Cheese Quest
May 23, 2006 10:17 AM   Subscribe

Help me become a cheese expert.

I'm building a cheese website - Reviews, forums, articles, recipes, field trips, cheese database, etc. I would like to build a really good one, and I don't mind taking a few years to pound out content, but feel limited by my (thus far) casual approach to cheese. I build websites for a living, so the nuts and bolts aren't a problem.

I'm already a cheese lover, but I need to move beyond that. I've read a few cheese books cover to cover, but of course that doesn't really teach you anything beyond names and ambiguous descriptions. I've eaten lots of cheese from around the world and from "local" producers. My cheese budget at iGourmet is about $75 a month (with shipping). I visit all of my local cheese shops, although perhaps not very frequently.

So I'm not a total cheese noob, but probably not the sort of person who has any business running a comprehensive cheese website.

So I'm trying to learn, and one of the things that has really amazed me is the lack of online cheese resources. No cheese forum? No online cheese "community"? I read the articles here, I sometimes lurk over here, and I find the reviews here interesting. But other than that I just can't find much of anything online other than the eCommerce sites.

So two related questions -

1) Are there some online cheese resources I'm missing?
2) Other than just eating cheese and writing about it, how do I become a cheese guy worth taking seriously? Or am I just thinking about this too hard?

Bonus points (and possible flag on my play for turning this into a "shotgun" multi-question) for people's opinions about what would make a cheese site worth visiting and why such sites seem to be non-existent.
posted by y6y6y6 to Food & Drink (26 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
You've probably already read through Steven Jenkins' Cheese Primer, but I still highly recommend it to anyone interested. It's a great starter resource and a solid reference.

Do you have any good cheese counters in your area? I'm lucky enough to have access to some really well stocked counters and well informed people at the fancy groceries in my city.
posted by elwoodwiles at 10:36 AM on May 23, 2006

Response by poster: "Do you have any good cheese counters in your area?"

I have two "good" cheese shops in San Diego. But nothing outstanding. One of the shops is a bit wacky, and I've gotten some questionable cheese from them. The other certainly treats cheese right, but is a bit too snooty. We also have Whole Foods, which can be hit and miss.

One of my problems with just glomming on to those folks is that I'm seriously anti-social. This one of the motivations for my project.
posted by y6y6y6 at 10:52 AM on May 23, 2006

To get to know cheese better, it might be best to try to make some.... if that doesn't work what about visiting local cheese makers and doing interviews, getting your hands dirty.

Why take the family to disneyland when you can take them to Ludlow Vermont to Crowley Cheese like Mike Rowe did.
posted by bleucube at 10:56 AM on May 23, 2006

Check with your local community or experimental college to see if they're offering a cheesemaking class. I got a lot of insight into cheese by doing that.

And go to local farmer's markets, too. At the ones we have in Seattle, there's always at least one person selling their homemade cheeses out of coolers -- or small organic dairies making ends meet by selling some exotics.

As for this:
Other than just eating cheese and writing about it, how do I become a cheese guy worth taking seriously? Or am I just thinking about this too hard?

I think you are thinking about it too hard. Write about cheese in a new and interesting way. Express opinions. Show favorites. Share insights. That's how bloggers become read -- by being interesting reads.

Write, and the readers will come. Oh, and show lots of cheese pr0n.
posted by dw at 11:20 AM on May 23, 2006

I once sat next to a guy on a plane who was reading this. I figure he was in the cheese business but I didn't talk to him.
posted by Danf at 11:21 AM on May 23, 2006

Other than just eating cheese and writing about it...

Well, you could try keeping some alive. My European cheese-loving friends always laugh about us Americans "liking the cheese dead."

A cool ventilated sawdust-strewn pantry with marble shelves is like a petting zoo for cheese.
posted by StickyCarpet at 12:05 PM on May 23, 2006

Take field trips! I'm in San Diego also and my gf and I take frequent foody trips to LA and the Bay Area. North of San Francisco is cheese country with places like Cowgirl Creamery, Vella Cheese and a bunch of other small producers. Even if you don't go visit, get on their mailing lists or their cheese clubs. Sounds like you might already be doing some of this, but going to places and seeing the process of cheese being made makes a big difference.

But yeah, as someone said already - don't worry about it too much. Just eat yourself silly and give honest opinions. The cheese will speak for itself.
posted by mpemulis at 12:17 PM on May 23, 2006

Response by poster: Wow. I go to lunch and come back to some great advice. Thanks.

The cheese porn I have a good handle on (self-link warning). In fact the wife already said I could build out the home studio to get better cheese pictures. I expect to host several hundred photos of cheese ultimately.

I hadn't even thought about cheese classes, and that's a great idea. I know I'll make some cheese someday, but haven't done it yet.

I do try to treat cheese properly, and that's one of the things i need to take more seriously. A month ago I dismissed the idea of getting a dedicated cooler as wildly moronic, but now I'm wondering whether I'll need one or two since different cheeses need different temps.

And yes, just write. I was thinking about this question at lunch. And it may be that I'm just uncomfortable talking about cheese as if someone would want to listen. I think I need to find my "cheese voice", and that will only come from diving into the deep end of the pool and flailing a bit.
posted by y6y6y6 at 12:27 PM on May 23, 2006

One of the shops is a bit wacky, and I've gotten some questionable cheese from them. The other certainly treats cheese right, but is a bit too snooty.

Just curious, but which is which? I assume Venissimo is the snooty one . . .
posted by JekPorkins at 12:39 PM on May 23, 2006

I'd love to see a cheese web. Kind of like those music sites that map out similar bands.

