What To Wear To A Cheese Ball

Monsieur Fromage

With Cheese Ball II just days away, the dairy set on social media has been chatting outfits. Since so many people have emailed about appropriate attire, I thought I’d pull together a quick post with some choice fashion selections from the last Cheese Ball, back in January 2012. Of course, you’re welcome to wear a tux or gown, but jeans and barn boots are welcome, too. So are berets, body glitter, antlers, and anything that puts you in a cheese-loving mood.

Below, you’ll also find the schedule for the night of Cheese Ball II this Saturday, January 18. In addition to building a giant cheese board, we’ll be celebrating with door prizes, a roving ice cream cart, a cheese auction full of fabulous donations, and a midnight coronation of the King and Queen of Curd.

All proceeds from the ball and auction will go to Sue Miller of Birchrun Hills Farm to seed her upcoming Kickstarter campaign to build a cheese cave. That’s why we’re calling this year’s ball a “Cave Raising.” The outpouring of magnificent auction donations has been overwhelming, from cheese baskets to gift certificates from cheese retailers, local farms, and restaurants around Philadelphia.

Look for a full list of auction items later this week!

Cheese Ball II Schedule

Saturday, January 18, 7:30-midnight at Ruba Club, 414 Green St., Philadelphia

7:30 p.m. Doors Open (Entry is $10+a hunk of cheese)

8:30 Door Prize Drawings with Madame Fromage & Cheesemaker Sue Miller

10:00 Live Auction (Grand Prizes: A goat cheese CSA, a tasting at Nectar in Berwyn, PA, Brewer’s Plate tickets, a gift certificate to COOK, dinner for 2 at High Street Market, and an after-hours tasting at Di Bruno Bros.)

Midnight Coronation of King & Queen of Curd

Lady Sparkle took home a Southwark gift certificate at the last Cheese Ball

Lady Sparkle took home a Southwark gift certificate at the last Cheese Ball

Jesuits and dames in fur hats around the Cheese Board in 2012

Jesuits and dames in fur hats around the Cheese Board in 2012

Lovers at the Cheese Ball with corsages

Lovers at the Cheese Ball with corsages

You can be yourself or don a cheese moniker!

You can be yourself or don a cheese moniker!

As you can see, beards were very popular at the ball...

As you can see, beards were very popular at the ball…

The real scene stealer is the giant cheese board!

The real scene stealer is the giant cheese board!

Gin and Munster Gerome

Gin and Munster Gerome

It feels auspicious to start out the New Year with Munster Gerome. Before sitting down to write this, I did ten minutes of stretching in the dark, made myself a cup of hot vinegar tea, read the top food stories of 2013 in The New York Times and considered (briefly) a post on cleansing. Or cheese highlights of the past year.

Then I yawned.

Who wants to talk about digestion or reflect back on epic feta? (Kidding, there was no epic feta.) Moving forward, I want to eat more Munster Gerome with a chaser of gin.

This is going backward: over the holiday, I drove to Wisconsin with 12 cheeses to meet my brother for our last epic tasting of the year, and one of the cheeses in my cooler was, yes, Munster Gerome. We planned to studiously pair some of our favorite hunks and libations. Nerds do this.

We are nerds from birth. Even in childhood, we forced our parents to leave the house on Saturdays so we could tear the kitchen apart, then chose the most difficult recipes in our mother’s cookbooks to prepare for them as a “surprise.” This resulted in a lot of tortes.

Tenaya with Cheese and WineAndre with Wine Glass

I brought my brother Munster Gerome because it’s a fierce little cheese – the kind we love – and my brother has been on an Alsatian kick. He wanted to pair Gewürztraminer. I feel “meh” about Gewürtztraminer, but that’s probably because I spend all of my money in the dairy aisle and drink inexpensive hooch, while my brother spends all of his sheckles on wine — and pennies on cheese.

Our goal for 2014 is to teach each other to appreciate one another’s obsession.

Munster Gerome is a fudge pie with a rind that looks like leather from a burnt orange crocodile. Its taste is just as nasty: braised beef, boiled cabbage, sautéed onions, bacon. It’s basically a boiled dinner – but delicious.

Munster Gerome

I love a fudgy texture, and Munster Gerome is like raunch fudge. Between bites, you definitely need a swish of something bright and cleansing, especially if you eat it unadorned – assumably, the monks who developed this cheese in the 7th century ate it with beer.

After one bite, I knew we needed something bigger than wine. We’d run through a quick gin tasting upon my arrival – I’d sent my brother some Barr Hill as a gift, and he wanted to introduce me to a fave: Botanivore. A sip of those beauties had soothed after the long drive and left me feeling very settled against a caramel leather banquette.

And so, for a stinky cheese chaser, we shared a nip of Botanivore, a craft gin from St. George Spirits in California.

Botanivore GinAndre with Shaker

Lo, the stink dissipated. The taste of anise and mint minglied, turning my mouth from an onion drawer into a bud vase. It was a revelation!

And so, I share it with you. If you like strong cheese, ramp up from your Taleggio and your pretty Red Hawks. Pick up a pie wedge of Munster Gerome. Make sure it is quite ripe. Bring it home and stick it in a jar so that the fumes don’t kill your family.

Then, in late afternoon, when the sun is going down and the dirty snow has soured you on the idea of January, cut yourself a dab of Munster Gerome. Pull the best gin from your cupboard. Pour yourself a shot over a little ice. Give it a stir. And retire.

