5 Questions with Artist Malachy Egan: Cheese Art with a Twist

Cheese Art: 5 Questions with artist & cheese lover Malachy Egan

We all know that good cheesemaking is an art form and that all great artists love cheese (there’s no way that this isn’t true, right?), but did you know that some of the coolest art out today is an ode to cheese? Cheese art. And Malachy Egan is one of my favorite creators of it.

Malachy and I met three years ago on a group cheese trip to Wisconsin and hit it off right away because we’re both a tad obsessed Irish cheese so we had tons to talk about. When over a massive pile of fried cheese curds, he told me he was an artist and showed me his latest artwork project with Essex Cheese, I immediately asked to see more of his work. Then, I hired him. See that “It’s Not You, It’s Brie” logo above? He designed it. And my business card. I love them. It was cheese and art kismet.

One of the reasons Malachy’s cheese art touches my heart so much is not because his illustrations are of beautiful cheese, but because they tell stories of the cheese word, and its makers and mongers. Malachy has visited many of the regions he illustrates and has spent time with the makers, so you really get a sense of what it’s all about. As in, you get a cheese of who the cheesemaker really is, or, get some behind-the-scenes peeks at secret (ish) cheesemonger cheese paper folds. His art is also damned cute and I love the colors.

Below is an interview with artist Malachy Egan. Because I know you’ll love his stuff too, here is a link to his online shop. You know, in case you’re looking for a gift for the favorite cheese lover in your life for the holidays and all that. 

5 Questions with artist Malachy Egan

1. How the heck did you get into cheese art?

I’ve been drawing pictures as long as I can remember. My love for cheese arrived late in my life – I was a veeerrrrry picky eater as a kid. I didn’t even like grated cheese on pasta (insert face palm emoji)! Things changed when I studied abroad in Italy and then after college when I cooked my way through my Mom’s Marcella Hazan cookbooks. After almost a decade of working in advertising/design I got laid off. I knew I wanted to learn about food and food production and I had a friend who was a cheese buyer for a local cheese counter here in Philadelphia. He just so happened to be looking for help, so I jumped in. I would hand draw some signs to pin in the cheese and designed some small chalkboards for promotionals. So I guess that was the start of my cheese art.

 

2. Your family is Irish and you travel back to the Isles A LOT! First of all, that’s awesome, and second, I think we should meet up there someday! Third, what Irish cheeses or cheese-inspired products should we be trying or eating tons more of here?

Yes! We definitely should meet up! My Family is originally from Co. Mayo, in the west of Ireland. We try to go back every few years. One of my favorite Irish cheeses is Crozier Blue – made by the Grubb family in Co. Tipperary, the same folks who make the popular Cashel Blue. Crozier is a pasteurized sheeps milk blue. Since its sheeps milk (sheep have a shorter lactation cycle than cows) it is a very seasonal product. I noticed recently that it’s being imported to the US which is amazing! If you see it at your local shop definitely grab a wedge. It’s fudgy, rich and sweet and has a nice smoky, spicy finish to it. Great paired with a little honey and maybe a dram of whiskey.

There’s also a fantastic sheep’s milk tomme called Rockfield that I tried for the first time this past summer. It’s made in Co. Mayo (so I may be a bit biased) with pasteurized sheeps milk. It’s creamy and nutty with a little bit of a citrus-y tang to it. Although it’s a relative new comer to the market it took home a silver the World Cheese Awards this year. Hup Mayo! I don’t think it’s being exported as its a small production but if you’re over in Ireland head to any of the Sheridan’s Cheesemongers counters to give it a try [side note from Kirstin, love these guys!].

 

2. If you could draw 3 cheeses for the rest of your life, what would they be? Why?

Oooohhh, that is a tough one! I love softer cheeses and washed rinds because their shapes and textures can change so much throughout their life – it keeps it interesting. I also love clothbound cheddars. The wild flora that grow on the muslin are a fun challenge to illustrate. Large alpines are fun too because the wheels are often adorned with amazingly elaborate and colorful label designs.

 

3. What are the hardest things about drawing cheese? What should burgeoning cheese illustrators keep in mind if they want to sketch the wheel, too?

There are so many different cheeses – styles/shapes/sizes – that you could spend years drawing them! I think it’s best to focus on an aspect of the cheese that’s relevant or interesting to you – whether its the history, the science, the geometry, etc. I like to focus not just on the object itself but the people, the animals, and the process behind the product.

