Last week I took a small journey up to San Francisco to attend a class at The Cheese School. The session I attended was called “Cheeses of Wisconsin.” It was a delicious night of tasting and learning about several different types of cheeses.
The instructor, food journalist, author and cheese expert Laura Werlin, is passionate, fun and energetic. One of the highlights was tasting Extra Aged Pleasant Ridge, the cheese that won Best in Show out of 1,400 cheeses at the American Cheese Society Awards this year.
Before I left I bought one of Werlin’s books, “Great Grilled Cheese: 50 Innovative Recipes for Stovetop, Grill, and Sandwich Maker,” winner of the World Gourmand Award for Best Cheese Book.
This is one book you can most definitely judge by its cover. The cover photo, taken by Food photographer Maren Caruso, captures the quintessential grilled cheese sandwich: gooey orange cheddar oozing between two slices of perfectly grilled sourdough bread. The photos inside are equally mouthwatering.
As Werlin points out in her introduction, the appeal of grilled cheese is that “it’s simple food. It’s diner food. It’s kid food. It’s Saturday lunch fare on a chilly day. Occasionally it’s even on the menu of a white-tablecloth restaurant.”
The first recipe in the book is the “Original American Grilled Cheese” and from there Werlin shares more than 35 new twists on our old favorite. Grilled Ricotta and Shrimp with Cilantro Pesto, Roast Beef with Cheddar and Blue Cheese Butter, and Monterey Jack and Mushroom Panino.
In addition to the recipes, Werlin includes a history of grilled cheese, and a brief description of different types of cheeses and breads.
I have not tried any of the recipes yet, but first on my list is the Grilled Spinach and Goat Cheese Croissant.
And I did graduate from my evening at The Cheese School. I even won a little cooler for getting a question right. I am not saying I could be somebody’s lifeline on a game show, but among the fun facts I did learn is that Wisconsin is the only state where you have to have a license to make cheese. And goats and sheep don’t metabolize beta-carotene like cows, which is why their cheese is whiter.
Werlin, who lives in San Fransisco but travels extensively educating people on all things cheese, says that it is her “mission in life is to make people feel comfortable with cheese and not make people feel intimitaed.”
She points out that Americans “haven’t grown up with cheese culture like the Europeans. We’re real newbies with our cheese experiences.”
To find out more look for Werlin’s book “Cheese Essentials,” which is perfect for “anyone with cheese questions including how to buy it, how to create successful cheese and wine pairs, how to entertain and cook with cheese, and how to store cheese.”
“The All American Cheese and Wine Book” and “The New American Cheese” are also award-winning books by Werlin.
To purchase her books and to learn more about cheese, visit Laura Werlin’s website, www.laurawerlin.com. “Great Grilled Cheese” is hardcover and costs $16.95.