In the rapidly expanding genre known as 'cheese books', you've got a lot of choices these days, and the numbers are growing. Clearly cheese is something more and more people are interested in learning about and reading about. But with so many choices, where to start? I'm recommending that you start here, with The Guide to West Coast Cheese by Sasha Davies. Just released by Timber Press, this book is a comprehensive, in-depth guide to the regional cheeses we've all grown to love.
Davies is a veteran of the caves at Murray's and Artisanal in New York as well as the mastermind, along with husband Michael Claypool, of Cheese By Hand, a grand cheese road trip across the US visiting and interviewing cheesemakers along the way, in their native habitats. They turned the interviews into podcasts (available on the Cheese by Hand website or on iTunes) which are invaluable snapshots of the artisan cheesemaking industry in the US.
That's all a long way of saying that the author knows her stuff. So here's the nuts and bolts of the book: organized alphabetically, Davies walks readers through each individual cheese made on the West Coast, starting at Acapella made by Soyoung Scanlan at Andante Dairy in Northern California all the way to Yaquina Bay Pavé made by Pat Morford of Rivers Edge Chévre in Oregon. Each entry describes a bit about the evolution of the particular cheese, explains the flavor profile in depth as well as providing other helpful information like potential wine pairings and similar cheeses for further exploration. Davies' depth of experience and sharply honed palate bring these cheeses to life. If cheese is your candy, then this book is the key to the candy store.
Great guidebooks are fabulous companions; they explain the unexplained and put all of your unanswered questions to rest. If your questions tend to revolve around issues like rind development or goat's milk gouda, or perhaps the ins and outs of West Coast cheddars - or if you just love great artisan-made cheese and want to learn more about it - then this, my friends, is the book for you.
*Note: Sasha is a friend and colleague in the cheese world so feel free to take my objectivity for what you feel it's worth. Either way, I think this is a great book.
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The Guide to West Coast Cheese: More than 300 Cheeses Handcrafted in California, Oregon, and Washington by Sasha Davies Timber Press 224 pages $18.95 paperback