Cheese me … please me
ASPEN Laura Werlin loves cheese so much she’s written three books about it, but said everyone is a master when it comes to their own taste buds.A three-year veteran of the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, Werlin hosted seminars about American cheese as well as the “World’s Best Cheese” on Friday and Saturday at the Mountain Chalet.Werlin left a career in broadcast journalism in 1996 to become a food writer focusing on cheese, and part of her mission is to burst the bubble of the cheese-tasting world by showing her audience that cheese appreciation is subjective.”I feel like cheese is just so complex that I think it takes a lifetime to really consider oneself a master,” Werlin said. “In the end, it comes down to two things: yum and yuck. That’s all you need to know is whether you like it.” There is no judgment about one’s own palate, Werlin said. She rails against wine and food aficionados who try to “tell you what you should be tasting” and said the fear of getting it wrong takes the fun out of sampling.
And she joked that it is impossible to pick the “world’s best cheeses” as she was asked to Friday and Saturday.But she did her best, arranging nine cheeses from around the world on individual platters for each participant and walking them through each, encouraging questions and asking for reaction to the mix of each cheese and either of two selections of wine: red and white.And she encouraged her audience to listen to their palates, not the experts.A San Francisco native, Werlin has owned a home in Aspen’s West End for nine years and said she loves coming to the Food & Wine Classic “because it’s Aspen,” adding that she moved here for the same reason so many others do: the summer music festival, cultural offerings and great outdoor activities. Werlin is the author of three books: “The New American Cheese,” “The All American Cheese and Wine Book” and “Great Grilled Cheese,” with some 50 recipes on how to make the American favorite. Her latest work, “Cheese Essentials,” will be on bookshelves in September.”I have always loved cheese ever since I could remember. Anything that had cheese on it, I went for it,” Werlin said. She remembers her mother’s savory grilled cheese squares and obsessively picking the cheese off dishes such as lasagna.
“I am a purist,” Werlin said: She eats pizza – you guessed it – without all the fancy toppings, allowing the cheese to sing.And she used words such as “wonderful” and “fascinating” to describe cheese, and said it is much like learning about wine.”The more I learn, the less I know. And I like that,” Werlin said.She travels extensively, mostly around the U.S., sampling new cheeses from small makers – which called “no hardship at all.” And just as American wine struggled to jettison its cheaper-by-the-gallon image 30 years ago, so, too, American cheese is dropping its cliché of being hard, orange and tasteless, she said.”I am endlessly fascinated with what’s happening with cheese-making in this county,” Werlin said.
“Is it OK to eat the rind?” one participant asked at the seminar Friday.”Unless it’s made of wax,” Werlin said, adding that some cheese – particularly soft cheeses like “triple creams” – have delicious rinds, while others will spoil the taste and texture.”There’s nothing better than talking with an audience that is genuinely interested in learning,” Werlin said. And she enjoys the annual event in Aspen because so many who attend “really want to go back home with more knowledge.”For more information visit http://www.laurawerlin.com.Charles Agar’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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