Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Lists: Cheese

A little birdie told me that music reviews and recipes don't really get the blood pumping like a rant or some old-fashioned snark, so I thought I'd jump the tracks for a little bit and get back on the "List" train I've been known to frequent in the past. I like lists because they are chock full of opinion and tend to get comments which means (though doesn't guarantee) that someone is reading this godforsaken blog. I've done lists about Cereal, Trader Joes, and Summertime refreshment, but I think it's about time I did one about one of my favorite foods: cheese. My love of cheese-flavoured snacks is the stuff of legends, and perhaps I this list will inspire a future list of my favourite cheesy snacks, but you may be surprised to know I have opinions about ACTUAL cheese as well! Well, probably not as encyclopedic as my knowledge of Cheez-its, but I'm going to give it a whirl. Behold a comprehensive list of cheeses that I enjoy and others that are a waste of bacteria. Authors Note: Wikipedia lists about 600 cheeses on their website, so in the interests of time, I'm going to narrow this list to my Top 5 and my Bottom 5. Apologies.    

1. Cheddar - I don't think anything needs to be said about cheddar. If you are an American, you like cheddar (NOT American cheese, more on that later). If you are from New England, you LOVE cheddar, and if you are from New Hampshire or Vermont, well, it's part of dessert. Seriously, Apple Pie and Cheddar is an amazing dessert. There's not much better than a slice of extra sharp cheddar on a Triscuit or similar cracker. For my money, Cheddar is the cheese to beat.

2. Goat - Goat cheese is an incredible cheese, though sometimes it needs some help to realize its full potential.   With a little olive oil and some herbs, it is nearly unbeatable when it comes to dipping/spreading/eating-the-whole-thing-in-one-sitting cheese. If you see anyone selling little pucks in tubs at a Farmer's market, make sure to grab yourself a couple. I don't care as much for the Goat Cheese "logs" that are available at TJs, mostly because they are so crumbly/dry that they either break the cracker or make a mess.

3. Parmesan - Parmesan is a versatile little cheese. When I grew up, we only had that green shaker of Parmesan dust that everyone put on their pasta, but nowadays it no longer has suffer the embarrassment that goes with being alongside other condiments. In my opinion, Parmesan is BETTER when it is central to a dish, especially in baked goods, as it has a tang and a sharpness that keeps it from being overpowered by other strong flavors. It's amazing in scones and breads, especially when it gets a little crispy and melts together at the bottom of the pan. Any good cheese is better a little burnt. If you see any of those green tubes of parmesan at any of your friends houses, you have my permission to throw them away and blame it on me. I'll cut them off a piece of my block.

4. Mozzarella - If you want a satisfying cheese or a cheese that will help you get away with murder, Mozzarella is your cheese. The gummy strings of mozzarella trailing off a pizza or the business end of a mozzarella stick really get the salivary glands in a frenzy, even if those delicious treats are accompanied by the most dangerous choking hazard known to man. The threat of imminent death and embarrassment is worth it to enjoy that gob of cheese in your cheek for the next 5 minutes. Mozzarella loses a few points in the flavor department, although I have had a few varieties with sufficient punch.

5. Pepper-Jack Cheese - Every time I have Pepper-Jack cheese, it tastes like the first time, and I wonder why I don't have it more often. It has a wonderful smooth and hearty cheese flavor, but also has little flecks of pepper that ignite the sort of dull burn that can only be satiated with more cheese. Great for melting and for snacking, Pepper-Jack is a dark horse cheese that should not be underestimated.

Honorable Mentions: Feta, Gorgonzola, Asiago (maybe if I ever tasted it outside of a Panera bagel), Gouda (lost points for puns), Cottage (half of it usually rots in my fridge).


5. Blue Cheese - There are times when Blue Cheese is tolerable, but most of the time it takes a great deal of discipline to stifle a gag-reflex. I am working on my aversion to "stinky" cheeses, but I'm convinced people only enjoy Blue Cheese because it is conducive to dipping. If Cheddar were a liquid at room temperature, Blue Cheese would be shown the door. Sometimes I can handle blue cheese if it is on the tamer side, but the risk of getting a ripe one is too high to justify. Interesting note: as it turns out, "Blue Cheese" is also a name for a popular strain of Cannabis, as I found out while trying to Google image search for this entry. So at least it has that to fall back on.

