More Book Signings and Events - 2014 Edition

Happy New Year! The cheese book blitz, such as it is, continues with dates listed below. I will update this as needed so once again, keep checking back for new information. In the meantime, there's been a few reviews and some press about the book - I'll list some of that below:

Whey Ahead: The History of Pacific Northwest Cheese by Rebekah Denn posted on the Seattle Times All You Can Eat blog

Book Review: Pacific Northwest Cheese: A History by Matt Spiegler of the blog Cheese Notes

Pacific Northwest Cheese: A History by Kirstin Jackson of the blog It's Not You, It's Brie (and incidentally, author of a book by the same name)

Also, the Seattle Times did a Q&A with me that was published recently, you can find it here.

And lastly, I've recently set up an author website, so check out when you get a chance!


Tuesday January 14th :: 7pm  University of Washington Bookstore  Seattle, Washington (U-District location)

Satuday February 15th :: 2pm   Powell's event at Pastaworks on SE Hawthorne Portland, Oregon in conjunction with Shannon Borg, author of The Green Vine: A Guide to West Coast Organic, Biodynamic and Sustainable Wine

Thursday February 27th :: 7pm  Auntie's Bookstore Spokane, Washington

Saturday March 8th :: 4pm   Village Books Bellingham, Washington

Saturday April 12th :: 2pm   Cannon Beach Library Cannon Beach, Oregon

Saturday April 19th :: 7pm  Rediscovered Books  Boise, Idaho

Sunday August 10th :: 2pm  Oregon Historical Society Second Sunday Series Portland Oregon

Wednesday November 12th :: Noon  Second Wednesday Lecture Series at the Washington State Historical Society  Tacoma, WA

Cheese & Beer by Janet Fletcher




Cheese & Beer by Janet Fletcher Andrews McNeel Publishers 128 pages $24.99 hardcover



Could there be a more perfect cheese book for summer? Just as we're busily contemplating which craft beer(s) to bring to our next outdoor party, along comes cheese expert Janet Fletcher with a new book, Cheese & Beer, that plants the seed of an intriguing idea: you might consider bringing some cheese along with your beer.

Some will ask -- cheese and beer? Really?  People often wonder why we bother with pairing cheese. Yes, cheese is fantastic just on its own, let's just get that out there. But something happens when you pair cheese with other things, particularly beverages like beer or wine. All three are products of the fermentation process and that affinity makes them particularly good partners. Here's how Fletcher describes what you'll get out of the pairing process:

When you serve a toasty Marzen that echoes the toffee aroma in aged Gouda, or find a triple-cream cheese that mellows the bitter, roasted notes of a stout, you treat yourselves and your guests to the experience. You also give the craft brewer and the artisanal cheesemaker their due by putting their wares in the best possible light.

Pairings take both cheese and beer to the next level, showing off subtleties and highlighting flavors that may not have been noticeable before. It's a bit of an art but not that hard, and ultimately the journey is the reward. And this book is a superb way to get yourself started.

In Cheese & Beer, Fletcher guides readers through the complex worlds of, you guessed it, both cheese and beer, outlining the finer points of ales vs. lagers and providing all sorts of information and suggestions for storing and serving beer and cheese. Fletcher's wealth of knowledge and experience shines throughout. A former chef and author or co-author of more than twenty cookbooks, she is perhaps best known in the cheese world as the force behind the San Francisco Chronicle's Cheese Course column. Her deep knowledge of food and flavor informs this book and the pairings; readers are in good hands here.

As you might expect, the heart of this book is in the pairing descriptions. Fletcher has put together a wide ranging guide to beer styles from pilsner to amber ales to stouts and everything inbetween. Each section offers a discussion of the beer style, some favorite brands made in that style, along with a list of cheeses she's selected as having a particular affinity for that beer. So for example ESBs, Fletcher says, pair best with fairly easygoing cheeses such as Cowgirl Creamery's Wagon Wheel or Montgomery's Cheddar from England. On the other hand, stronger and heartier stouts with malty flavors do well with nutty cheeses that complement the malt like Comté. With 23 beer categories covered (and various styles within categories), this book will keep you busy pairing beer and cheese for a very long time.

