always include visits to other specialty food producers, too, plus loads of good wine, beautiful meals, and lots of conviviality.
Shop: Cheese Journeys
Johanna Kindvall Cheese Collection: Swedish author and illustrator Johanna Kindvall is one of my favorite collaborators. Last year, she and I worked on a series of seasonal cheese posts that have evolved into a line of housewares using her designs. Visit her online shop at Society 6 and pick up cheese pillows, cheese mugs, goat cheese iphone cases, and provolone totes. These are my go-to gifts for cheese lovers!
Organic Life Subscription: Pssst…I’ll be writing a regular column with André Darlington for Organic Life this spring. We’re so thrilled. Organic Life is published by Rodale, here in Pennsylvania. When we visited this fall, we were blown away by the campus, which includes a staff garden, an extensive test kitchen, and a very homey cafe. Organic Life publishes stories and recipes that embody the ethos shared by the artisan cheese community: support farmers & growers, be good stewards of the land, and eat with the seasons. It’s a magazine that I think you’ll enjoy reading.
Cheese Grotto, by Jessica Sennett
I know. It’s almost too beautiful. But you can picture it on your counter, can’t you? Jessica Sennett released the first cheese cave for home use that I know of, after a massive Kickstarter campaign and years of product development. This eco-friendly box made in Virginia is designed to extend the shelf life of specialty cheeses. If you’re the kind of person who likes to pick up whole wheels or generous hunks at the farmers’ market, this is a great little investment. Plus, you’ll be the only person on your block to have a “cheese humidor.”
Shop: Cheese Grotto