Say cheese: how to find good sources


October 10, 2007|By Erica Marcus | Erica Marcus,Newsday

How can I learn more about cheese?

The best way to learn about cheese is from someone who knows. Seek out the "big cheese" at your local cheese counter.

The rise of artisanal-cheese sales has been accompanied by an increase in cheese-related books. One good place to start is Cheese Essentials by Laura Werlin. Werlin's first book, The New American Cheese, is one of the best guides to the renaissance in American cheese-making.

Now she addresses the cheese novice with clear instructions on how to navigate the cheese counter and how to read cheese labels, and explains the eight main styles of cheese and how best to eat and cook with various cheeses (including which melt best). She also includes an extremely helpful list that clusters cheeses progressively by strength.

Eleven years ago, the pioneering cheese monger Steve Jenkins published his authoritative and opinionated Cheese Primer, and it is still a standard text, although it does not include cheeses that have become available (often through Jenkin's own efforts) since 1996.

Less detailed but very useful is last year's The Murray's Cheese Handbook: A Guide to More Than 300 of the World's Best Cheeses, by Rob Kaufelt, a pocket-sized A to Z from the owner of one of Manhattan's best cheese shops.

When approaching a new subject of inquiry, it's always helpful to narrow one's focus. So too with cheese. Instead of taking on the whole world, start by learning about one region. Or, zero in on a type of cheese -- hard, blue, washed-rind -- or on cheeses from one type of milk.

Erica Marcus writes for Newsday. E-mail your queries to, or send them to Erica Marcus, Food/Part 2, Newsday, 235 Pinelawn Road, Melville, NY 11747-4250.

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