One more thing: if you find yourself really getting into the idea of pairing beer & cheese, think about expanding your repetoire to include cheeses made with beer - kind of the ultimate pairing, really. In the Pacific Northwest, that includes Pondhopper from Tumalo Farms washed in Deschutes Mirror Pond Ale and Chocolate Stout Cheddar from Rogue Creamery, a cheddar cheese made with Chocolate Stout from Rogue Ales. Then there's cheeses washed in beer -- Briar Rose Creamery's Lorelei comes to mind, a goat's milk cheese washed in Laurelwood IPA, as does Naughty Nellie, a cow's milk cheese from River Valley Ranch near Seattle and washed in Pike Brewing's ale of the same name. Really, there's no end to this whole beer and cheese thing once you get started. Is that bad?

Interview: Kirstin Jackson, Author of It's Not You, It's Brie

refdp_image_0For several years, Kirstin Jackson has been captivating cheese interested readers with her witty and informative blog, It's Not You, It's Brie. Now she's unleashed her considerable talents in a longer format, and we have It's Not You, It's Brie: Unwrapping America's Unique Culture of Cheese- the book. Part travelogue, part tasting guide and part cheese encyclopedia, the book is a fabulous romp through the world of domestic cheese, with recipes for good measure. Like her blog, Jackson's book is smart, funny and irreverent all at once- in other words, totally absorbing. I'm thrilled to see an author stray from the worshipful, remote prose so common in books about cheese.... in It's Not You, It's Brie, Jackson brings the world of cheese and cheesemakers to to life, in all of their stinky, funky glory. Kirstin Jackson was kind enough to take a few minutes to chat about the book, how she got into cheese, and her take of the cheeses of the Pacific Northwest.

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Right away in the introduction, it's clear that this is going to be a different kind of cheese book. What did you have in mind when you were writing? 

Well, thank you! I wanted to write a book that explored why domestic artisan cheese is the way it is -i.e. awesome- through exploring its styles, flavors, and cultural and historical influences in-depth, but also keep it lighthearted. It was important to me to avoid writing a book that was too serious or exclusive, because enjoying and learning more about our artisan cheese is within everyone's grasp. That said, another aim in writing this book was to thoroughly appease my inner cheese geek by asking TONS of questions of the 48 different cheesemakers profiled in the book, and to travel around the country eating pounds of cheese in the name of research. I also went with a publishing house and editor that let me have a lot of fun writing- I could be a little... less traditional with my descriptions.

Tell us a little about your background. You went to UC Berkeley (majoring in anthropology, I believe?) and culinary school. How did that evolution into food come about? And then how did you arrive at cheese?

Immediately after graduating high school I went to culinary school, cooked for three years in restaurant kitchens, and then decided that I wanted to return to school to to write about food. That inspiration struck when I picked up my first Saveur magazine in the late nineties, but working in kitchens didn't provide me with the time to do actually write. A couple years later I transferred to UC Berkeley, and yes, studied cultural anthropology and worked as an interviewer and transcriptionist in the Regional Oral History Food Program. After Cal, I worked in a cheese shop and started managing a wine bar and directing their cheese program. I went on to teach- at Solano Cellars, the Cheese School of 18 Reasons, Murray's and beyond.

My love of cheese likely spawned from two things- first, a firm foundation in artisanal fermented milk. My parents used to drive me around Northern California cheese country as a child and teenager, and I quickly realized that cheese was a very, very good thing (and an excellent way to get a fifteen year-old to sit for hours in a car with their parents with "minimal" complaints). Second, as a student of anthropology, I'm enamored with the stories- cultural, geographical, political, everything- behind cheese.

There are some killer recipes in this book - I mean, crisped rice treats with Mayor of Nye Beach cheese from Rivers Edge Chèvre? Awesome. (That's on page 175 if you're following along at home.) Would it be fair to say that cooking with cheese requires a different kind of understanding of cheese?

