Madame Fromage’s Best Cheese Tips

I lost touch with the inimitable Tenaya Darlington a few years ago. But there are some friends you know will stay constant and continue to surprise you in a happy ways. So when Tenaya resurfaced as Madame Fromage and produced her recently released, very seductive cheese homage Di Bruno Bros. House of Cheese: A Guide to Wedges, Recipes, and Pairings (Running Press) it all seemed inevitable. Tenaya is the kind of hungry writer who isn’t going to take on a project without doing it right, and who is passionate enough to fearlessly embrace an entire culinary cosmology. In this case the whole stinking world of cheese. We had to talk and that talk led to some smart cheese tips from the Madame herself. Epicurious: How did Di Bruno Bros. become such a temple of artisanal cheese? Tenaya Darlington: The store was founded by a pair of brothers, named Danny and Joe Di Bruno, who moved to Philadelphia from the region of Abruzzo in the 1930s. Using their third grade eductions they opened a little grocery that became the heart of the Italian market neighborhood. In 1965 they renamed their store Di Bruno Bros. House of Cheese and began importing great wheels from Europe. And today the store is where top Philadelphia chefs shop for cheese, from fresh buffalo mozzarella to seasonal Robiolas wrapped in tobacco leaves. Epicurious: And how did you become Madame Fromage? DT: She emerged in 2009 as something of a joke. I started a blog ( to chronicle my cheese habit, and before I knew it I was approached to host tastings, help people design cheese boards for engagement parties, and write about emerging cheesemakers. I’ve become a digital dairy courtesan. Epicurious: Grrr. What are three or four of your favorite Di Bruno cheeses, or just cheese in general? DT: If you were coming to my house for a cheese board tomorrow I’d pick up a hunk of Red Cat (a local stinker), a crumbly slab of Montgomery’s Cheddar from Somerset, and a pudgy wedge of Stichelton–a glorious raw-milk version of Stilton. And of course I’d slip in a wheel of Winnimere from Jasper Hill Creamery in Vermont, since it just won Best of Show at the American Cheese Society awards. Epicurious: What are your key tips for an amateur looking to pick the best hunk of cheese? TD: First go to a reputable cheese shop where you can taste before you buy. Second, look for the burliest person behind the counter and ask him or her which cheese they took home last night. Third, if you don’t know where to begin start by telling the cheesemonger about your favorite beer, wine, or spirit. Then you can work backwards into a delightful pairing. Finally, take a risk. Your cheese party will be twice as fun if you introduce a wild conversation piece. Epicurious: Give an example of one of your famous themed cheese boards. TD: In the book there’s an “all-goat blow-out” cheese board that I have…

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