San Francisco Bay Area journalist, “Cheese Course” columnist, and author Janet Fletcher knows her cheese. Her many publications on cheese showcase her rich knowledge of the world’s best cheeses and provide unique pairing recipes to include alongside favored fromage. After a recent visit to Wisconsin, Fletcher talked with us about her culinary history, her views on cheese pairings, and her favorite ways to serve Wisconsin Cheese.
How she started writing:
While I was cooking at a restaurant, I was ghost writing for a gentleman here in the Bay Area who had a successful restaurant newsletter. Then I started my own newsletter on food and it quickly failed. But it gave me an instant portfolio.
How she got into cheese:
I have always loved cheese. My focus on cheese picked up steam about 12 years ago, when I wrote a book called The Cheese Course. It was at this time that people were becoming more interested in cheese. Restaurants were beginning to serve more cheese boards. In the last decade, there has been so much growth with serving cheese.
On Wisconsin Cheese:
It is inspiring to see the beauty of the cows in Wisconsin. Wisconsin cheesemakers are true purists. They don’t cut corners. They don’t compromise. Everything is done as it always has been done. During my recent visit, I loved seeing the Limburger and Brick cheeses being washed at Chalet Cheese Cooperative. Wisconsin Brick is a wonderful and unique cheese.
Favorite Wisconsin Cheeses:
Pleasant Ridge Reserve and Rush Creek Reserve will always be on my list. The cheese from the cows at Uplands is just spectacular. There are several new mixed-milk cheeses by Carr Valley that aim to please. Also, I loved the Hook’s 10-year Cheddar that I purchased at the farmers’ market in Madison right before I left. Aged Cheddars are simply wonderful. It’s the crystals.
On cheese pairings:
I like nuts with cheese because they’re savory and go well with dry wines. Right now, toasted almonds. Nuts should always be toasted and autumn is a wonderful time for fresh nuts. Serve them in their shell, with a nutcracker, aside a cheese platter. Nuts and cheese complement each other well. They really bring out the best in each other.
On serving cheese:
Most Americans have cheese during the cocktail hour or at the start of the meal. I much prefer having cheese at the end of the meal. If you put out cheese at the start of the evening, the appetite is dimmed for the meal. I would like to encourage people to serve a cheese course at the end of the meal.
There is a wonderful cranberry pear chutney recipe in The Cheese Course that goes great with Sharp Wisconsin Cheddar.
For more information about Fletcher and her cheese work visit her website at janetfletcher.com – and check back this week because we will be giving away copies of her books, The Cheese Course and Cheese & Wine.