The Cheese Library

Virginia B. Wood checks out the cheese library.

The Cheese Library

In keeping with the emerging trend, national publishing houses have gotten on the cheese bandwagon, producing a series of worthwhile titles in the past few years. Some are reference guides, others cookbooks with good practical information, but there's something for every taste.

The Cheese Plate by Max McCalman and David Gibbons (Clarkson/Potter, $32.50) Max McCalman is one of the only Americans to achieve the distinctive title of maitre fromager. At the New York City restaurants Picholine and Artisanal, he's responsible for planning, ordering, ripening, and serving the 70 to 100 cheeses used to make up the 55-selection cheese boards featured daily. McCalman's book reflects his consuming passion for cheese, offering sections on the history of cheese and the art of cheesemaking, a chapter on buying, storing, and serving cheese, and cheese-pairing principles, plus suggested cheese plates suitable for breakfast, lunch, appetizers, and after-dinner consumption. He finishes with a chapter spotlighting his personal favorite cheeses. Building from general to specific information, writer Gibbons' work is very accessible, and McCalman's boundless enthusiasm for the subject is obvious. This inspiring read can serve as an effective template for restaurant chefs, caterers, and home cooks interested in the development of a single satisfying cheese menu or a successful cheese program.

The Cheese Primer by Steven Jenkins (Workman, $16.95) This soft-bound book is considered the cheese bible by restaurant professionals and passionate amateurs alike. Jenkins doesn't mince words about his opinions, and his comprehensive work is the definitive guide to the world's cheeses currently on the market. It's a true reference book with no recipes and a must-have for any serious culinary reference library.

Eyewitness Handbook: French Cheeses (DK Publishing, $18.95) A handy, compact guide to more than 350 cheeses from every region of France. Each description includes photographs, essential factual information, and suggested wine pairings. It's small enough to pack for the next trip to France, and true cheese lovers wouldn't want to leave home without it.

The Cheese Lover's Cookbook & Guide by Paula Lambert (Simon & Schuster, $35) After an extended 1981 visit to Italy, Dallas socialite Paula Lambert returned home and founded the Mozzarella Company, becoming one of the prime movers in the renaissance of artisanal cheesemaking in this country. Her fresh mozzarella and other Italian-style cheeses are highly regarded by restaurant chefs and upscale grocers across America. This user-friendly volume offers general information about buying, storing, serving, and cooking with cheese, plus 150 recipes.

The New American Cheese by Laura Werlin (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, $35) This guide to American artisanal cheesemakers contains state-by-state listings and many interesting profiles. Though published in 2000, the information is still fairly up to date. Also includes recipes and photos.

The Cheese Course by Janet Fletcher (Chronicle Books, $19.95) This lovely book is long on photographs and recipes but short on useful information about choosing, storing, and serving individual cheeses.

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