Cheese expert and James Beard Award-winning author Laura Werlin shares her earliest cheese memory, which dairy product she's obsessed with right now, and the culinary trend she's looking forward to seeing more of this year.
Many people dream of a life that consists of eating, reading, and writing about cheese all day long. There is one person however, who actually gets to live out this dream, and that is America’s foremost authority on the matter, Laura Werlin. As a James Beard award-winning author—who has already penned six books (two on the dairy matter)—and the current president of the American Cheese Education Foundation, it's safe to say that Werlin is an undisputed cheese addict and expert.
Before she gears up for her big events, we caught up with Werlin to find out what her first cheese experience was like, which is her current favorite, and what her interests are outside of dairy.
Do you remember your first cheese experience? LAURA WERLIN: I remember my first favorite food, which was grilled cheese back when I was basically teething. My mom would make really simple grilled cheese using American cheese slices and white bread and butter. I loved it then, and I still do.
What do you think caused the big American cheese explosion? LW: The proliferation of farmers markets around the country and movement towards local has allowed people to meet cheese producers and try their cheeses right then and there. That has made cheese a little less scary for the average American who might’ve been used to getting a cheese out of a wrapper in the deli section of the supermarket.
What is the most recent cheese you've tried that blew your mind? LW: Goat Lady Dairy in North Carolina makes this combination of soft goat and cows milk blend called snow camp, and it melts in your mouth. It’s one of those cheeses that you can’t stop eating—it’s that good.
Describe the perfect cheese platter. LW: A combination of textures and milk sources: goat, sheep, cow, water buffalo, and milk. You’ll want soft and semi-soft, and maybe a semi-hard cheese. If you’re serving before dinner, pairing it with charcuterie is the way to go. If [you're serving] after dinner, then putting it with sweet accompaniments like honey or some sort of fig jam is really nice.
Cheese aside, what are some of your other interests? Anything you're looking forward to? LW: When it comes to food, I’m an omnivore. I eat everything. But I'm really interested in seeing what vegetables have become, and what chefs are doing with them. Food aside, I love the outdoors: mountains, hiking, and running along the beach in South Beach is something I’m really looking forward to.