Cookbooks make great gifts on Mother's Day

May 9, 2013 3:43:21 AM PDT
Most historians agree that Mothers Day is a Philadelphia institution. Anna Jarvis lobbied her neighborhood church to honor moms, and the movement caught on.

A citywide rally caught the attention of merchant John Wanamaker, and he, in turn, convinced President Woodrow Wilson to make it a national event. But it's also a very local event, because you need to honor mom at your house.

Meals out or at least a day out of the kitchen for mom are popular choices. It's one of the biggest days for florists, too. But gifting is always tricky because mom probably has a lot of the things you might choose.

South Philadelphia landmark DiBruno Bros. has one idea that ought to be popular this year, a cookbook mom can't possibly have because it just hit the market.

Named like the store, "DiBruno Bros. House of Cheese" touts itself as a guide to cheeses, pairings and recipes.

Third-generation owner Emilio Mignucci says his staff includes a number of chefs who work there because the hours are more "normal" than restaurant life. But they bring a chef's mentality to the store, so they're constantly tinkering with ways to use the store's encyclopedic collection of cheeses.

After hours, it's not unusual for the staff to taste cheeses and other ingredients, try them with wines and beers, and whip up original recipes.

Sometimes they'll apply an untraditional cheese to a classic recipe. Over time, enough of these became favorites that Mignucci asked cheese blogger Tenaya Darlington to work them into a book.

The cookbook is a first for both. It dares you to try new paths in cheesedom. For example, a macaroni and cheese recipe uses pungent Limburger, which loses a lot of its infamous aroma when cooked. What stays behind is a stronger-than-usual flavor you've probably not encountered in the American classic.

Original recipes include a cheese dish that looks and eats like sushi, a salad involving blue cheese and chocolate, and a dessert including chocolate, cheese and caramel.

A lot of the dishes include ingredients the store features beyond cheese.

Author Darlington grew up in Wisconsin and has always been passionate about cheese. When she moved to Philadelphia years ago, she knew no one in town and started hanging out at DiBruno's flagship store in the Italian Market as a comfort zone.

She's made friends among the customers and staff since. Today she's known online as cheese blogger "Madame Fromage" and the relationship with DiBruno Bros. already has sparked discussion of another cookbook, perhaps a holiday volume.

The DiBruno cookbook is available at all the usual booksellers, in stores and online. It's also available at DiBruno's stores - 930 S. 9th Street in the Italian Market; in Center City at 1730 Chestnut Street; in the food court at the Comcast Center; in Suburban Square at the Ardmore Farmers Market; and coming soon to the Giant Supermarket in Camp Hill, west of Harrisburg. DiBruno's is available online.