The New American Cheese was written by Laura Werlin, a food journalist whose work has also appeared in Saveur, Self, and San Francisco. This is her first book, prior she worked in television news in San Francisco.
Before reading or trying any of the recipes in the book the first thing that I noticed about it was its quality and physical beauty. Like the American cheese it promotes, this book is a piece of fine craftsmanship-It appears that there has been no expense spared in producing this book. It's loaded with beautiful glossy color photographs that were taken by Martin Jacobs a Manhattan based photographer whose work has also appeared in Spirit of the Harvest, A Taste of Hawaii and the Foods of Vietnam. What really surprised me at first was the weight of the book its an average sized book to look at, made of 280 pages, but it weighs as much as one twice its size-quality paper stock, I suppose. The look and feel of this book says "coffee table."
Enough about how it looks, what's in the book is equally impressive. As opposed to some coffee table-style books, The New American Cheese is a practical book it can be decorative in any room, but it's also meant to be read, used as reference, and the recipes simply cry out to be made.
Looking through The New American Cheese one can see straight away that the author clearly did her research. In the first portion of the book there are interesting and informative chapters focusing on the evolution of cheesemaking in America, how cheese is made, how to taste, buy and store cheese and how to pair cheese with wine, just to name a few. The second portion of the book focuses on recipes and profiles of specific American cheesemakers. I personally found the profiles of the cheesemakers absorbing it is interesting to read the histories of the dairies, and the biographies of the people who work them. It seems as though, like any craft, cheesemaking to these people is a labor of love.
The recipes are organized in the standard transgression from appetizers to salads, main courses and desserts, with a sprinkling of pizzas, risotto, and vegetables. Of course, all of the recipes contain cheese in one form or another. The recipes are as interesting as the book is to read, here's a sampling: Three-Cheese Green and Red Lasagna, from Quillisascut Cheese Company Minted Fava Bean and Prosciutto Salad with Sheep's Milk Cheese, from Skunk Hollow Farm Slow-Roasted Salmon with Arugula, Tomato Jam and Cheese, from Vermont Shepherd and Quarky Chocolate Cake, from Cowgirl Creamery.
The remainder of the book contains a glossary with definitive cheese-related terms and descriptions of cheeses. There's also an alphabetical list of cheesemakers around the country, and information on American cheesemaking-related associations. If you love cheese, and are the type of person that loves to read about all of the idiosyncrasies of a specific craft, this book is for you. The New American Cheese is a good read, has great, easy-to-follow recipes, and a beautifully executed book. If this is Ms. Werlin's first book, we can only look forward to what is to come.