The Cheese Plate

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9780609604960: The Cheese Plate
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If you’ve ever had genuine farmhouse Cheddar from England, or real Alsatian Munster, or aged Parmigiano-Reggiano, you know that fine hand-crafted cheeses have absolutely nothing to do with the bland, shrink-wrapped, food-colored offerings that evoke school cafeterias. Artisanal cheeses—from luscious triple crèmes to the “boss” blues—are complex and richly rewarding, very similar to fine wines. And these cheeses get even more rewarding if you know something about their subtleties, their attributes, and how to get the most out of them—like which wines go with which cheeses (and why), or how a multiple-cheese tasting should progress, or what an appropriate portion size is, or which accompaniments work best, or why the Loire chèvres peak in autumn.

Max McCalman is one of the world’s foremost experts on these matters. As the maître fromager (or “cheese master”) at the acclaimed restaurants Picholine and Artisanal in New York City, he spends his entire day, every day, dealing with cheese—ordering it, tasting it, studying it, serving it. And The Cheese Plate is the culmination of his years of passion and study for this subject: the definitive work on how to enjoy the world’s greatest cheeses (and what those cheeses are) at home.

The Cheese Plate begins with the fundamentals: history, what exactly cheese is, and how it’s made. Then Max moves onto the subject that has made him a star in the culinary world—the art of cheese tasting. To begin with, it’s important to know how to buy, store, and serve cheeses, and then how to taste them (again, as with wines, the best results come with a little finesse). Then you’ll want to pair cheeses with other foods and beverages, especially wines, to bring out the best of both. And with all this expertise in hand, you’ll want to construct cheese plates, from a quick lunch assortment to a full after-dinner tasting extravaganza. Finally, you’ll appreciate a rundown of the best cheeses in the world—where they’re from, what they look and taste like, their perfect wine accompaniments—so that you can become a maître fromager in your own right.

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Review:

Thanks to increased exposure to the world's finest cheeses, Americans are finally learning to love and appreciate this versatile food. But how to enjoy cheese at home? Max McCalman, maître fromager at Manhattan's three-star Picholine restaurant, provides real help. The Cheese Plate, written with David Gibbons, offers introduction to the world's cheese repertoires, cheese manufacturing and finishing methods, how to choose cheese and pair it with wine and other foods, and more--all of which is sensibly and accessibly presented. Without attempting a comprehensive investigation, McCalman nonetheless touches all the necessary bases, providing just the right blend of fundamental and sophisticated counsel.

Beginning with chapters that explore cheese creation--a fascinating partnership of animal, terroir (place of origin), and skills honed over the millennia--the book then provides succinct buying, storing, and serving advice. (Buying rule No. 1: cultivate a cheese monger.) Here and throughout, McCalman offers a wealth of diverse investigations like the Seven Degrees of Ripeness (1, too young; 4, peak; 7, "fuggedaboudit") and Is Shrink-Wrapping Bad for Cheese? (yes, cheese must breath); he also provides informative asides on cheese makers like Britain's famed Neal's Yard Dairy, plus cheese-plate blueprints for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. A final section profiles McCalman's favorite cheeses, country by country. With color photos, a glossary, and list of resources, the book is an exemplary place to begin or further a cheese-at-home education. --Arthur Boehm

From the Back Cover:

“This book takes cheese to the Max. McCalman makes the complex world of cheese seem manageable without
sacrificing any of its mystique or wonder. Cheese lovers seeking a one-stop information source can stop looking.”—Alfred Portale, author of Gotham Bar & Grill Cookbook and Alfred Portale’s Twelve Seasons Cookbook

“I dare anyone to listen to the maître fromager, Max McCalman, talking about his cheese and not order something. He speaks so lovingly and with such knowledge that I long to taste each cheese that he describes. Personally, I’ve given up dessert at Picholine.” —Ruth Reichl

“The perfect read for the cheese lover from the most knowledgeable lactophile we know.” —Tim and Nina Zagat

“A masterpiece of information about cheese, its terroir, the manufacturing, and how to best enoy it; you will also find tips on wine pairing. Wonderful!”—Jean-Georges Vongerichten, author of Simple to Spectacular and Jean-Georges

The Cheese Plate is not just a peerless cheese book, it ranks as one of the most important food books ever written. . . . Sophisticated, articulate, a mother lode of information. This remarkable book is pornographic and should be wrapped in brown paper.” —Steve Jenkins, author of Cheese Primer

“Max McCalman makes me want to eat cheese every day. His detailed but easy-to-follow suggestions for assembling a cheese plate are inspired. The Cheese Plate is witty, opinionated, and entertaining.”
—Jack Bishop, author of Pasta e Verdura and Vegetables Every Day

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