Mike Geno’s Cheese Map

By now, you’ve heard me talk about my friend and neighbor Mike Geno, who paints cheese portraits. His studio is less than a mile from my house, and when I need a pick-me-up I wander over to bask in the light of his dairy-centric wall of food art.

This week, I visited him to discuss two important things: 1) he’s offering a summer sale of his paintings through August (details below) AND, 2) he’s almost finished with his cheese map!

A cheese map? Yassss, queen.

So, The Cheese Map

Two years ago, Mike set out to paint a wedge from every state. At the time, he’d painted hunks from eleven, but his patrons wanted more. A cheese from Alaska? Mike wasn’t sure. A cheese from Hawaii? He had to ponder.

Thanks to word of mouth and the power of social media, Mike’s project exploded as a hot topic on Istagram (follow him @mikegenostudio). Today, his map is nearly complete. He’s received cheese offerings from 43 states, mostly shipped to him on ice from cheesemakers.

Alaska? Uh huh. Cheesemaker Sarah Jepson in Dry Creek learned about Mike via Instagram (her handle is @milkmansfirstwife) and sent him a wheel of Winter Fury made with her hothouse peppers and the milk of her husband’s six cows. Her daughter-in-law Amaris also sent Mike a wheel of her Tuscan-style Pepato.

Hawaii? Oh, yes. Check out Ocean Brie-eeze, a black Brie colored with Squid Ink.

Obtaining cheese from warm-weather states has proven difficult, like Arizona. “Actually a cheesemonger at Di Bruno Bros. is from Arizona, and he reached out to Wendell and Rhonda Crow at Crow’s Dairy,” Mike recalls. The Crows agreed to send Mike a wheel of their peppercorn feta and were so touched by the connection that they are planning a trip to Denver later this month to meet him at the American Cheese Society (ACS) conference.

Winter Fury (Alaska)

“People who are farming all day or working in a cheese room don’t think about the art world,” Mike said, as he cut into a blue from Winter Park Dairy in Florida, a sweet and spicy little number called Black & Bleu with veins of ground black pepper. “Something about the cheese map has allowed me to connect with them,” he mused. “Representing their art in my art — on this map — there is this whole new level of relating to each other.”

So, what states are left for Mike to paint? Nevada. South Dakota. Wyoming. Kentucky. Louisiana. Mississippi. Wyoming.

If you know a cheesemaker in one of those states, contact Mike Geno (mikegeno@gmail.com).

Mike Geno’s Summer Sale

Through August, Mike Geno is offering a 15% discount on all of his original oil paintings, including his paintings of cheese, meat, bread, doughnuts, etc. If you’re a big spender, you can buy 3 and get the 4th for free. (One of Mike’s patrons owns 39, just sayin’. There are cheese lovers, and then there are CHEESE LOVERS.) Visit his website, explore the cheese map, and put a piece of original cheese art in your kitchen. Or boudoir.

Pssst…Mike Geno’s studio is one of the stops on September’s Cheese Journey to Philadelphia and Chester County. We still have a few spots left!

 

 

Scenes from Philadelphia’s Cheese Flashmob

This story needs few words. A city full of cheese lovers. A local bar with a beautiful patio and a cheese-loving owner. A few weeks of online word-spreading.

All it takes is a couple of organizers (hat tip: Matt Buddah) and someone with a bunch of cheese boards (okay, I happen to have a few, and so does Mike Geno).

Then, you bring in the baker. (Alex Bois, your beet rye will always live on in my mind.)

And make sure your local cheesemakers (Yoav Perry, Stefanie Angstadt) get beads around their neck. Always, always honor thy cheesemakers.

Name tags are important, too. What’s a cheese party without easy conversation? I’m a fan of French name tags…and it’s important to let people adopt a nom de plum, should they wish. Last night, we had a few Lady Goudas and at least one Havarti.

Pictured above: Paul and Sean from Cherry Grove Farm, and Pete Demchur from Shellbark Hollow. Between them, they brought a stunning goat tomme and a wild raw-milk round called Trilby, which Sean and Paul wrapped in a whisky-soaked fig leaf.

