Meet the Curd Nerd: Janet Fletcher

Janet Fletcher is a staff food writer and cheese columnist at the San Francisco Chronicle. Recently, Curdnerds.com chatted with her about her love of cheese, as well as a beautiful new iPhone app based on her book Cheese & Wine: A Guide to Selecting, Pairing, and Enjoying.

Tell us a little bit about your background.
I’ve written a weekly cheese column for the San Francisco Chronicle for more than eight years, but I’m a trained professional cook and food writer with wide-ranging food interests.

Describe your interest in cheese and how it started.
I “discovered” cheese as a college student studying for a semester in France. I remember admiring the range of little goat cheeses available at the local farmers’ market, and I loved the ritual of the cheese course in restaurants. When I came home, married and established my own household (we’re fast-forwarding here), I held on to this French ritual. We have cheese at the end of dinner most nights; we never have dessert. It’s a great excuse for pouring another glass of wine.



Which pairs better with cheese? Wine or Beer? Why?
Both. Depends on your mood, the occasion, the weather. My husband is a winemaker so we are daily wine drinkers. We have wine with our dinner, so that’s the beverage we tend to have with cheese. But beer is a fantastic accompaniment to cheese and works especially well with the washed-rind cheeses that can challenge some wines. 


Which cheeses make you swoon?
Aged sheep’s milk cheeses like Ossau-Iraty, Zamorano, Pecorino di Pienza and Vermont Shepherd. These are the ones I reach for when I’m “off duty.” 



What advice can you give to a cheese newbie overwhelmed by the selection available at their local shop?
Find an enthusiastic cheese merchant and let him or her guide and educate you. Ask what’s in great condition that day and ask for a taste. Try to give your business to a store that has a staffed cheese counter.



How do you recommend people learn more about cheese if they are interested?
Well, of course I think they should buy my app and my books (The Cheese Course
and Cheese & Wine) and read my San Francisco Chronicle cheese column. The entire archive is online at www.sfgate.com. But really, you learn by tasting critically and comparing. Make good cheese a regular part of your meals, take notes, and expand your universe by purchasing an unfamiliar cheese each time you shop.