 

5. What do you have available if say…. anyone wanted to get a cheese lover something from you for the holidays? Can you tell us the stories behind the art? I heard it might be gift-giving season soon….

I am currently working on getting some prints made of some sketches I did when I was interning in Holland. While there I worked at Fromagerie L’Amuse and helped out at a couple dairies. During my stay I kept a little illustrated journal and these prints represent a few (of the many) things I learned.

Thank you, Malachy! 

The Dreamiest, Blingiest Holiday Cheese Gifts Ever

Cheese gifts that travel- Cheese Journey’s trip to Bra, Italy

Holiday Cheese Gifts with Bling

While lounging by the fireplace, sipping on sherry, and considering what cheese gifts I’d put on the It’s Not You, It’s Brie guide this year (I was also wearing puffy slippers and just finished a cup of black tea, so yes, I am an English grandmother), I thought, why not do something different? Why not go big?

Why not go dreamy?

This year I’m sharing my what-if-I-could-do anything-holiday-cheese-gift-guide. It’s big, it’s grand, travel is involved, cost is not a consideration, and it includes lots of shiny things- kind of like Vogue’s Gift Guide but for cheese and less fashionable. None of the picks are cheap, some are more affordable, some you can save up for, and some are just to dream about.

 

My Dream Holiday Cheese Gifts

Cheese Journey’s Cheese Slow Food Festival, Bra

See top photo. You have to be a professional to attend this tour, but if I wasn’t, I’d get a cheesemonger job, quick, to qualify. There are so many great options on Cheese Journeys, but the Slow Food’s Cheese Festival in Bra is something else. Every 2 years, packed with the best cheeses of the world and their makers. If you can get there via holiday gifting, go!

 

Food 52’s Adopt a Cow Aged Caciocavallo Podolico Cheese

“From our friends at Especially Puglia comes a new straight-from-the-farm gift that we couldn’t be happier about—after all, it’s cheese! And not just any cheese: Caciocavallo cheese is a traditional Pugliese pulled-curd cheese made by pouring the milk of the rare-breed Podolica cow into a gourd-shaped round. It ages for a day in the heat of olive wood fires and hangs from wooden poles for the remaining maturation. The result? A wonderfully sharp, earthy cheese with a semi-firm texture that hardens as it ages.” Bonus? You can get an adoption certificate for the cow that supplies the milk for this cheese.

 

Jacob May’s cheese board disguised as a cutting board

Jacob May Cooper Wesley Butcher Blocks (For Cheese)

Made in Oakland, these boards are a work of art. Each is composed for beauty as much as function. Though they’re not actually made for cheese, cheese displayed on these boards may be the only thing that could make them more beautiful.

 

Berti Italian Cheese Knife Set -Boxwood

These are the kind of cheese knives that will last lifetimes. As in, your great, great, great, great granddaughter’s daughter could probably use these to slice her first Parmigiano-Reggiano. Admittedly, though I have no idea what exactly to do with each of these knives, I feel in my heart I could make something up.

 

A Quarter-Wheel of Rogue River Blue + Bling

Made only with rich fall and winter milk and covered in syrah leaves drenched in local pear eau de vie, Rogue River Blue is the blingiest blue cheese in the world. But if you order this quarter-wheel you get even more bling. Honey, cheese board, artisan knives, and then the actual cheese. Let me know if you need my address.

 

Pomme Gold-Plated Cheese Knife, Quitokeeto

Because, whoa…. “Brushed with 99.9% pure 24k gold, this is a beautiful serrated cheese knife appropriate for soft to medium hard cheeses. Each knife is unique, hand-crafted, and slightly different from the one that came before it, and the one that was made after. The finish is subtly matte, brushed – not shiny and sharp. The knife will patina and change wonderfully with use, leaving an impression of each meal or gathering.”

 

Seasonal Subscription to June Taylor Jams

One of my favorite moments of writing this blog was when I got to visit June Taylor’s workshop. Read more here. The conserves are vibrant, the labels are handmade, the Christmas cakes are aged for a year, and nearly everything here tastes amazing with cheese.

 

Full Wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano, Williams and Sonoma

Enough said.

 

Thanks for dreaming with me!

Hope you have a wonderful holiday season!