A small helper helps. (Thank you Mia from Merion Park Cheese Co.!)

And so does at least one conceptual cheese carrier, like this “Comfort Cheese” presentation by my very own brother, André Darlington.

The party makes itself.

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Huge thanks to our hosts at Martha, our neighborhood cheese clubhouse here in Philadelphia. My co-organizer, the fabulous cheesemonger Matt Buddah, was amazing. Our local cheese gang is called The Rennet Rough Riders (#rennetroughriders on Instagram). Find us. Join us. Or just plan a cheese flashmob where you live. Ask everyone to bring a cheese. Make it free. Get wild. Build community.

Cheese Flash Mob in Philadelphia

Yes, you read that right! Since the Cheese Ball last October, I’ve been itching to get another all-city cheese event on the books in Philadelphia. This time, I’m working with cheese-man-about-town Matt Buddah (@mattbuddahcheese) to bring you a fun, free way to connect with other dairy dreamers. All you need to do is grab a hunk of your favorite cheese and head over to Martha in Kensington on the night of June 29, 2017. I’ll be there to greet you with butter knives, wooden boards, and name tags, plus I’ll intro you to our city’s unofficial cheese gang, a.k.a The Rennet Rough Riders. (You may have read about them in Culture Magazine or The Philadelphia Inquirer.) No need to RSVP, just come get your lactic buzz on! We’re excited to cut cheese with you.
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Where: Martha (@marthakensington), 2113 E. York St., Phildelphia
When: June 29, 6-9 pm
What: Bring a hunk of cheese to share with other cheese lovers. Free condiments and bread provided by Martha + delicious libations for sale at the bar!
Why: Connect with cheesemakers, cheese lovers, and the city’s local cheese gang (a.k.a. The Rennet Rough Riders)
No RSVP or tickets required!
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What’s that? — you’re worried you won’t fit in?!?! Or that you won’t know who to talk to? Please! Cheese lovers are the most welcoming people on the planet. That’s why I hang out almost exclusively with milky weirdos! If you harbor secret dreams of making cheese in your kitchen, becoming a cheesemonger, turning your basement into a cheese cave, quitting your job to raise goats, or falling in love with a fellow curd nerd, you’ll fit right in. Come on, I get emails about this stuff all the time. It’s time we all met. 
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For updates via Instagram: @mmefromage  

 

Do You Know about THE NEW PARIS?

The New ParisWhen I need a dose of Frenchness, I pop over to the blog Lost in Cheeseland, where Lindsey Tramuta always has a baguette or a beautiful facade to ease the eyes. As a Philadelphia transplant living in the 11th arrondissement, she offers a down-to-earth, discovery-oriented pair of eyes and often writes about her favorite finds. Her first book, The New Paris:The People, Places & Ideas Fueling a Movement, presses a pair of fingers on the city’s pulse and counts out the quick beats of a throbbing new creative energy: vegetarian restaurants, cafe/coworking spaces, boutiques, B&Bs that serve cocktails, and even new cheese shops.

I caught up with Lindsey last month when her book tour brought her to Philadelphia for several signings, including an event at Menagerie Coffee where she served drinks from the beans of one of her favorite French roasters. Over breakfast in Old City, she talked about the inspiration behind her new book, the history of her blog, and — of course — her favorite cheese.

Lindsey Tramuta, author of The New Paris

A Conversation with Author Lindsey Tramuta

On Living in Paris: “I was a French major at Temple, and I did a 6 month study abroad program. One night, I met my future husband at a party.” Needless to say, she was inspired to go back, where she pursued an M.A. in Global Communications. 

On Starting a Blog: She launched Lost in Cheeseland seven years ago and began a freelance career writing for magazines and newspapers. Many of her articles served as “cultural studies” for her new book as she explored new restaurants and businesses. The latest element on her blog? A podcast with fashion journalist Alice Cavanaugh.

On Writing a Book: “In 2014, I had a conversation with a friend about how I was tired of rosy stories that perpetuate the same myths about Paris. She said, ‘You write about the new Paris.’ That became my title.”

