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Mastering Cheese: Lessons for Connoisseurship from a Maître Fromager Hardcover – November 17, 2009

4.7 out of 5 stars 38 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Cheese experts McCalman and Gibbons already have two James Beard awards for previous fromage-focused tomes (Cheese, The Cheese Plate); this outstanding examination of the subject could nab them another. Regardless, it should be required reading for any cheese-lover. The duo start slowly and distantly, with Sumerians, Mesopotamians, and suggestions for the contemporary cheeses that recall the food's earliest versions. After explanations of the cheese making process and tips for detecting flavors and determining ripeness, the two roll up their sleeves and attack cheese in all forms and locales. Suggested tastings are frequent and varied, enabling readers to sample at their own pace as they familiarize themselves with different styles and regions. Even those in the business are sure to pick up a few pointers: tips on the art of preparing a cheese trolley, structuring a tasting, and sophisticated topics like the debate over pasteurized and raw milk. Sample menus give readers a painless introduction to the symphonic pairings of a single wine or beer as well as a multi-wine, multi-cheese event. McCalman and Gibbons prove anything but snobby, employing a down-to-earth, encouraging tone and an egalitarian approach to taste, encouraging readers to eat what they like, not necessarily hunt down "the best."

About the Author

MAX MCCALMAN is America's first restaurant-based Maître Fromager and a Garde et Juré, as designated by France's Guilde des Fromagers. He established the critically acclaimed cheese programs at New York City's Picholine and Artisanal Brasserie & Fromagerie restaurants. He is Dean of Curriculum at Artisanal Premium Cheese Center in New York and is a highly visible advocate for artisanal cheese production around the world.
 
DAVID GIBBONS has collaborated on many books, including two with McCalman: The Cheese Plate, which was nominated for James Beard and IACP awards in 2003, and Cheese, which won a James Beard Award in 2006.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Clarkson Potter; 1st edition (November 17, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307406482
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307406484
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 1.3 x 10.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #97,609 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Chambolle VINE VOICE on April 14, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm here to tell you that this book -- "Mastering Cheese" -- is the real, full meal deal, and then some.

I've spent just a few hours with my newly acquired copy and am already certain I will be spending much, much more time with the book. There is plenty here to absorb. A brief history of cheesemaking. An outline of the basic steps in making various styles of cheese. The many elements of "terroir" and their effect on the texture, appearance and flavor of various cheeses. The basic "palette" of cheese flavors and aromas and the chemical compounds responsible for them, along with a glossary of common descriptive terms. Principles for mixing and matching cheeses for a cheese plate. Brief overviews of the cheeses of France, Italy, Switzerland, Britain, the U.S. and other dairy and cheesemaking regions. There is extensive discussion about the growing number of New World artisanal cheeses being made in Oregon, Washington, California, Vermont and elsewhere. A short review like this simply cannot begin to summarize the wealth of information included in this book. In the short time I've spent with it I'm sure I have come nowhere near to taking it all in.

This is the most comprehensive, attractive and readable guide to cheese I have ever seen in the English language. McCalman presents it all with the fervor of a lover and true believer. Above all, he is a powerful advocate for small scale, artisanal cheese production, for restoring the character and diversity of real cheese. As McCalman says in the early going, some people are fortunate enough to find their true calling in life, and he found it in the world of cheese.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a hard-core cheese devotee, I read more than my share of cheese books. I own both of MacCalmans other books (Cheese: A Connoisseur's Guide to the World's Best and The Cheese Plate), both of which are getting rather well-thumbed.

Mastering Cheese combines those two volumes, along with MacCalman's deep expertise in the cheese world, into an excellent how-to guide for anyone that is interested in taking their cheese experience to another level. It is well written with plenty of opportunities for the aspiring caseophile to expand their knowledge of this delicious, delightful food!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a wonderfully complete and rounded book, and everyone who takes his love of finest artisan cheeses seriously should not just read, but study it. Mr. McCalman, quite obviously, not only is a true connoisseur and lover of great cheese, but he approaches his subject from a deep and broad knowledge base. It starts with the bio-molecular details of how the original milk constituents get changed during the various steps of cheese making to determine, together with the methods and ingredients applied to the process, the characteristics of the resulting cheese. It is from that basis that subsequent descriptions of the influence of terroir, animal breed, pasteurizing or not pasteurizing, affinage, various stages of ripeness, and so on and so forth, make what kind of difference in what we subsequently taste.
Not only that, the authors apply a similar rigor when they describe what kind of wine, or even beer, goes best with which cheese selection. Hence, when we read about a certain cheese tasting best at such and such a stage, if to taste or not taste the rind, and even how to get the most out of the tasting experience itself, it is from that authoritative knowledge base that the recommendations are being made!
Ergo: this is no work by some amateur who likes cheese, and decides to write a book about it. Nor is it a cheese "phone book" which lists x-hundred cheeses from across the globe, then describing them in endless repetitions as "flowery", "mushroomy" and "creamy". No, in this book such judgments are applied very specifically, and with precision.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
McCalman breaks lots of new ground in his third book on great cheese--big focus on American artisans, finally a chapter on beer, a more conversational tone--but the knowledge, insights, and ridiculously beautiful images remain. Hats off to Max, too, for (perhaps?) coining the term "cheese farmer."
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Format: Hardcover
Overall this is a beautiful book. Unlike other iconic cheese books, it doesn't force itself to be a catalog of cheese species. Instead, much of the presentation of types is delivered through tasting plates, recommendations and biographies of cheesemakers.

The format is lovely. You learn through cheese entertainment.

I took away one star because after a while, I found McCalman's incessant reiteration that raw products are superior to pasteurized a bit grating. The first half approaches a manifesto on the issue. One starts to wonder how the subjectivity of taste, molded by bias has shaped the author's ability to discern.

There are legitimate concerns about public health and raw milk products. McCalmam dismisses these as bureaucratic nonsense. It's a dangerous recommendation from someone whose main focus is not public health science. There is a significant gap between his personal wish to make raw product safer than they are, and the scientific consensus on the matter.
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