This Pumpkin Cheesecake Cheeseball is a Friendsgiving Miracle

Thanksgiving Cheeseball TV1 Glows

Pumpkin cheesecake cheeseball

Let the pumpkin cheesecake cheeseball roll! This pumpkin cheeseball is the only dessert you’ll need for Friendsgiving.

I don’t know about your house, but Thanksgiving is a strictly traditional affair in my family. If I decide to go rouge and say make, roast beef instead of turkey, or a cranberry tart instead of sauce, my dad insists they re-make the entire meal for themselves at home so they can have the proper meal. This is about having leftovers to make turkey-cranberry sandwiches, right?

Anyhow. Friendsgiving? That’s a different story.

 

Friendsgiving isn’t about tradition- it is about breaking bread with the family you chose, and filling the table with dishes that makes those dear to your heart happy.

So it makes sense that the meal, like your Friendsgiving family, is flexible. Open to try new things and modern twists on classic dishes.

This is where the pumpkin cheesecake cheeseball fits in.

 

I first created this cheeseball in honor of my friend Stephanie, who when I was telling her I was striving to create the perfect ball for Thanksgiving, said “pumpkin.” I said “cheesecake” and the rest was history. Since then I’ve served it at harvest parties, Thanksgiving, and in cheese classes.  Besides burrata, it may arouse the most sighs in my classes, ever. Which, quite simply when you think about burrata, is a miracle.

Serve the ball at the end of the night for dessert, with gingersnaps or almond crisps, and a strong old fashioned in an etched high ball glass. When making this ball, note that you will need to chill the ball overnight. If you wait to roll the ball in toasted nuts, you can make this ball ahead, freeze it, then defrost and roll in pecans before serving.

 

I hope this cheeseball brings as much joy to your friends and family as it has mine!

HAPPY FRIENDSGIVING

Thanksgiving Cheeseball Cutting (1 of 1)

Friendsgiving balls, go!

Spices ingred (1 of 1) Cheeseball recipe ingredientsPumpkin Cheesecake Cheeseball

makes 2 cheeseballs.

 

4 ounces cultured butter, room temperature

16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

3/4 cups white sugar

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons pumpkin puree

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1 2/3 cup toasted pecans

In a large mixing bowl or in a mixer with a paddle, cream the butter. Stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.  Add half the cream cheese, mix until blended, and scrape down the sides of the bowl again. Then add the remaining cream cheese and sugar and blend again. Add the pumpkin and spices to the bowl, mix for five seconds, scrape down the sides of the bowl, then continue mixing until smooth.

Divide the cheeseball mix into two roughly spherical shapes, wrap in wax paper, and refrigerate overnight.

The next morning the balls will be firm enough so that you can shape them into spheres. Create balls, and before serving, press the outside with the pecans.

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

This was first posted in 2015 but stands as one of my favorite holiday recipes, ever. Prepare yourself for a gingerbread cheeseball recipe in a couple weeks!

5 Surprising Things About Fall & Winter Cheese

Photo by Anna Voloshyna

1. Spring isn’t always the best season for dairy. Enter fall & winter cheese.

Spring and summer are lovely. Bouncing, cuddly goats are born in the spring, and summer guarantees ample wildflowers for grazing animals, translating to bright flavors in fresh cheeses, but fall & winter cheeses are delicious too! In fact, fall and winter is the best time to eat aged cheeses that are made from delicious spring and summer milk. 

 

Irish cow, future milkers

2. Count backwards to revel in beautiful spring & summer milk.

That delicious, blessed milk of animals grazing on spring and summer mustard flowers and rye grasses? Much of it gets siphoned into wheels that are ready now! If a cheese made from June milk is aged 6 months, it’s ready to eat in November. And bonus-by November those delicious herbal notes and pasture flavors will have concentrated, meaning you’ll amped up field flavor. Did you know that was a thing?

To find an aged cheese in November that’s a perfect example of June’s milk, ask your cheesemonger for a wedge made from the milk of grass-fed animals that is 6 months old. Just a few examples of fantastic cheeses whose ages can be counted backwards are: PennyRoyal’s Boont Corner Vintage, La Dama Sagrada, and, Pleasant Ridge Reserve.

 

Anna’s Khachapuri! 

