Photo: ifromage and Univers Fromage
Convenient and affordable, these apps offer instant gratification for information on all manner of cheeses, tips on optimal wine and cheese pairings and even cheese recipes (including tartiflette and fondue).
After the jump, find our road test of the latest fromage apps – all of which are available at the iTunes App store.
Cheese Glossary, $0.99
What we like: It's simple – a straightforward glossary with short, pithy descriptions of more than 100 cheeses from Mexican Queso Enchilado to French Roquefort, which can be found by either keyword search or alphabetically by letter.
What we don't like: There are no images to sate the visual appetite. But, what's far worse is that the application description promises "explanations of many of the technical terms." The "technical terms" are either nonexistent or just inaccurate. For example, the app states that all blue cheeses are made from cow's milk and are injected with "Penicilliium roqueforti" [sic] (It should be spelled Penicillium). This just isn't true, since there are blue cheeses made from sheep's milk and even from goat's milk (think Cayuga Blue). This is inexcusable in an app that you pay for (only 99 cents, but still!).
Bottom line: While its barebones, minimalist design and setup may be good for the iPhone newbie, the Cheese Glossary won't teach most folks much of anything. If you must use it, then stick to the flavor profiles. Better to spend an extra buck or two on some of the more comprehensive apps.
What we like: This thorough cheese app lists cheeses alphabetically, as well as by region, milk type and texture. Compiling information from reputable online specialty food retailers, including fromages.com and igourmet.com, this app also features exquisite images of cheese and suggested wine pairings. In addition, the app can function as a customized cheese journal – users can add cheeses that are not listed to their personal database, add their own tasting notes to all cheeses, compile a list of favorites and create a shopping list. Plus, the "share" feature allows people to email cheese descriptions to friends. Best of all, the data downloads to your iPhone automatically, so you don't need to have a mobile or Wi-Fi signal to access the app.
What we don't like: At $3, it's more expensive than the others, and there are not enough American cheeses (where are Constant Bliss, Rogue River Blue and Hooligan?).
Bottom line: The best all-around, English-language cheese app we tried, particularly if you like to take notes or share your findings.
iFromage: Wine and Cheese Pairings, $0.99
What we like: This "pocket pairing" of wine and cheese includes over 900 wine varietals and 340 cheeses. The app includes two alphabetical listings: one for wine, the other for cheese. By clicking on the name of a cheese, the app suggests wine varietals. For example, for Berkswell, it recommends Pinot Noir or sherry. Also, all wine varietals include taste notes. For Pinot Noir, it says, "Medium body, lightly sweet with aromas of cherries and red berries, slight earthiness."
What we don't like: There are no cheese descriptions, so you'd better know your stuff before you come here.
Bottom line: Despite its cheese-centric name, this app seems to be aimed mostly at wine lovers who may want something to munch on while they drink. Still, its single-purpose-design makes it the fastest draw for perfect pairings, even if you are more into cheese than wine.
Univers fromages, $0.99
What we like: Similar to the aforementioned Fromage app, this French-language program also provides informative details about every cheese, from its history to its production to its taste. Unlike the other cheese apps, this one allows the user to search for cheeses that are currently in season (Vacherin Mont D'Or, Laguiole and Raclette). It also states whether or not a cheese is produced with raw milk.
Every cheese description includes a calendar explaining the cheese's availability throughout the year. What's more, the app provides a glossary of more than 200 cheese recipes to pick from. This is a cheese app version of the website Univers Fromages, a comprehensive encyclopedia of mostly French cheeses that also includes a wealth of information on everything regarding cheese and France (from A.O.C. labels to how to store a luscious piece of Brie de Meaux). Being affiliated with renowned French-food radio station La Radio du Goût, Univers fromages is no doubt the most authoritative of all the cheese apps.
What we don't like: It's in French, so it won't be too helpful unless vous parlez francais. With the exception of Greece, the glossary of cheeses is limited to Western Europe. Americans make artisanal cheeses, too!
Bottom line: Comprehensive and authoritative, Univers fromages is a cookbook and glossary in one, for lovers of classic cheeses from the old country. Just make sure to brush up on your French.
100 Fromages de France, FREE!
What we like: This easy-to-use glossary of 100 French cheeses is classified by milk. Every entry includes the name of the region that the cheese is from, the type of cheese, the flavor profile and the size of the wheel. In addition, each entry includes a short historical description of the cheese. For instance, for the cheese Abondance, there's an anecdote about the papal election of 1381 to help explain the cheese's Catholic origins.
What we don't like: The images are lackluster and the selection of cheeses seems random. How could there be no mention of Roquefort? Also, the app is only available in French.
Bottom line: Looking to impress folks with your cheese knowledge at the next wine and cheese party? The tidbits here will make you sound like a cultured expert – or a history professor.
Cheeses, Food Guide, $3.99
What we like: Publisher Michael Ditter and food journalist Ingeborg Pils have put together an app that has listings of 1,500 European food products and ingredients. What would a food guide be without an entire chapter dedicated to cheese? The cheese folder lists of hundreds of European cheeses (mostly French). After clicking on the name of a cheese, a clear image of it appears along with the cheese's description – its country of origin, "culinary significance," brief explanation of the production, fat content, flavor profile, ripening time and milk type. In addition, the "Favorites" feature makes it possible to create a personalized cheese list.
What we don't like: This is the most expensive cheese app we tried, but you can buy just the "Cheeses" chapter of the food guide for $1.99 (but we suggest buying the whole thing, since it's only a dollar more). Our main beef? Translated from German, this guide is Eurocentric; there isn't even one American cheese.
Bottom line: Ideal for whipping out at a restaurant, food shop or farmers market, this is the perfect consumer guide to navigate through hundreds of different cheeses on your next European jaunt.