By Chelsea Karnash
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Back in 2009, Tenaya Darlington made a decision to eat her way through the cheese case in Philadelphia’s DiBruno Bros.
But for years before that, Darlington, or Madame Fromage, ran the food section of a Madison, Wisconsin newspaper – a job she credits for her “obsession” with cheese.
“Wisconsin is a giant cheese producer, and in the late ’90s a few artisan cheeses began to appear at farmers’ markets and on restaurant cheese boards,” Darlington explains. “I started following them and writing about them because they were so different from Cheddar and Colby and Brick cheese — stuff I saw in grocery stories.”
In 2005, when she moved to Philly to teach writing at St. Joe’s, she decided to see what the East Coast city’s cheese scene had to offer.
“I made it my business to keep exploring artisan cheese, so I started stalking cheesemakers at local farmers’ markets and I surfed through all the cheese shops to sniff out interesting wheels and wedges from around PA and other states,” she laughs. “Every time I tasted an interesting cheese, I photographed it and wrote about its flavor profile. That led to recipes, pairing parties, and eventually a relationship with Di Bruno Bros. I started writing signage for their cheeses and blogging for their website as their cheese blogger in residence.”
Thus, Madame Fromage, a Philadelphia blog dedicated to all things dairy. From cheese trends to recipes and even a post on “how to talk to a cheesemonger,” Madame Fromage offers cheeseheads nationwide advice on how to sniff out and work with the best there is.
Darlington says her site attracts about 30,000 unique visitors a month. In 2013, her blog evolved into a book, The Di Bruno Bros. House of Cheese: A Guide to Wedges, Recipes, and Pairings; published by local company Running Press.
“The book was a collaboration with the store’s owners and cheesemongers, and it allowed me to draw on years of notes and blog posts to create a 170 profiles of their best cheeses,” she says. “I love giving each cheese I taste a personality — it’s how I remember them — so I incorporated that into the book.”
“My goal, always, is to make cheese approachable and fun.”