You may know Tenaya Darlington as the brilliant author behind the book that will make you drool, DiBruno Bros. House of Cheese, or as Madame Fromage, a lady you just can’t help but want to have a dinner party with in the blogosphere.
But I know her as one of my most beloved professors in college at Saint Joseph’s University. She taught my first ever creative writing class, that I clawed my way into, and has remained a huge influence on my writing and someone I look up to.
So without futher adieu I give you the classy, eclectic, and potentially one of the biggest cheesemongers in Philly, Tenaya Darlington – my Style Stud of the week.
How did Madame Fromage come to life? And what do you think is the key to its success?
I started blogging about cheese 8 years ago now! Hard to believe. At the time, I was new to Philadelphia and homesick for Wisconsin – so I channeled my dairy state and started eating my way through the cheeses at Di Bruno Bros. one hunk at a time. Luckily, artisan cheese in America was undergoing a renaissance – much like craft beer – and I found an interested (and hungry!) readership that has been with me ever since.
Where is your most favorite place to write and why?
Third floor of my house, surrounded by cheese and drink books, with a sheepskin over my lap (it’s cold up there in winter).
What are 3 traits of a successful writer?
Curiosity + Tenacity + Vocabulary.
The Earth is going to explode tomorrow, what cheese and wine pairing do you have?
Well, I’d want more than just wine! I’d fix a French 75 (gin, lemon, Champagne) and bite into a gooey French Coulommiers.
What is your favorite item in your closet right now?
A loud Italian print dress from my late Aunt Lynette’s closet in Italy.
I can only imagine your kitchen is glorious so same question … what is your most beloved item in your kitchen?
My Peg+Awl cheese board. It is made from a reclaimed school desk. It’s my Cadillac of cheese boards.
Define your style in 4 words.
Long hair. Big earrings.
Do you have a signature look that defines your style (ex. red nail polish, wing-tipped every liner, etc.)
I don’t feel dressed for the day unless I’m wearing big earrings, and I have a big blue ring made of jasper that I picked up at a second-hand store on Girard Ave. with my initials already engraved inside it, so I wear that pretty much every day.
Do you have a secret spot in the city to buy delectable cheeses that you can share?
Now that Kensington Quarters carries cheese, that’s my quick relief. There’s usually a reliable stinker in the cooler, and I can grab a great cocktail for happy hour at the bar.
For a fromage neophyte, where do you start and what supplies should you have?
Start with your favorite sipper (wine, beer, spirits, tea, etc.) and ask a good cheesemonger to set you up with a pairing or two to go with it. The cheesemongers at Di Bruno Bros. and at Reading Terminal Market offer great pairing advice. Then, get a decent cheese board – wood or slate – and you’re golden. It’s nice to have a set of cheese knives, but they can come later – in a stocking, say.
Where can we find you on a Friday night?
I’m having a spontaneous dinner party (low lights, low maintenance) or I’m out for a cocktail, sometimes with my brother, André, who is my co-author on the next two books.
Your cocktail of choice right now is …
An Aviation – inspired by Amelia Earhart. It’s pale purple, like winter sky.
Can you tell us a little bit about your new book, The New Cocktail Hour?
We want people to be able to make great craft cocktails in their kitchens – so my brother and I wrote The New Cocktail Hour to take the guesswork out of home entertaining. We offer tasting notes for each recipe, plus food pairing suggestions (we love cocktails with cheese boards, grilled foods, and Chinese takeout), and brand recommendations for every drink. As huge cocktail nerds, we wrote the book we could not find, essentially. It brings craft cocktails into everyday life. The book drops in April, but it’s available for pre-sales online.
As a successful author, teacher, blogger, writer, etc, what advice can you give to someone up and coming?
Pursue your passion with a vengeance. Seek out community and collaborators, in-person and online. Extend kindness and curiosity to each person you meet.
What is next for you?
We’re writing a cookbook in partnership with Turner Classic Movies — we’re taking 30 classic movies and pairing them a cocktail and a meal inspired by or drawn from the film. It’s called Movie Night Menus, and it comes out in Fall 2016. It’s been so much fun! I just finished writing about Rita Hayworth in The Lady from Shanghai – some people think the Margarita was named after her. It’s a myth, but it’s still an interesting bit of cocktail trivia to explore. I love early Hollywood – the hats, the hair, the drinks!