Today it finally feels official. Some sneaky elves over at Eater and Meal Ticket let the Di Bruno Bros. book news out of the bag. Not that it’s been any secret to you. We’ve been on this road together a long time. Some of you even helped me conjure adjectives on Facebook over the summer when I needed to purge my vocabulary of the word “creamy.” (I had reached the chapter on triple cremes and was starting to wilt.)
In sweaty July, I made my deadline. Five brisk months later, and we’ve got a beautiful cover (please note: this is not yet the final version). And, lo, a blurb from Anthony Bourdain. The book is now so much more than I imagined.
When I submitted a proposal for this project back in summer of 2010, I envisioned a little ol’ cheese guide — paperback, no photos. Humdy ho. Then the book got accepted by Running Press in January 2011, and I put up a bulletin board in my third-floor cheese command center and started laying out the chapters. My life, when I wasn’t teaching, was all about sniffing, tasting, researching, and scrambling to describe 170 cheeses. Every week or two, I met with my Di Bruno Bros. brain trust — Hunter Fike, Emilio Mignucci, and Ezekial Ferguson — to talk pairings.
We wanted readers to pick up this book and fall in love with cheese. We knew love was about pairings. So, we lighted on the idea of a “matchmaking guide” — which is how I began to think of this project: as a kama sutra of dairy.
Then along came photographer Jason Varney. He spent three long days making our beauties look sumptuous. I love the look that he chose with the help of food stylist Carrie Purcell. They rented special linens and cutting boards from a prop house in New York so that the book would have a warm, come-into-my-sauna look.
Over at Running Press, Josh McDonnell picked through fonts and hand-drew the lettering on the cover. He happens to like washed rind cheese, so we have become friends. Our editor Kristen Green Wiewora has been a champion, pouring over typos and shuttling the manuscript between proofreaders. She likes triple cremes — I’ve been trying to keep her fridge at work stocked.
In May 2013, we’ll unleash this puppy. And then we’ll feast, won’t we?
Links to Book-Related Posts
A big thanks to everyone at Di Bruno Bros. who has been involved in this project. We’ve been blogging together for almost two years and teaching one another so much about dairy and diction. I couldn’t have asked for lovelier, livelier collaborators.
If you’re anything like me this time of year, you can’t get your nose out of cookbooks. Every morning, I wake up with a new vision and a more beautiful plan for, say, a cheese board that reflects winter botanicals — and then my whole holiday schema has to be doctored. I suffer from acute caseophilia (my word for obsessive cheesing) and profound pantry anxiety. Will I have enough water crackers? What if I run out of chutney for the Stilton?
I have a built in Midwestern sense of hospitality, and nothing makes me more unnerved than not being provisioned. For those of you who share this trait, let me recommend a holiday dessert that requires little more than a quick raid of the liquor cabinet, should you need a last-minute dessert. It’s Brandy Old Fashioned Bread Pudding, a recipe I devised for a new online Wisconsin cheese magazine, Grate. Pair. Share.
My recipe appears on pages 62-63, and it incorporates all the fixins in the official state cocktail of Wisconsin. You’ve got your bitters, your brandy-soaked cherries, your muddled orange. Toss in eggs, milk, sugar, and leftover baguette, and you’ve got Christmas Eve. Or Christmas morning. Thwack a spoonful of Crave Brothers Mascarpone on top, and call it Santa’s beard.
Let me just add that Grate. Pair. Share. is a stunning thing — I say this as someone who has just spent a semester studying online magazines. It includes recipes from a whole kitten basket of bloggers: Caroline from Whipped, Bree from Baked Bree, and Alexandra of Alexandra’s Kitchen. It’s lovely to be in their company but, oh, oh, even better to flip through their holiday cheese visions. I may or may not make the Cheddar-stuffed pork loin.
Disclosure: I was paid by the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board to develop this holiday recipe. I designed it and chose the products myself, but I like to disclose when I am compensated for my deep, dark dairy nature outside of this blog.
