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“Every Cheese Has a Story” and Other Facts Learned from “Di Bruno Bros. House of Cheese”

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What happens when a cheese-loving Wisconsinite moves to Philadelphia? Assumingly, they would flock to a local cheese counter and dabble in the nearest stinky, eye-catching case, curious of what cheeses will become their home-away-from-home substitutes. 

As the story goes, that’s exactly how writer Tenaya Darlington’s East Coast move played out. She, being a proud Wisconsin native, knew a thing or two about curds and whey. But, after a few visits to the crown jewel of meticulously kept, freely sampled counters of Philadelphia’s cheese scene—the various locations of Di Bruno Bros.—she felt ill-prepared, as if, as she writes, she “walked into a party where she didn’t recognize a single face.”

Soon, being the hungry learner that she is, she befriended the tattooed, burly men behind the counters, biting her way through a thoroughly hunked education. Di Bruno Bros.’ army of cheesemongers’ expertise and willingness to teach was (and is) unlike any other cheese case experience, with each wise guy willing to make her (and others) an expert.

The repeat visits and new friendships swimming around luscious dairy led her to start a blog and become “Madame Fromage,” where she regularly—and almost daily—retells her steps as a cheese understudy. It didn’t stop there either. The personal blogging and camaraderie with the folks of Di Bruno’s led her to become their resident cheese blogger online and then, come 2012, an official Di Bruno Bros. cheese encyclopedia was discussed, with Darlington taking on the task of penning the story.

The beauty of Di Bruno Bros.’ House of Cheese, which hit shelves late spring 2013, is that it demystifies the cheese case. It’s not pretentious or overly complicated, but instead, makes the world of international cheese approachable. Through 256 mouthwatering pages of the curd-driven prose, you’ll be enlightened with details of how to pick your cheese, how to talk to a cheesemonger, how to host a cheese party and more. Better yet, 170 varieties of cheese are identified in its pages, filed in character-packed categories like “Baby Faces,” which highlights young, fresh cheeses; and “Pierced Punks,” which showcases the best of blue cheeses.

As a repeat visitor of the House of Cheese since adding it to my food book collection a few months ago, I encourage you to immediately devour its contents, which also includes dairy lexicon, recipes, beer and wine pairing suggestions, and more. To whet your appetite in the meantime, I leave you with the top five things I have learned (thus far) from the House of Cheese.

1. Eating cheese at the end of a meal is good for your teeth.

2. Tea makes for an excellent cheese pairing. For example, a green tea works well with a goat cheese (like Capricho de Cabra) as the grassy notes of each will complement one another.

3. It was cheesemaking that helped save the Birchrun Hills Farm dairy. When milk prices hit rock bottom a few years ago, the Miller family risked losing their land. Sue Miller sought out cheesemaking to add value to their milk.

4. Darlington is the industry master of identifying cheese personalities through whimsical metaphors. For example, in her typical delightfully barmy fashion, she coins Piave cheese as the “Mars bar of the cheese world” — “it’s all almonds and nougat”; Hudson Red is a “happy hipster with a light aroma of hay and bike rides”; and Midnight Moon, “think Pink Floyd on Gouda, sweet and psychedelic.”

5. It was a 200-pound wheel of cave-aged Emmentaler cracked open in Switzerland that helped push Di Bruno Bros. onto the artisan cheese bandwagon. Bravo to you, Emmentaler.

Click here to purchase the book online, available at $24.99.

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