Wisconsin Cheese: A Cookbook and Guide to the Cheeses of Wisconsin

Wisconsin Cheese: A Cookbook and GuideCheese books seem to divide themselves into several categories: some are lushly  photographed guidebooks to the cheeses of the world, others offer practical advice, and some emphasize recipes. Some do all of the above. What I'm getting at is that the cheese genre, such as it is, is rapidly filling up with a variety of books that appeal to a broad cross section of people interested in cheese. Wisconsin Cheese: A Cookbook and Guide is in part a comprehensive manual which covers the state that is the cheesemaking center of the US. Organized primarily by style of cheese from Cheddar to Swiss and beyond, the book discusses the style, then delves a bit into who makes the particular style in Wisconsin, and then tells what to do with it. As the title suggests, recipes are really what this book is all about, running the gamut from dips to cheese grits to pizza to more complex recipes like quiches and souffles and enchiladas, many developed by Wisconsin chefs like Tory Miller of L'Etoile in Madison and Adam Siegel of Bartolotta's Lake Park Bistro in Milwaukee.

The chatty, conversational tone of the book will appeal to those interested in learning more about Wisconsin cheese but who may be put off by more distant, academic-style tomes. The authors offer plenty of anecdotes about cheesemakers, animal care and suggestions for Green Bay Packer parties as well as advice on cooking, storing and eating cheese. Wisconsin Cheese: A Cookbook and Guide is chock full of information presented in a fun, accessible format - a tasty introduction to one of America's great cheesemaking regions.

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Wisconsin Cheese: A Cookbook and Guide to the Cheeses of Wisconsin by Martin Hintz and Pam Percy Globe Pequot Press 272 pages  $16.95  paperback

Laura Werlin's Cheese Essentials

Laura Werlin's Cheese EssentialsIf you've ever stood in front of a well-stocked cheese case, frozen with indecision over which cheese to choose, then you need this book. In Cheese Essentials, expert Laura Werlin takes the role of a friendly and well traveled tour guide, walking the novice cheese consumer through the world of cheese step by step. Her signposts are the divisions between cheese types (eight in all). Each style is treated to its own chapter which explains in detail how the style is made, its variations and potential range of flavors. Motivated adventurers will enjoy the 'take home tests' toward the end of each chapter, where Werlin assigns cheeses to buy and then provides a detailed tasting lesson guiding them through the sensory and flavor expedition they've embarked on. Finally, each chapter offers a selection of recipes using cheeses of the particular style under discussion.

The book succeeds in its mission to educate the interested but nervous cheese consumer. Werlin's explanations are considered, direct and convey loads of information that even the cheese savvy might find useful. Perhaps most importantly, you'll feel that she's talking to you, not at you; she genuinely wants you to share in her enthusiasm for cheese. I particularly liked the fact that she entertains common consumer questions such as - why is cheese so expensive? or - why don't some cheeses melt? Laura Werlin has thought of just about everything in this book and that's one of the reasons I think readers will find it handy and instructive...and even fun.

As Werlin points out in the introduction, the book is not intended to be a cheese encyclopedia but as a guide to understanding the styles of cheese that are out there. Armed with this information, anyone will be able to step up to a cheese counter confidently. Werlin is a thorough and patient teacher and as a result, I think that readers interested in learning about this fun and rapidly changing category of good food will find this book an engaging guide.

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Laura Werlin's Cheese Essentials: An Insider's Guide to Buying and Serving Cheese by Laura Werlin  with photographs by Maren Caruso Stewart, Tabori and Chang   272 pages  $24.95


The Cheese Lover's Companion: The Ultimate A-Z Cheese Guide

The Cheese Lover's CompanionThere are a good many cheese books available these days, and more are coming out all the time. Generally it seems that said cheese books fall into two categories: the lavishly photographed coffee table cheese books and the more information oriented, text-heavy books. Neither type is necessarily better or worse than the other, but each serves a purpose. Cheese Lover's Companion falls into the latter category: bare bones on production (it's a small paperback book with no photographs) but long on comprehensive information about cheese. As others have pointed out, one of the nice aspects of this book is that it is organized alphabetically rather than - as many cheese books are - by cheese type or by nationality. If you want to look up Camembert, you look under C and you want to look up Gjetost, you look under G - very simple. That being said, the book also includes a glossary that cross references cheeses by milk type and by country, so you're covered if you can only remember  a cheese by the country it's from, or the fact that something you once liked was a sheep's milk cheese. Also included is a cheese descriptor glossary, which is helpful for those of us searching for words to describe a grassy/herby/nutty taste or pasty/crusty/velvety texture.

I'm a sucker for a good cheese book and I'm finding this one to be quite a useful reference guide. It's largely Europe-focused, although you can find entries covering some of the larger US makers like Rogue Creamery or Cypress Grove Chevre and their various cheeses. This guide works best if you are, say, trying a particular type of cheese like a Tallegio and want to learn where it's from and more about its production....or if you are curious what's meant by the word "lactic" when applied to cheese. It's not absolutely comprehensive, and cheese geeks will note that it doesn't list a number of their more coveted varieties. Still, it's a practical starter guide for someone who wants to learn more about cheese but doesn't know where to begin - or a great companion on a tasting trip to your local cheese shop.

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The Cheese Lover's Companion: The Ultimate A-Z Cheese Guide by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst William Morrow $16.95 paperback


Atlas of American Artisan Cheese

Atlas of American Artisan CheeseTarentaise. Constant Bliss. Wabash Cannonball. If these names aren’t familiar right now, they may soon be. Jeffrey Roberts’ new book, Atlas of American Artisan Cheese, is the key to unlocking the mystery of these and hundreds more American artisan cheeses. All over the country otherwise reasonable people have been seized with the notion that it might be fun to make cheese. This impressive new book is at once a bible, catalog and record of this movement, which has blossomed into an artisan cheese renaissance in the United States.

The Atlas profiles nearly 350 makers of cheese from almost every state, with most entries providing photos of farms and cheese along with contact and visitor information. One can only imagine the time and energy it took to compile this information - just pondering the scope of the task is exhausting! Artisan cheesemakers are something of a moving target, with small operations appearing, morphing and evolving all the time; several additional cheesemakers in the Northwest, for example, have emerged even since Roberts compiled his information. The continued growth of this emerging and dynamic industry only underscores the importance of this book.

What I really like about Atlas of American Artisan Cheese is the way it conveys not just facts or information but snapshots of the stories behind the cheese. For some, cheesemaking is the realization of a lifelong dream, for others it started as a retirement project. Dairy economics and the preservation of the family farm are also repeated themes. So in the end you'll find that this book is not just a list of cheese made in the United States, but also a cultural and historical record of a food movement. Cheese is both food and a story, a tangible record of a place and the people that made it.

Really, cheese names aren’t mysteries - they’re just flavors and stories you’ve yet to discover. Atlas of American Artisan Cheese is your passport and tour guide on that very pleasurable journey.

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Atlas of American Artisan Cheese by Jeffrey P. Roberts with forewords by Carlo Petrini and Alison Hooper Chelsea Green Publishing Co. paperback  400 pages  $35

Buy Atlas of American Artisan Cheese from Amazon.com