I’ve been waiting to tell you about a little wrestling match between blue cheeses that I held at my house. It was a throw down between The Leaf-Wrapped. I used a cutting board in place of a mat and let my two guys warm up. While they sweated it out, I did some yard work.
Here were the contenders:
When both blues were at room temperature, I sat down down for a snack, amid imaginary bells and whistles. I wish there had been a crowd. This was a rowdy, flab-on-the-ropes, booze-on-the-breath, hair-on-the-chest kind of affair.
You see, Figgy Blue is the new blue star from Sue Miller of Birchrun Hills Farm in Chester County, Pennsylvania. It’s a raw-milk knuckler wrapped in fig leaves that have been macerated in local Laird’s Apple Brandy.
Rogue River Blue, from Rogue Creamery in Oregon, is a reigning champion. It’s won Best of Show twice from the American Cheese Society (see yesterday’s post), and it sets the bar high for any blue that wants to cloak itself in darkness and bathe itself in spirits. Rogue River Blue is also made from raw milk — a combination of Swiss and Holstein — and it dons grape leaves macerated in Clear Creek Pear Brandy.
Here’s the shocking truth: I thought these buggers would taste similar. Couldn’t have been more wrong.
Rogue River Blue
Smell: Yeasty, milky, fruity — like a buttery Parker House roll topped with slightly musty preserves
Texture: Moist and cheesecake-crumbly; smooth, except for tiny crystals
Taste: The front end is sweet, berry-like with a gentle brandy-infused taste. In the background, there are pine trees, pine nuts, all things foresty. It makes me think of walks in the woods, plump berries hanging from vines. It’s delicate, mind-bogglingly elegant, graceful even as the flavors shift and turn on the tongue.
Smell: Floral and mineraly, like violets growing in limestone
Texture: Damp and loosey-crumbly, like fruitcake drenched in spirits, slightly grainy
Taste: Black walnuts jump out on the front end, followed by minerals and white chocolate. If fruitcake were fudge, it would taste like this — rich, nutty, fruity, and boozy with a luxurious mouthfeel. Gorgeous, heavy, thunderous even.
And the winner?
Don’t be silly. Figgy Blue and Rogue River are two different kind of challengers. One is a legend, one is the new kid. Rogue is a gentle giant, and Figgy is a heaving piece of heaven.
The cool thing is that they represent the terroir of two coasts — Rogue River Blue has always been a landmark blue for the West Coast. Now, the East Coast has its leaf-wrapped Ali.
Now it’s up to the Midwest to bring a leaf-wrapped cat to the mat.
Cheese Sourcing: If you live in Philadelphia, go to Headhouse Square Farmers’ Market on Sunday mornings from 10-2 or and ask Sue Miller for a wedge of Figgy Blue. She also sells at markets in Media, Bryn Mawr, and Phoenixville. Figgy Blue is sometimes available at Di Bruno Bros. and the Fair Food Farmstand in Reading Terminal Market. Rogue River Blue can be purchased locally at Di Bruno Bros. or from the Rogue River website.
Portrait Procurement: Mike Geno’s cheese portraits and prints are for sale on his website.
If you find yourself heading to a swish party without a holiday sweater, you can always make up for it with a wedge of Rogue River Blue. It’s the elusive wedge everyone’s been looking for since it won the coveted “Best of Show” award from the American Cheese Society last year. Now it’s in season, just in time to nuzzle pears and sidle up to your most intoxicating eau de vie.
Don’t let the “blue” part of this cheese from Oregon scare you. Rogue River is the nun of cheeses – demure but sweetly spirited. Notice how few blue veins she’s got and how pretty her habit is (the rind is wrapped in grape leaves soaked in pear brandy). This is a moist, rich creature with a texture like New York cheesecake – clayey and crumbly.
To keep reading, please visit the Di Bruno Blog.
Disclosure: This post is part of a series I write for Di Bruno Bros., one of my fave cheese haunts in Philadelphia. I select my subjects and am paid for my writing. This is how I fund my dairy obsession.