I second visiting local cheesemakers. (Ah, blessed are the cheesemakers.)

Treating cheese properly is important, but more workaday advice that keeps the cheese down-to-earth for regular folks should be prominently displayed. No need to make cheese into the new wine -- something that one can't possibly know enough about to enjoy. [Use your best snotty pinkies-out voice for the later phrase.]
posted by desuetude at 12:40 PM on May 23, 2006

Mmmm. Cheese porn. There's some great pics on that site.

One other thing - add some kind of section or something where other people could talk about their cheese experiences. The more people who talk the more ideas get floated out there and the more interesting it is. Just looking at this thread alone shows that there are people who would love to talk about it with others.

posted by mpemulis at 12:45 PM on May 23, 2006

(On preview you indicate that you're going to be doing forums. So change my previous post to a vote in support of this.)
posted by mpemulis at 12:46 PM on May 23, 2006

I, too, am curious about which cheese shops you're referring to.

This is coming from complete cheese ignorance, but have you visited the little place in Temecula? Cows-and-trialers setup, and their gouda was (to my taste) delicious and very different. The guy loves to talk about the process, and will show you around. Wish I could remember the name, but they do sell locally.

Good luck developing your cheese voice.
posted by moira at 12:59 PM on May 23, 2006

When you say resource, I immediately think of reference. I can't help there but I can recommend an interesting blog. This couple is chronicling their adventure across the country in search of American cheese, which is supposedly undergoing a renaissance.

I figured that if I searched Google I'd stumble on some familiar cheese sites that I'd forgotten about. No luck, but I did find something new that I plan to follow. Murray's, the famous New York cheese monger, has a blog.
posted by stuart_s at 1:10 PM on May 23, 2006

Response by poster: "Just curious, but which is which?"

I'm not going to name names. Getting these folks on my bad side seems like a precipitously bad idea. But I will say that I'll be back to both places, and they'll be getting plenty of my money. And that Venissimo isn't anything like you'd expect from their website, or even the online reviews.

My point was just to highlight that San Diego doesn't really have a Neal's Yard caliber cheese shop. Perhaps a silly point, which I didn't articulate well.

I'll look into the Temecula place. Thanks. We do plan on dong some "cheese tours" in SoCal.

/straying off topic...

The two San Diego shops I know of are Venissimo and Aniata Cheese (technically Del Mar). But Whole Foods is a very good option as well.
posted by y6y6y6 at 1:10 PM on May 23, 2006

Ever make ricotta? You should make ricotta.
posted by jon_kill at 1:21 PM on May 23, 2006

Have you decided on a domain name yet? If so, please share.
posted by Brian James at 1:46 PM on May 23, 2006

If you can get over the shyness, try doing podcast interviews with the people you buy cheese from. That would bring different voices to your site, and I think CheeseRadio is an idea whose time is long overdue.

And consider a buying trip to LA, which has the Cheese Store of Silverlake and the Cheese Store of Beverly Hills. I haven't bought anything from BH with its kinda scary moist front window, but the staff in SL is really nice and chatty, and they make good recommendations and offer tastes.
posted by Scram at 1:53 PM on May 23, 2006

Response by poster: "try doing podcast interviews with the people you buy cheese from"

Oh my. I hadn't thought of that. And my wife will hug you. She's been wanting to have a reason to start doing podcasts seriously. Yes, there will be podcasts. Damn that's a good idea.

Since you ask, the domain will be Although that may change. The thing was just a fun little personal fling. The new site I'm thinking of will be much more community driven. A sister site will be which I'm envisioning as much more formal and authoritative. The sites will be tied together pretty tightly, but they'll have different licencing. I have several other cheese domains as well, just in case I change my mind.
posted by y6y6y6 at 2:20 PM on May 23, 2006

Why not something more carefree than CheeseReviews, if CheeseDatabase is to be the more authoritative site? You've already thought of it, even -- CheeseQuest.
posted by desuetude at 3:08 PM on May 23, 2006

Response by poster: The main reason would be for Google love. No one will search for "cheese quest", but hordes of people will search for "cheese review".

One of my main inspirations for the model is DPReview. They have an incredible community over there. And I think one of the main reasons is that people who have a passion for cameras and photography aren't going to be able to miss it. At the end of the day it's more important that Google likes the domain than people liking it. If I have a valuable resource people won't care what it's called, but they have to find it first.
posted by y6y6y6 at 3:24 PM on May 23, 2006

Oh, okay. But I implore you to include CheeseQuest in the subtitle.
posted by desuetude at 3:34 PM on May 23, 2006

The right way to do CheeseQuest (which I love nearly as much as cheese itself) would be to have an "about the author" type page, with y6y6y6 dressed as his favourite character from Galaxy Quest.

To rebluchon! And beyond!
posted by QIbHom at 3:40 PM on May 24, 2006

A few people mentioned Whole local Whole Foods offers excellent cheese classes that let you taste multiple cheeses (usually from a given region), teach you about the region and why the cheeses taste the way they do (i.e. "this cheese is a dual milk cheese that has a wine-washed rind...), and what food pairings work well with them. I have learned a lot from these classes and discovered a lot of cheeses I otherwise might not have ever tried.
posted by nekton at 5:53 PM on May 24, 2006

There's this new artisan cheese shop in Hillcrest, I think it's called Taste.
I haven't actually tried it, but I keep meaning to.
It's at 1243 1/2 University, across the street from where that Trader Joes/Ralph's shopping center is.
posted by exceptinsects at 7:42 PM on May 24, 2006

This article does a great job of listing the cheese shops in the San Diego area.
posted by MrCheese!!! at 9:25 AM on June 12, 2006

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