Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Cheese & Wine Pairing App

The Max McCalman Cheese & Wine Pairing App is about to hit the App Store.

It all began about twenty years ago, one block east of Lincoln Center, when a guest at Picholine Restaurant declined the suggestion of Port for his cheese selection and asked for a different wine-by-the-glass option instead. This began my quest for optimal pairings for all the fine cheeses I would encounter. I initially wrote out notes on each pairing: The Silverado Cabernet Sauvignon starts off on the right foot with the Spenwood, fruity vs. savory, then they go their separate ways, with no synergy in the “finish;” all that remains is a memory of the Cab while the cheese lingers sweetly to the end; the wine is flattened.

Even though extensive and informative, these notes were not user-friendly for quick reference. Those thoughts were recorded onto a Word document but were quickly replaced with quantifiable scores so that I could look up Cabernet Sauvignon, for example to find a complementing selection of cheeses, or in reverse, look up Spenwood and find a list of satisfactory wine partners. An early decision to be made was how to score those cheese and wine matches. I came up with a five-point spread, from +2 (a great match) to -2 (a disaster), with 0 being the neutral point (nothing lost, nothing gained). There was a temptation to rate a pairing a 0+ from time to time, but I soon left those middling scores for others to record and stuck to whole numbers.

The word document grew rapidly, from a few dozen scores to hundreds, then to thousands and was lined up by cheese name, from Aarauer Bierdeckel to Zamorano. Then a second document was created by wine varietal, from Albariño to Zinfandel. Some of the first notes were not detailed but later entries included more information: ABV, vintage, vineyard, as well as date the pairing was tasted, always followed by the score.

These scores became handy reference tools and they helped shape content of all my books, from The Cheese Plate through to my Swatchbook of Wine & Cheese Pairings. Occasionally I received requests for recommended beer, whiskey, martini, even sake pairings. Some of the “rules” of pairings began to crumble, starting with “What grows together goes together.” Other pairing principles held more promise: The “fruit” in a wine is balanced by the “savory” in a cheese, the “size” of a cheese should be balanced by “size” in the wine, etc.

At times I would record multiple pairings, tasting as many as seven different wines against nine different cheeses, for a total of sixty-three pairing entries. This is how the database grew exponentially explaining why I wished I had started it all off on Excel.

Converting all of this data into a viable app has been a months long project and it appears we can finally see the light at the end of the proverbial cheese tunnel now. The first version of the app will launch May 1st (subject to Apple’s approval) and will be supported by iPhone, with a nice chunk of the thousands of pairings included. The frequent updates will include new entries, interactive features for the subscribers, such as adding their own scores and comments, ‘favoriting’ cheeses, wines, and pairings, as well as a revolutionary in-app purchasing and fulfillment solution. Future extensions will feature beer pairings, then spirits, then ciders, etc.

Be on the lookout for this; it’s going to be fun. It all started with: I would rather have a different wine with my cheeses, not Port, sir.

Can’t wait for May!


Final Weekend of EPCOT Food and Wine Festival

It has been a long time since I had the chance to write a post. However the final weekend of the 2014 EPCOT International Food and Wine Festival highlighted the power of food (especially cheese) and I want to share some thoughts with you. I presented a diversity of American, British, French and other European cheeses, beers and wines during this festival, all to further appreciate their many styles and traditions to the Disney World visitors. It has been a truly magical experience.


Having an all British week (also the earliest EPCOT weekend of all time!) somewhat foreshadowed my most recent endeavor, Cheese Journeys—you might already know about it if you subscribe to my newsletter. When I was speaking to these wine and cheese fans in late September, enjoying Montgomery’s Cheddar, I was hoping to find an opportunity to visit my distant cousin soon, Jamie Montgomery himself.

Well, be careful what you wish for! Shortly after that first EPCOT weekend, Anna Juhl reached out to me and invited me to be the guest educator for her UK and France Cheese Journeys. So, in April of 2015 Jamie and I will be having a little family reunion!

Having just worked with Spanish cheeses as a guest speaker at a StarChefs Manchego tasting, I thought we should add Spain as a destination. I met with my friends at the Spanish Trade Commission to discuss plans for a visit there soon. These tours take time to plan so the Spain trip may be set for 2016.

For 2015, a return to some of the most beautiful parts of France: Alsace, the Savoie and the Jura, will be amazing. From the Vosges mountains through the French Alps, then into the magnificent Jura, home to one of the world’s greatest cheeses, Comté. Also home to some of the greatest wines, such as Vin Jaune, made from the Savagnin grape.

