Choosing a favorite cheese "would be like choosing a favorite child," demurs Laura Werlin, the James Beard Award-winning author of Laura Werlin's Cheese Essentials. She's among several headliners slated to appear at Diesel's (5433 College Ave., Oakland) festive Cookbook Extravaganza on Dec. 1 from 3 to 5 p.m. She likes fresh goat cheese and a certain limited-edition aged raclette made in northern Michigan, but adds that "there are many, many cheeses that go unexplored because Americans are nervous about trying new ones." We could also get a bit more creative about their accompaniments, while we're at it. "Quince paste — also called membrillo — and Manchego is a classic Spanish pairing," Werlin says, "but I also like quince jam with blue cheeses and quince chutney with cheddars. A poached pear with a Port sauce and a slice of blue cheese makes a spectacular dessert, while I've become a big fan of the Spanish sheep's-milk cheese called Roncal together with Spanish marcona almonds and a full-bodied Spanish red wine. The almonds make a fantastic bridge between the cheese and the wine." Olé.
Also at Diesel will be Mollie Katzen (The Vegetable Dishes I Can't Live Without), Eric Gower (The Breakaway Cook), Courtney Cochran (Hip Tastes: The Fresh Guide to Wine), Elizabeth Falkner (Demolition Desserts), Lenny Rice and Brigid Callinan (Fondue), and Ruta Kahate (50 Dishes: Simple Indian Recipes Using 5 Common Spices).
"If I can stress anything for the reluctant cheese explorer," Werlin remarks, "it's to try a cheese that falls into the same family of cheeses as the cheese they're more familiar with and yet is different from the one they always get. Instead of Roquefort, try Rogue River Blue from Rogue Creamery in Oregon; instead of basic cheddar, try Lincolnshire Poacher." And try them ... all alone: "While the enjoyment of cheese as an ingredient can't be overestimated, I would love to see more people keeping a semi-hard or hard cheese under a dome on their counter, beckoning to be eaten at any time of the day or night. Most people don't know how fetching a cheese can be." DieselBookstore.com
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