It’s a pairing we’ll not soon forget.

Munster Gerome in Our Notebooks

Note: My brother blogs — mostly about wine — at AndreDarlington.com. Our resolution for 2014 is to write about cheese and wine/spirits together. You can read more about our shared obsession over the coming months. Feel free to follow along or make recommendations.


Cheese Ball II: A Cave Raising

Cheese Ball II

Maybe you remember Cheese Ball 2012? Maybe you were there, circling the giant cheese board we built above a pool table where all of Philadelphia’s lacto-rati gathered to nibble and imbibe? It was the city’s greatest dairy potluck, a showcase of curd-driven love — attended by cheese lovers, cheese makers, cheesemongers, and even a few blog readers who drove down from NYC with favorite hunks from their state.

Cheese Ball Scene

Yes, it’s finally happening again — on the night of Saturday, January 18 back at RUBA Club! Thanks for your patience, your inquiries, your prodding. I meant to host the ball again last year, then got swept away by book promotion. But believe me, I haven’t forgotten the fun we had or the mix of guests dressed in everything from tuxedos and ball gowns, to overalls and even capes. I hope you’ll come and bring a friend. Anyone who loves cheese is welcome at the Cheese Ball.

Cheese Balls

All you have to do is bring a cheese to share and $10 — the money will be donated to local cheesemaker, Sue Miller, to help her build a cheese cave (more details below) at Birchrun Hills Farm. That’s Sue on the right at the last Cheese Ball. Her Birchrun Blue was a big hit at the party, and her story is one that I have told many times. I think she’s making some of the state’s best raw-milk cheese.

Sue Miller and Madame Fromage


Cheese Ball II, Sat. January 18, 2014

Time: 7:30 pm – midnight

Where: RUBA Club, 416 Green St., Philadelphia, PA 19123

Entry: Bring a cheese (or something to pair with cheese) +$10  

Dress can be formal or cow-barn casual. Cash bar. No RSVP or tickets necessary. Questions: tenayadarlington@gmail.com

Blue Cheese BritCheese tag



I’m calling on the Philadelphia cheese community to help raise a cheese cave for one of our own. Many of you know Sue Miller, of Birchrun Hills Farm, from local farmers’ markets where she sells her glorious Birchrun Blue, Fat Cat, Red Cat, and Equinox. Her stellar raw-milk cheeses are sold by Di Bruno Bros., Metropolitan Bakery, Fair Food Farmstand, and other local retailers. You can also find them on cheese boards around the Philadelphia, from Kennett to Talula’s Garden.

Sue and her family are life-long dairy farmers in Chester County, Pa. They started farming because they love animals, and they began making cheese in order to keep farming once milk prices dropped. Now they truck milk to a small off-site facility several times a week and age their cheese in a cave the size of a closet. In order to expand their business with their two grown sons, the Millers need to build. Financing a major building project when you’re self-employed is difficult. In 2014, Sue Miller plans to launch a Kickstarter campaign. I want to kick it into gear.

Let’s start raising this cave at Cheese Ball II!

MMF006_CheeseBall_2013_Invite-1 copy




Bark, Booze, and Flames

Tomme, Rush Creek, Grand Marnier Coupe

Artisan cheese began appearing in my dreams back when I worked for a newspaper in Madison, Wisconsin, so it’s always a pleasure to write about dairy for The Inky (a.k.a. The Philadelphia Inquirer). Today I have a story on winter cheeses in the Food & Dining section, and I’m telling you because, honeys, I’m wildly excited about this year’s seasonal selection.

You can read my article on Philly.com — but be prepared. You may start panting.

These cheeses are fierce. They’re circus performers who juggle bark, booze, and flames.

Pick a hunk from each category — a bark-wrapped disk, a boozey floozy, and a torched charmer — and you will become misty-eyed, glitter-infected, swoony. Together, all of these cheeses are my campfire.

Who needs a piney wood when you can have spruce-wrapped Rush Creek Reserve?

Rush Creek

Who needs a hot toddy or a hip flask when you can have Grande Marnier Coupe, a booze-infused Brie?

Grand Marnier Coupe

Who needs a fireplace when you have Tomme Brulée?

Tomme Brulee

What’s a holiday cheese board if not a dream of the place where you’d like to be? My city self cajoles its country self through wild and exuberant dairy.


Happy holidays, everyone! Keep your eyes peeled for news of Cheese Ball II! It’s happening on January 18, 2014. Save the date!



The Cheese and Tea Pairing Project

Chai and Anton's 3

My friend Alexis Siemons of Teaspoons & Petals develops tea blends and hosts tastings around Philadelphia. When I met her, I was so curious about the possibility of pairing tea with cheese — think of the times when you’ve got a non-drinker at the table or you just don’t feel up to a glass of sherry on a school night (as if that’s a real problem, but let’s imagine).

Tea has surprised me as a cheese mate: a delicate Sencha will match the grassy notes in young goat cheese. And a tannic black tea can purr against a dense cow’s milk creamy, like a medium Cheddar.

For the holidays, Alexis and I teamed up to pair three cheeses from Di Bruno Bros. with three teas from Premium Steap that would be appropriate for the season. Click over to the Di Bruno blog to see leafy matches for Reading Raclette, Testun Malto d’Orzo, and Anton’s Peppered Ass.

To read my post, click here.