4. Swiss Cheese - Swiss is another cheese I don't think I will ever like, which is a shame, because I think it has ruined ham for me simply by association. It has a strange nuttiness and bitterness that does nothing for my palate except make me think, "I wish there were more holes in this". I've had it in baked goods (it nearly ruined croissants too), and its bitterness and nuttiness and umami-esque flavors are only enhanced by heating. If you're looking for something to lace with poison, Swiss cheese is the way to go; they'll probably never notice.

3. Nacho Cheese - Is this even a type of cheese? I've only seen it in dark corners of convenience stores or at baseball games, but that gelatinous stream of orange mucus is the stuff of nightmares. There is no discernable taste or texture, just a race against the clock to consume it before it coagulates. No one has ever succeeded. It probably comes in a bag with a spigot. I would never slap that bag.

2. Easy Cheese - Perhaps I have bad memories of Easy Cheese from a troubled college acquaintance, but I don't think I will ever understand the allure of the canister of spray-able cheese. In this day and age, you can get ANYTHING in individually-wrapped, convenient packages. There is no reason on God's green earth that any human being needs a cheese product to be extruded under pressure for their suckling pleasure. If a person is too obese to cut a slice of cheese, perhaps Easy Cheese is what got them in this predicament in the first place.

1. American Cheese - The WORST cheese. Why do people eat this? It has the disturbing tang of Miracle Whip, has the texture of human skin, and comes wrapped like a maxi pad. It is some amorphous solid that defies any law of motion or thermodynamics and is the cheese of choice for terrible lunch products like Lunchables that people have some misplaced Nostalgia for. If it weren't called American cheese, it would probably not exist, but because it is named after our country (USA!), people feel some sort of civic duty to eat it. If you are buying American cheese to prove your patriotism, you should have your citizenship revoked.


  1. you should give bleu cheese more cred. it's YUM-O. nacho cheese is a guilty pleasure. what about port cheese? bsc's comte? man, this list did not allow for enough cheeses. A+ for blog topic, C- for willingness to commit/research. buahahaha.

  2. Ok American Cheese does not ONLY come in packaged form. From the deli it's great. You're also forgetting munster - which is a mild version of cheddar. AND I agree cheddar IS the best - especially since you can buy it with sundried tomato and basil, or garlic and herb flavors....except oh wait I'm lactose intolerant FML.

    PS On that note I find this blog to be a personal attack. The end.

  3. i like carlee's comment.

  4. I know I need to broaden my cheese horizons, but I still think I know good cheese when I taste it. CM, I know you are LT, but you are also the person who said you don't read my other posts so now I have to write about cheese to make you read this thing. It was not an attack. You are the little birdie. I'll try munster, but it sounds like the retarded cousin of cheddar.

  5. I know lol - I was just giving you a hard time - since I was complaining about your other blogs and now I can't eat as much cheese and it's my favorite food and you blogged about cheese.

  6. MPD,
    ...tough topic to tackle. alliteration aside - cheddar on top is a good choice. it's the go-to. it makes every sandwich better. the mid-atlantic states can appreciate extra sharp with a butter crisp(i think) apple. if you venture into PA, you'd get some serious friction that provolone - the cheese of philly steaks didn't make the list. just an fyi.

  7. I wholeheartedly agreed with anonymous. The only cheeses you've included on here are the extremely mainstream ones. What about the hundreds of the French cheeses, of which Comte certainly nears the top of the list? Swedish cheeses like Vasterbotten are among my favorites too. And the blue cheese you're talking about is the kind used in dressing. There are so many other types of blue cheese that have a wide variety of textures and flavors. Gorgonzola for instance provides the perfect salty contrast to dried cranberries and raspberry vinaigrette in a spinach salad.

    I'll get off my soap box now. But you should stop by formaggio kitchen sometime and ask for recommendations on cheeses to try. I bet you'll be surprised.