If you’re like me, a proper holiday includes a stinky wheel of ripe cheese. Now, thanks to Philadelphia’s renowned cheese painter, Mike Geno, you can also gaze upon an ash-ribboned wedge of Morbier or a half-moon slice of Bayley Hazen Blue dangling from your Christmas tree. Geno has long painted foods, from bacon to sushi, but he’s best known for his detailed portraits of the world’s greatest cheeses, of which he estimates he has now painted over 400.
That made choosing just 10 a challenge, but he settled on an all-star roster of five North Americans (from Humboldt Fog to Red Rock and Pleasant Ridge Reserve) and five Euros (including Gorwydd Caerphilly, Manchego, and Parmigiano-Reggiano).
Geno’s good friend, Susan Botwick Murphy of Jawnaments fame, helped him realize the ornament dream by transferring his images onto organic birch wood at the NextFab maker space in South Philadelphia. Each ornament is then cut to shape with a hot laser: “They smell like a campfire,” says Geno, who hand-ties each one with ribbons.
Personally, I wouldn’t mind if my ornament smelled like a Canadian cloth-bound cheddar. But maybe next year. This season’s series is special enough since they’re made in very limited numbers. If you miss an ornament, consider one of Geno’s annual cheese calendars, which should be available by early December featuring his recent work. That way every month can inspire its own cheese holiday.
— Craig LaBan
Mike Geno’s cheese ornaments, $15, and Christmas calendar, $25, at mikegeno.com