Top positive review
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The only cheese book you ever need to buy.
on 19 December 2010
As the greediest cheese lover I know, the time came for me to buy a new cheese book. The ones already on my bookshelf were perfectly adequate, but what I was looking for was a curd compendium, a tour de force de fromage, written by many experts across the world and co-ordinated by the watchful eye of an enthusiastic editor-in-chief. And here it is. I am the proud owner of a veritable cheese encyclopedia, and I have thoroughly enjoyed my formaggio odyssey through time and travel.
The editor of the "World Cheese Book", Juliet Harbutt, came to Great Britain from New Zealand, and set up the Jeroboams Wine and Cheese shop in London, which won her many awards and accolades from industry peers. In 1994 she created The British Cheese Awards, which was followed in 2000 by The Great British Cheese Festival. She now lives in the Cotswolds where she runs a thriving cheese making business, and teaches people from all walks of life how to buy, serve and enjoy the finest cheeses in the world. She set up in partnership with Alex James, the ex-bass player of the pop band Blur and now columnist with The Independent newspaper, to produce the vine leaf wrapped, cider brandy washed, Little Wallop cheese.
In total twenty contributors have collaborated with Juliet to create this great work, and they are renowned industry specialists from all over the world. No stone has been left unturned. No rind has been left unsniffed. In 2010 the book won The Guild of Food Writers "Best Food Book Award", and it was also awarded "Le Cordon Bleu world Food Media" prize.
The introduction takes you through the story of cheese, a product whose roots hark back to 2800 years before the birth of Christ. How cheese is made, aged and enjoyed, with accompanying photographs, is followed by a geographical breakdown of the main cheese producing regions of the world. By now you are completely proficient in the artisanal skills required to produce fresh, aged fresh, soft white, semi-soft, hard, blue and flavour-added cheeses. You then begin, as one might expect, in France, and you work, alphabetically through its main cheeses, from Abbaye de Citeaux to Vieux-Lille. Each cheese description is accompanied by a photograph, tasting notes, how to enjoy, weights and measures as well as information about producers. And so you journey across Italy, with its Gorgonzola, Mozzarella, Parmiggiano and Taleggio, through to Spain, Portugal, Great Britian and Ireland, the Low Countries, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, The Americas, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.
The editor's and the contributors' palates must be so finely tuned that even the slightest note, hint, tang and texture is registered. Look up "Berkswell" from the West Midlands, a consistent winner at the British Cheese Awards, and you find a hard ewe cheese made on a 16th century farm from the milk of East Friesland sheep, and you are told it is "a characterful cheese which provides a satisfying mouthful: firm texture; sweet, nutty and caramel hint; and a surprisingly tangy finale". I look up one of my favourite cheeses, Manchego, and it is given a double page spread of information. Its tasting notes are quite revelatory: "The depth and complexity of flavour depends on age,but all Manchego has an unmistakable richness reminiscent of Brazil nuts and caramel, with a distinct aroma of lanolin and roast lamb and a slightly salty finish." They have put the words right into my mouth. The Italian king of cheeses, Parmiggiano-Reggiano, with its numbered, stamped, quality controlled, dated exterior, is "fresh, fruity and sweet like fresh pineapple".
If you need to buy a cheese book for yourself, for family or friends that are cheese lovers, than I could not recommend this book more. Within its pages is the meticulous attention to detail, analysis, research and dedication that can only be found from the pens of truly obsessive connoisseurs. I can see myself dipping into its pages over many years to come, with endless fascination, curiosity and gluttony.