Glad you like them! And, does cooking require a different understanding cheese?Sometimes. It can be fantastic to consider a cheese's flavors, textures and nuances so one can arrive at a stunning final dish that highlights the cheese like in a sheep's milk ricotta-pine nut cheesecake, or those crisped rice treats. But sometimes it's just as lovely to simply grate or crumble a cheese into a bechamel sauce, bake it with noodles, and top it with breadcrumbs and call it a delicious day. It depends how involved you want to get.

Based on your cheese related travels and tasting experiences over the past few years, what's your take on the cheeses of the Pacific Northwest?

I love them! We get some like Mt. Townsend, Beecher's, and Rivers Edge in the Bay Area, but oh how I wish we could get more of the Dinah I wrote about in the book, or the tasty little numbers that never leave your farmer's markets. The land the animals get to hang out on isn't bad either. In other words, if it wasn't so rainy, I'd move there.

What do you think the future of domestic artisan cheese looks like? Or, to put it a different way, what will we be eating in 10 years? 

Hopefully more buffalo milk cheeses. Hopefully more funky, washed rind, stinky, adventurous cheeses and blues. Many more blues. But more importantly, I hope that in ten more years, we'll be eating much more artisan cheese, period, not just more of a certain style, that we'll embrace artisan cheese's breadth.

Obligatory question - what's next?

I'm not sure! I might make a brief trip out of the U.S. to refresh my look at domestic cheese. Play around. Sometimes it's hard to really see what's in your own backyard when your head and tummy is so saturated. It would be hard to leave our good stuff for a long time, but I might take a couple weeks and go eat raw milk cheese and pet foreign animals elsewhere.

Thank you for hosting me on your blog, Tami. I'm very flattered to be here!


It's Not You, It's Brie: Unwrapping America's Unique Culture of Cheese By Kirstin Jackson Illustrations by Summer Pierre Perigee Books   240 pages  $19.00  hardcover

Cheese and Culture by Paul Kindstedt

  For all of the contemporary enthusiasm about cheese, I’m surprised by how little has been written about the history of the cheese and dairy industry in general. Now that’s starting to change, most recently with the publication of Cheese and Culture: A History of Cheese and its Place in Western Civilization by Paul Kindstedt.

In his first book, American Farmstead Cheese, author Paul Kindstedt devoted the first section to a brief historical overview, and spent the balance of the book discussing the finer points of cheese chemistry. Kindstedt notes in the introduction to Cheese and Culture that he wrote the history part of that first book in order to grab readers' interest and provide context for what was intended to be a technical manual. But in the process he became fascinated with the depth and complexity of all of the history that he'd begun to uncover.... and in his new book, Kindstedt revisits the historical side of that earlier project in much more depth.

In Cheese and Culture, Kindstedt focuses primarily on the ancient origins of the production of dairy products and cheesemaking. It's heady stuff: evidence of dairying goes back not just centuries but millennia to as early as 6500 BC in southwest Asia. Technological advances such as the development of the craft of pottery making led to the creation of sieves and strainers that early cheesemakers used to funnel the whey off of coagulated dairy products, enabling the production of increasingly larger quantities of cheese. By 3000 BC, Kindstedt says, cheesemaking was a firmly entrenched part of Egyptian culture. Rennet-coagulated cheeses emerged later and by the era of the Greek and Roman empires (extending through about 500 AD) cheese was an integral part of both the diet and way of life of each of these civilizations.

Kindstedt devotes a lot of time in this book to unpacking the finer points of ancient history; much of it is complex and fascinating, though some reviewers have commented on what they perceive as an "academic" tone to the book. Most interesting for me was Kindstedt’s examination (starting in Chapter 6) of the more modern origins of styles of cheeses that still exist today - though in this context "modern" is relative and we're still looking back at least one thousand years. While it can be hard to visualize what types of cheese might have been made in Ancient Egypt (though Kindstedt does his best to guess), his take on the gradual evolution of more familiar types of cheese is thoroughly engrossing....eating Brie just got a lot more interesting.

In a recent interview on Anne Saxelby's Cutting the Curd, Kindstedt opined that "If cheese can help us understand the origin of civilization, it can help us understand who we are as a species." If food could be said to be a necessary foundation of human culture, then it makes sense that cheese would be a lens through which we might view its development. With Cheese and Culture, Kindstedt has made a valuable contribution to our understanding of the ancient origins of a food still very much enjoyed today.