From Tia Keena’s Melt, Stretch, & Sizzle

3. This season’s cheeses are made to melt.

Remember those fresh mozzarellas and fromage blancs charming your summery heart that were super easy to just slice and toss in your seasonal salads? Well, aged fall and winter cheeses are perfect for the season too because they shine either on a cheese plate, or, when you turn the oven on. Mozzarella, chevre, and fromage blanc don’t melt, but Comté does! It’s melty cheese season time!

See Melt, Stretch & Sizzle by Tia Keenan (photo above from her book), and this post on Anna’s Georgian Khachapuri.

 

Photo by Miss Cheesemonger

4. Fall and winter are perfect seasons to make your own fresh, quick cheeses.

I actually discourage some of my students to make fresh cheeses like chèvre or fromage blanc in the summer. Why? It’s too flipping hot. Milk that’s culturing overnight needs to be stay between 60-80 degrees. Too cold, and the culturing culture get lazy and won’t ferment the lactose. Too hot and the cultures overeat or malfunction (life’s hard for bacteria!). So if you live like me in the Bay Area, where most people don’t have air-conditioning, or, your house doesn’t keep at a constantly moderate temperature during the summer, wait until fall or winter to make easy cheeses that culture overnight (most people keep their houses at at least 60 degrees in the winter so the milk stays happier then). Here’s an easy chèvre recipe from Splendid Table.

 

Landmark Creamery’s Chandoka, with raspberries and white chocolate.

5. Like a five-year old dressed in a ninja outfit on October 31st, cheese loves Halloween candy. And other wintery holidays, too.

I mean, cheese makes a perfect dessert (or breakfast, or lunch, or dinner) any time, but cheese excels in blustery weather. You can leave it out to come to room temperature without worrying about it getting too warm, and… it loves already-made autumn and winter treats! Like Halloween candy and Christmas panforte! Really. Put a platter of cheese out for dessert with seasonal candies and treats and prepare to blow your guests mind.

 

This fall and winter, try a little something different, like serving cheese with seasonal sweets, or making your own chèvre or fromage blanc. And though it may seem a contradiction, enjoy summer milk in aged cheeses while you watch snowflakes fall out your window.

Then take a picture and send it to me, because I like in the Bay Area and haven’t been in snow in over a year.

 

Calling America’s Sexiest Wedges for American Cheese Month

LaClare’s Chandoka, with raspberries and white chocolate. When pregnant, Katie of LaClare made cheese until the day she gave birth.

In honor of the holiest month of the year, October– American Cheese Month, I’d like us all take a moment to appreciate all that our domestic cheesemakers have done for us. Now, let’s exchange the ancient rite of peace and happiness with our neighbors. “Cheese be with you “

And now let’s celebrate!

Happy American Cheese Month Everybody!

I wrote an entire book about our domestic producers so it’s probably obvious that I love our country’s dairy craftspeople, but I wanted to take a moment to spotlight some of my favorite producers I’ve highlighted on “It’s Not You, It’s Brie.”

From Stepladder in California to La Clare in Wisconsin, I’ve had the lucky opportunity to interview and visit some of the county’s best. My favorite part of this? Sharing these beauties with you. Follow the links to learn more about the cheeses, their makers, or what they pair best with.

So in honor of all things good and delicious and cheesy, have a wonderful American Cheese Month!

How will you celebrate? I’m throwing a cheese party for my friends and ordering a cheese plate featuring America’s producers at every restaurant I can. It’s my duty, after all. 😉

Stepladder Creamery’s Ragged Point loves wine & spicy jams.

Bellwether’s Pepato. One of my first interviews in 2011 with this classic cheesemaker.

Roelli Red Rock Cheddar, and what makes cheddar orange?

Goat Lady Farm’s Lindale Gouda

Briar Rose’s Iris, labeled which to sell first.

Tomales Farmstead Creamery trek

Tomales Farmstead goats.

Hadley of Tomales Farmstead

Delicious American Gems, list from Mission Cheese

Redhead Creamery: On 2016’s 5 Makers to Watch.

Rush Creek, Valley Ford’s raw creamy one.

Andy Hatch Cutting Rush Creek

The ladies who lunch. And whose milk makes Rush Creek and Pleasant Ridge.

Washing Limburger at Chalet Cheese. Washed rinds, as stinky as you like them.

Marieke Fenugreek Gouda: On the Women cheesemakers of Wisconsin.

Landmark Creamery’s Tall Grass

The dynamic Landmark Anna duo:, left, Thomas Bates, right.

