September 23, 2005
Cheese Rooms
Posted by Gordon Smith

How do you store your cheese? Like most people, I use that little drawer in the middle of my refrigerator. As of next year, we will have other refrigeration options (via the W$J):

At least two companies are developing cheese refrigeration units for the home. Next year, food and kitchenware retailer NapaStyle will offer a countertop cheese refrigerator with four compartments for different cheeses, each with its own temperature and humidity controls. The appliance, roughly the size of a toaster oven, will cost about $300, says the company's owner, Michael Chiarello. Kitchen-appliance manufacturer Viking Range Corp. also says it is developing a cheese refrigerator.

But why stop there? Steve Bainbridge has his wine cellar. Why not a cheese room? 

In Atherton, Calif., home builder Sam Benzacar recently started construction on a 16,000-square-foot house that will have a 300-square-foot cheese room adjacent to the wine cellar. The room -- which has multiple refrigeration units and is designed to hold hundreds of pounds of cheese -- is likely to add $50,000 to the cost of the home, which doesn't yet have a buyer, Mr. Benzacar says. Meanwhile, Daphne Zepos, director of cheese maturing at the Artisanal Cheese Center, a New York importer and retailer, says she recently reviewed plans for a country house in northern California's Lake County that will have a subterranean stone cave for aging and storage, built around a natural artesian well that will provide cheese-friendly humidity levels. The room, she says, will be reminiscent of giant cheese-aging caves in France.

The problem here is that cheese is picky about how it should be stored. Different cheeses thrive in different temperatures and at different humidity levels. If you don't have $50,000 for a cheese room, therefore, take heart.

While home cheese-aging has long been popular in Europe and is becoming more popular in America, some cheese experts say it isn't worth the trouble. Steven Jenkins, author of "Cheese Primer" and a cheese specialist at Manhattan's Fairway Market, calls the idea "really silly." People who bring home cheese to store "are simply drying out their cheeses," he says. He recommends buying cheese in small amounts from cheese-mongers who know when it's ready to eat.

Thanks to John Surdyk for the tip.

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