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Cheese and Culture: A History of Cheese and its Place in Western Civilization by Paul Kindstedt Chelsea Green 288 pages $24.95 hardcover

see the publisher's page here for a summary of news, book-related events and Paul Kindstedt's appearances and interviews.

Growing a Farmer by Kurt Timmermeister

Growing a Farmer - How I Learned to Live Off the Land

When I read Kurt Timmermeister's new book Growing a Farmer: How I Learned to Live off the Land, I immediately thought of Thoreau's Walden (you remember, the whole back to the land thing, living deliberately, etc. etc.).

On the surface, Timmermeister has the same general idea as Thoreau - he aims to get away from the 'corruptions' of modern food and live more essentially. For Timmermeister, the impetus for this move is embodied in the form of dreadful cases of frozen chicken breasts ("chicken popsicles") and frozen pork loin that weeps pork fluid as it defrosts, that he finds himself bringing into his restaurant, the former Cafe Septieme in Seattle. He yearns to get back to what's real - in this case, real food. And while he is not entirely certain what that is or what it will mean, he knows he wants to try. The rest of the book is that journey.

As Timmermeister leads us through his story, we begin to see that this project of growing, making and producing 'real' food on his small farm is complex, expensive, incredibly time and labor-intensive...and that's not even the half of it. Timmermeister's city-boy plunge headfirst into agriculture looks at times like a noble undertaking and at other times a quixotic quest. And he is as frank about his failures as he is about his successes, which is one of the things that makes this book so refreshing and compelling. His play-by-play of setting up and maintaining a beehive, slaughtering an animal, or even growing vegetables (for fun and profit!) is simultaneously a instructive primer and a stern warning....instead of reading this book and plunging headfirst into the idyllic life of a farmer, some readers may run screaming from the idea, never to return. And that's kind of the point. That being said, Kurt Timmermeister has made farming work for him - he's making and selling cheese. Probably he's milking a cow while you're reading this. So it CAN work, he seems to be saying. But can you handle it?

There's a lot of Thoreau's idealism in contemporary notions about farming and food: we celebrate all things rural and tend toward putting farmers on pedestals without always taking the time to really understand the complexities behind who and what makes our food. Growing a Farmer is kind of like a Walden for the twenty-first century, a book that takes us back to the essence of real food and real farms while simultaneously problematizing the cultural constructs we've built around those very things. Because beauty and harmony and pleasant sunsets are real, but so are cold winters and bad soil and disease and death. And crop failure and listeria. And ultimately, it may be that you can't have only the good parts of the life you choose, because it just doesn't work that way.

In this day and age we're way too jaded for the pastoral idealism of days gone by, but Timmermeister is deftly forging a new ideal in this book (and in real life). Best of all, the story's not over yet. I loved the fact that there's no real answer here. Growing a Farmer is ultimately a snapshot of an ongoing event; Timmermeister himself is quick to say that he doesn't know where this whole farming project will end up over time. Fair enough - I for one can't wait to see what happens next.

---> Watch Kurt Timmermeister's recent appearance on Martha Stewart's show here.

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Growing a Farmer: How I Learned to Live off the Land by Kurt Timmermeister W. W. Norton, 335 pages,  hardcover  $24.95

One Block Feast by Margo True & the staff of Sunset Magazine

The One-Block Feast - an Adventure in Food from Yard to TableThose of us who live on the West Coast are familiar with Sunset Magazine, "Your Guide to Living in the West." It's a lovely magazine that coveys a lifestyle through food, design and travel. A few years ago Margo True, formerly of Saveur and Gourmet, came on board as Food Editor and I think the food section really evolved into something interesting and noteworthy.  More recently, they began a blog called One Block Diet and I started to take notice. The blog's project was and still is to develop a feast using products grown and raised on the magazine's grounds in Menlo Park, California. They are doing and learning everything - and I do mean everything....from growing a whole variety of fruits and vegetables to raising chickens to making vinegar and salt and cheese and raising bees for honey. It's a locavore's fantasy come to life - raise the food you eat and in the process evolve a deep understanding of the time, effort and ingenuity it takes to achieve such a feat. Of course there are the inevitable twists, turns and failures...but regardless of the issues that come up, there's always a meal - perhaps not the one that was planned, but a meal regardless - to be made in the end. The underlying imperative becomes to create nurturing sustenance with what you have. In the end, it's all good.