Chaseholm Creamery’s Aging Wheels (squares?)

Melt, Stretch & Sizzle is the most stylish, sexy, hot cheese book ever

All photos from Melt, Stretch, & Sizzle by photographer Noah Feck

If cheese was photographed for an art or fashion magazine, this is what it would look like. A fashion magazine’s articles might be titled something like, “Fondue: On the Art of Seduction,” or, “This Season, Cheese Conquers its Fears and Melts our Hearts,” or “Cheese Heats up and SIZZLES.” (worth reading over celebrity advice any day!)

In Melted, Stretch, & SizzleTia Keenan and photographer Noah Feck team up again for a stylish, ode to hot cheese that is as gorgeous to look at as it is packed with delicious recipes. Classic fondue. Not-so-classic burrata mac & cheese. Poutine with Lazy Gravy. And Goat Cheese Queso Fundido. I wouldn’t expect anything less contemporary or beautiful from the chef-fromager who opened both Caselulla and Murray’s Cheese Bar, wrote The Art of the Cheese Plate, authors cheese columns for WSJ and Bon Appetit.

Tia is always on the forefront of things. In honor of the latest book by one of the most creative and funny people I know, below is an interview about what it took to make a book devoted to hot cheese, with one of my favorite cheese ladies ever, Tia Keenan.

I hope you enjoy it, and check out her book!

1. Your book is awesome. How did you pick what hot cheese dishes do put in?

I wanted to include some of the hot cheese “greatest hits”, things like Mornay sauce, Mac & Cheese, a grilled cheese, so that I could talk to the reader about some fundamentals of cooking with cheese, but at the same time I wanted to introduce readers to an international mix of hot cheese dishes that are perhaps less familiar to do them. To me a good cookbook deepens our understanding of foods and recipes that may already be familiar, while also exploring new flavors, techniques, and contexts.

2. Was there one that you really wanted to fit in but couldn’t?

I had plenty of dishes I was interested in and developed a few that didn’t make it into the book. I would’ve loved to have gotten a fried cheese donut in there, but couldn’t find the right place for it.

[blog author’s note, here: mmmmmmm…..]

3. What does hot cheese mean to you?

It’s the excitement and deliciousness that happens when cheese and heat energy meet.

4. So much food photography out there features what look like the same people- mainly young, and white- holding platters, or feasting at the same parties. Your book includes hands with age spots holding popovers, gorgeous black hands holding gougère or lips admiring melting fondue. They’re beautiful, and it’s wonderful to see not just one community reflected in a contemporary book. What inspired you to mix up your photo scene, and how do you think your photos do (or don’t) reflect the greater food and cheese movement?

The problem always with shooting cheese is that most of it looks the same, is the same color. Aesthetically, I knew that using a darker-skinned black model would be a nice contrast to the white/yellow tones of melted cheese. I also am just tired of seeing white people all over food photography, so when I could push back against that in photos, I did. Black is beautiful! And for the older hands, well, I asked my 80-something neighbor Renee to model, because I knew she’d be fun on set and as her friend I’ve admired her hands. Having fun on set, bringing people you adore into the sacred space of making images – this is one of the ingredients to making photos that people want to look at. I love, respect, rely on, and admire older women, and in their hands lies the history of cooking and delicious food. My question is: why aren’t black and brown women, and older women, the central figures of food imagery? All the best food comes from them.

5. You’ve long been in the forefront of the cheese scene and pretty much were the first one in the restaurant world matching crazy flavors, textures, and unconventional foods with cheese. One might say you have a forward-thinking cheese-vision. Can you please look in your crystal ball and tell us what you see in our cheese future, and how it relates to your recent books, The Art of the Cheese Plate, and Melt, Stretch, & Sizzle?

To be honest, this was a hard book to make, for a myriad of reasons. And I essentially wrote three cheese books in three years (ACP, Short Stack Chevre, and MSS). I need a bit of a break. I think I’d like to write a memoir actually, or at least a book about some parts of my life. I need some time to get back to another cheese book. Percolation is really important to my creative process – I need time to think and dream and ask questions.

6. What is Sterio’s favorite hot cheese dish? [her son]

Mac & Cheese, by a mile.

7. What is the one thing that you wish people kept in mind or knew about cooking with cheese when left in the wild?

Never cook with cold cheese.