About a month ago, we received this very special book, Di Bruno Bros House of Cheese, by Tenaya Darlington. We are huge fans of Di Bruno Bros, our local cheese store, so we have been eagerly awaiting the book’s release. I have read it cover-to-cover and am very impressed; I think it is exceptionally well-written, and indeed one of the most enjoyable food books I’ve read in recent memory. The excellent photographs by Philadelphia local (and an alum of Drexel University’s Westphal College of Media Arts and Design) Jason Varney make the book a pleasure to look at (read: drool over) as well as consult.
The book is organized by cheese “personalities” rather than specific style, dairy type, or region, which I think works really well. I confess that I don’t care for this method of organization when it comes to wine, since in the case of wine I’m more apt to know exactly what I want, but it works for me when it comes to cheese, because I have much less specific knowledge and would definitely be looking for cheese to match a certain mood or function. I think this organization not only makes the book more accessible, but it also makes it easier to design well-rounded cheese plates that showcase a variety of styles and flavors.
Each cheese entry has associated food and beverage pairings, which I think are fantastic. In the beginning of the book, I was pleased to find so many cheeses that pair with sparkling wine and rosé, since summer is coming up and that’s what I’m bound to have on hand. As I progressed through the book to some of the bolder personalities, I was equally pleased to find plenty of pairings with red wine, dark beers, and even cocktails and spirits. The gin pairings were a special thrill, as I never would have imagined such a thing; I look forward to picking up some Juni or Pecorino Ginepro to try them out! There is definitely something for everyone and for every occasion in here. Some of the craft beers mentioned in the book are more specific to the Philadelphia region, which on the one hand adds to the book’s local character, but on the other hand might not be as accessible in other parts of the country. The only thing I wish it had was a sort of “reverse-pairing” index in the back, to co-locate all the cheeses that go with a certain wine, for example, but perhaps that’s just the librarian in me.
The cheese profiles are interspersed with great recipes, serving tips, anecdotes, and all kinds of useful information. Each chapter has a cheese board suggestion, as well as an educational “Cheese 101,” such as how to pair cheese with beer. When I first opened the book, I jumped straight to a section on “how to taste cheese,” so I could learn more about the descriptors before I even started reading.
Although I was familiar with maybe 20-25% of the cheeses in the book, there were so many more that I hadn’t tried that I enjoyed reading about. I’m actually quite inspired to start a project to try all the cheese in the book I can that I haven’t already had (with the associated pairings!). Some of them are featured on cheese boards of local restaurants, but I feel so lucky that I’ll be able to try most of these at my local Di Bruno Bros.
I feel like I learned a lot by reading the book, not only about specific cheeses and pairings, but also about cheese styles and cheese making in general. I learned more about the people behind the cheese making process and the people behind the cheese counter, many of whom I have an opportunity to meet in person, between Di Bruno Bros and the local cheese makers who visit Philadelphia farmers’ markets. I learned more about the Di Bruno Bros approach to cheese, which explains why I see certain cheeses at their stores and not others.
Though we were fortunate to receive a complimentary print copy, I also ended up purchasing an ebook copy so that I can reference it on my phone while I’m cheese shopping or dining out.
Since finishing the book, I’ve already tried several new cheeses from the book at Di Bruno Bros (Berkswell and Isle of Mull), at Headhouse Farmers’ Market (Birchrun Hills Fat Cat and Blue) and on cheese plates while dining out (La Serena). Tom and I look forward to making our way through more cheeses in the book, as well as trying out the recipes and parings, and chronicling them here on the blog.