How the Book is Organized: “The book is not about me. It’s about the people making Paris what it is…. If I look at who’s in the book, there are a lot of immigrants — that’s the new Paris.” The six main chapters of the book include such topics as Coffee, Sweets, Libations, Shopping & Crafts, along with a list of Lindsey’s favorite places in the back. (On her blog, she has a great Paris Guide.) 

Who Should Read The New Paris: Anyone planning a trip to Paris (especially anyone who is headed there to study abroad), anyone who isn’t planning a trip to Paris but wants to be transported to its most cutting edge pastry shops, natural wine bars, microbreweries, and plant-based restaurants.

About Lindsey’s Favorite Cheese: “Beaufort!” she says. Although there isn’t a cheese chapter in the book, cheesemonger Clément Broussault is the first face you meet in The New Paris. Broussault abandoned a “suit-and-tie-banker life” to open Fromagerie Goncourt, an environmentally conscious cheese shop with a zero-plastics policy.

Final thoughts here, friends: This is a beautifully written and photographed book that mixes thoughtful observations about contemporary Parisian culture with introductions to some of the most interesting new chefs, bakers, and makers.

Lindsey makes you want to revisit the city to taste and drink, unlocking a whole new subculture that broadens French traditions. Flip through the stunning photos by Charissa Fay, and you’ll feel drunk and satiated.

It’s an excellent hammock read.

Follow Lindsey on Instagram: @lostncheeseland

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Anyone headed to Paris?

If so, what cheese are you most excited to eat? If you need a cheese guide, my favorite is the Eyewitness Handbook to French Cheese.

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Philadelphia & Chester County Cheese Tour

This summer marks a special milestone for me. First, let me tell you the story, then I want to invite you on a cheese journey. Yes, a cheese journey!

Twelve years ago, I left my home state of Wisconsin and moved to Philadelphia because I had always wanted to live in a city. I drove across the country and started my life over in a place where I didn’t know a single person. After I unloaded my books and bedding into a new apartment – my first time living alone – I wondered how I would ever find connection in such a vast place. Luckily, a former neighbor had slipped an address into my pocket: Di Bruno Bros. on 9th Street.

A cheese shop.

During that year, I visited Di Bruno Bros. every week and began speaking in tongues with the cheesemongers. Not literally, of course. But I learned a beautiful vocabulary for the tastes, smells, and textures I loved – bloomy rind, lactic, cream line. I filled my single-grrrl fridge with earthy clothbound cheddars and mineral-rich blue cheeses. Glowing orange washed-rinds became my go-tos because they smelled like home to me, like rural roads and barns filled with hay.

Slowly, I began to make friends at my new job, where I taught writing. I brought a cheese board anytime I was invited to a dinner party. (The stranger the cheeses, the better the conversation.) It made me so happy when people wanted to hear the story behind each cheese.

Like the cheese made from one cow named Renata.

Over time, I realized that I loved bringing cheese into people’s lives. I started this blog in 2009 and put all my heart into writing cheese descriptions and learning to take photographs. Tastings followed. I hosted workshops in a tiny cheese shop near my house, and I invited local cheesemakers to join me and share their stories.

Those experiences led to my first cheese book. And the book led to international cheese tours! Who would have thought? For the last three years, I’ve been honored to join Anna Juhl of Cheese Journeys on several back-door tours of the cheese world. First, to England. More recently, to France.

This fall, I’m teaming up with Cheese Journeys for a 4-day weekend in Philadelphia and Chester County…

Madame Fromage’s Cheese Journey, Sept. 1-4, 2017

Philadelphia & Chester County, PA

Frinends, I want to serve you the cheeses that changed my life. And I’m so excited for you to meet the people around Philadelphia and Chester County who make up one of the most dynamic dairy regions of the country. Please join me in tromping through city streets and pastures for a cheese journey of a lifetime!

Click here for the full itinerary or to sign up!

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Questions? Drop me a line: tenayadarlington@gmail.com. Space on the tour is limited to 12 people. All meals, lodging, and transportation from Philadelphia will be provided.