All in all, this EPCOT season was the longest, most successful and, I dare say, the most exciting festival I have experienced during my extensive involvement with the Walt Disney Company, and every time I am reminded how great is the power cheese in the F&B world.


Tanglewood Food & Wine Classic Recap

Dear Tanglewood Food & Wine Classic,
Thanks for the wonderful memories!

I had skirted around the Berkshires of western Massachusetts before, and I have probably flown over them a number of times, but this was my first real immersion into the area. It is easy to see why many people make the annual pilgrimage from many miles away. The region reminds me of the Ozarks: similar topography and roads, surprisingly similar vegetation and houses. The residents were welcoming, with many of them volunteering to make the Classic a success.


We arrived in Lenox a little too early for check-in so we spent most of the midday using the Cranwell Resort’s spa facilities; it was easy to see why our townhouse was not vacated early: one would want to prolong a stay as long as possible.
Continue reading Tanglewood Food & Wine Classic Recap

Cheeses of Massachusetts

Massachusetts has a long tradition of cheesemaking; nearly four hundred years of it, so they should have it down by now. The first Massachusetts cheese I recall tasting was Hubbardston Farm’s Classic Blue, an external blue mold goat cheese, invented by Lettie Kilmoyer. The next Massachusetts cheese I remember tasting was Great Hill Blue. That was about it, both of them excellent, but whatever else was being crafted there had to compete with another state to make its way into New York City. Cheese has been produced in Massachusetts for all this time but it is often overlooked because of what has been happening in Vermont.

My good friend and former colleague, Sarah Jennings, returned to Massachusetts after working with us in New York, and now she is on the advisory board of the Massachusetts Cheese Guild. When I was asked to present cheese at this weekend’s Tanglewood Wine & Food Classic I went to Sarah for some direction. Sure, I could find many other old and new favorites, from neighboring states or farther away, but I thought this would be a great opportunity to try some of the “local” cheeses, ones I may not have had before.

Continue reading Cheeses of Massachusetts

ACS Wrap Up

The 31st American Cheese Society conference has come to an end. If these annual meetings could last a few days longer it might be easier to take part in all the highlights–and spend more time with friends you only get to see once a year. But if the amount of work going in to executing the conference is taken into consideration, a shorter version might make more sense.

American Cheese Society Logo
American Cheese Society

Each year’s conference seems to get better than the last; this places pressure on future conference organizers. How they manage to cram all the various highlights into a tight 72-hour agenda must be the greatest challenge. Before the keynote address gets the ball rolling the organizing committee has to set aside a day to administer the Certified Cheese Professional exam. If it took place during the formal conference the candidates would miss important meetings, sessions and other opportunities. This adds a day to the agenda: the afternoon before the start of the conference for the exam itself, and preparing for it the full morning before: allowing time to set up the registration area, giving the proctors their assignments and instructions, and outfitting the exam room with electrical outlets, microphone and monitors, as well as loading the exam software into the rental laptops.
Continue reading ACS Wrap Up

Exam Day #cheesesociety14

Tuesday was a monumental day for cheese, the thousands of hours the candidates studied for the ACS CCP exam – the third exam – was tested that afternoon. The exam-takers came from various fields within the industry: cheese makers, retailers, educators and distributors. The exam was administered and proctored by the ACS Education and Outreach Manager, Jane Bauer, the CCP committee members, and several current CCPs.

Concentrated Test-Takers

The candidates did not appear to be particularly nervous going into the exam. Most of them seemed to be cool, calm and collected, fully prepared. This suggested that this group had been studying the many facets of cheese for many months; their eligibility to sit for the exam was thoroughly vetted.
Continue reading Exam Day #cheesesociety14

A CCP is not a Critical Control Point

The cheese world is buzzing; can you feel it?

If all the ACS CCP candidates can ace Tuesday’s exam it will make it a lot easier for the exam review committee. All perfect scores? It seems that everyone has been studying extra hard so maybe it could happen. There are around 230 scheduled to take the exam, about 50% more than last year! We are already looking at next year’s exam, thinking we may have to offer the exam twice to meet the forecasted demand.


Where the CCP project is headed is hard to say but we believe it has already contributed mightily to the cheese industry. The knowledge base has grown and cheese is being cared for better than ever. Quite simply, cheese is better understood and many cheese myths have been debunked. Producers may be more confident their cheeses are better represented and customers should feel more inclined to buy more cheese. The people behind the counters and cheese trolleys seem to know more than they use to; and there is a little more pride showing. The American Cheese Society’s Certified Cheese Professional program has taken the cheese wave and given it guidance and support, with positive ripple effects far beyond what is witnessed among the CCP’s themselves. Everybody’s doing it: getting to know cheeses.