The One-Block Feast is at its essence the book version of the blog. Margo True has condensed down the daily experiences of putting together their project of creating an ongoing seasonal, local feast into a compendium of stories and recipes. And, like the magazine, it's colorful and engaging. You could read this book as the narrative of an extended adventure, as a cookbook or as a seasonal gardening journal. And it wouldn't be a Sunset-related book without lots of how-tos, diagrams and killer recipes....check, it's got those too. (The real nuts-&-bolts stuff is usually absent from most of the books of the 'urban farmer' genre).

You may have noticed there's been a number of these back to the land, how-to-do-it-all and grow-it-all books coming out lately, each with its own spin and its own message. Granted, Sunset comes from a bit of a different place than some of the other authors (i.e. Michael Pollan, Noella Carpenter, Kurt Timmermeister), since it's a well-funded organization with numerous staff members eager to play along. But one thing I liked about both this blog and the book is that they're stretching Sunset beyond the boundaries of its carefully manicured magazine image into messier territory where things sometimes work and sometimes don't, and the weather or the bees might not cooperate. I think that's a positive evolution that's bound to engage more readers (be they from the West Coast or other parts of the country), people who are becoming increasingly interested in where their food comes from and want to try to grow it or make it themselves.

-----> Follow the  One Block Diet Blog here.

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The One-Block Feast: An Adventure in Food from Yard to Table by Margo True & the staff at Sunset Magazine Ten Speed Press  272 pages hardcover  $24.99

Food Lover's Guide to Portland by Liz Crain

Food Lover's Guide to PortlandWhen I moved to Portland in the mid-1990s, Portland was pretty much a backwater town. Property values were low, the farmers market had just barely gotten off the ground and there was not much in the way of good coffee to speak of. Contrast that sad state of affairs with Portland is so trendy the New York Times can't stop talking about us. (Sorry, Seattle). So what happened? A lot of things, including the fact that many, many people from New York and the East Coast moved to Portland for its low property values and quality of life. But I digress. Things have changed considerably in 15+ years, and one of the many things that is putting Portland, Oregon on the map these days is its food scene. From restaurants like Castagna, Le Pigeon (don't pronounce it as if it's French) and Beast, to microbrewed beer to coffee, Portland is now known nationally and internationally as an epicenter of all things good food.

So along comes someone to put the various pieces together for all of us in on place, and - voila! - we have Food Lover's Guide to Portland. In this book, Liz Crain has compiled an astoundingly comprehensive guide to Portland food. And it's not just about restaurants, though they are certainly a core part of what she covers in this book. There's a 'cheese' category, a 'seafood' category, a 'tea' category and literally dozens of other things that I found myself totally engrossed in learning all about. Crain has unearthed numerous gems in the nooks and crannies of Portland and the surrounding area, cool things that I've never heard of and I thought I knew Portland. Like Lulu's Chocolates and Fiji Emporium.

So among its many virtues, what's great about this book is this: if you're new to Portland or curious about the scene, this is a fantastic resource. If you've lived here forever or are a Portland native, this book is for you too -  because you're gonna find out about things you've never heard of. The bottom line is that this book reflects the comprehensive knowledge and curiosity of its author, a Portland food writer who dabbles in such diverse pursuits as fermentation, canning and cooking on sailboats. Let Liz Crain take you along on her Portland food adventure! (You can also follow Liz on her blog here).

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Food Lover's Guide to Portland Sasquatch Press 256 pages, $17.95, paperback


Liz Crain is selling autographed copies directly from her website: click here for details. Makes a great gift!

The Guide to West Coast Cheese by Sasha Davies

The Guide to West Coast CheeseIn 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