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March 26, 2024

Savory Sixteen: The Tournament of Cheeses

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Last week we bragged on one of our favorite Utah partners, Beehive Cheese. Every year, they help us create some delicious new flavors of cheese to share at our events. The talented folks at Beehive are amazing!

Now we want to introduce you to a few of our favorite cheese flavors over the years. In honor of March Madness, we’ve whittled it down to sixteen of the best, going head to head to determine the champion. We've been been introducing the cheeses two at a time on our Instagram and Facebook stories. You can vote for your favorites in each round by clicking on the social icons at the bottom of this page. While you're there, feel free to follow us for all the delicious goings-on at Culinary Crafts.

Rosemary Cracked Pepper

Start with our classic Irish white cheddar. Then add fresh rosemary from the volunteer bushes growing outside our kitchen. Add cracked pepper and voila! A spicy kick with herbal notes, all nestled in creamy goodness.

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Al Pastor

Don’t let the plain look fool you; this cheese is anything but ordinary. Drawing from Lebanese-Mexican traditions for marinading meats, this unique cheese has a taste profile that’s both savory and sweet.

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Black Truffle Sea Salt

Coming into the competition as a top-ranked contender, Black Truffle Sea Salt is riding high on the team chemistry between truffles and cheese. Black truffles aren’t really black; they’re a very dark purple that turns to blue as they diffuse throughout the cheese, giving it a lovely marbled look. Truffles taste amazing with just about any cheese (including mac and cheese), and some say this match is unbeatable. But Black Truffle Sea Salt faces stiff competition in the first round.

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Chocolate Chipotle

If you’re familiar with Mexican mole (MOH-lay) sauce, you’ll understand why this Chocolate Chipotle cheese is always a crowd favorite.

We started with a classic mole dry rub with brown sugar, chilis, spices, and Mexican chocolate. Then we tweaked it to have just enough heat to get your attention but not overpower the creaminess of the cheese. Imagine this on nachos, tacos, refried beans…anything that needs a shot of smoky, savory sweetness. Some say this is the dark horse of the cheese tournament. We say, “Get in my mouth!”

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Curry On

Ever find yourself feening for a bite of spicy, succulent red curry? Well, now you are, aren’t you?

Added to any cheese spread or grazing table, our Curry On cheese will generate excitement on its own. But melted on a grilled cheese sandwich with mayo and a slice of very ripe heirloom tomato, this cheese may change your life!

The Irish cheddar we use is milder and more buttery than American cheddar, so Curry On makes a perfect complement between the creamy smoothness of the cheese and the zippy spiciness of the curry.

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Big Dill

Fans of dill won’t be surprised to see Big Dill making an appearance in the competition; it’s a perennial contender. Dill enhances an incredibly wide profile of other flavors, which makes it a safe bet for any charcuterie board, table, or spread. It may not have the flash of more exotic cheeses, but sometimes it’s the tried and true that wins.

If you are the kind of diner who likes a great pickle but thinks that most pickles overwhelm the taste of your burger, try skipping the pickle and melting a slice of this on your burger instead. Or try warming (not boiling) a kosher dog in a malty beer, char it on the grill, and add shavings of Big Dill and maybe some raspberry chipotle sauce. Heaven!

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Bye, Son

No, it’s not bison-flavored cheese. (Although we’d be up for trying that!) Bye, Son is our take on a cheesy version of Buffalo wings. The creamy white cheddar is just what’s needed to smooth out the heat of the buffalo seasoning. bye son cheese, buffalo wing cheese, spicy hot cheddar

Figgin’ Amazing

Probably the sweetest entrant in our “Savory Sixteen,” Figgin’ Amazing is for those of us who love our fruit and cheese all rolled up in one.

This was one of our most difficult cheeses to develop. First, the water content of fruits make them tricky ingredients to use in cheeses, even after they’re dried. Second, the natural sugars in fruit can throw the cheese off. It took a lot of adjusting and the addition of chives to bring a savory balance to the figs, but once we hit that perfect balance, “Figgin’ Amazing” seemed like the only right name.

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Good Thyme

Milder and more easy-going than most of the cheeses in this contest, Good Thyme is the kind of cheese you’d love to hang out with, just as its name implies.

With a subtle but complex flavor profile, it’s great to savor on its own. But Ryan says, “If I were pan-roasting chicken or pork with pasta and a light creamy sauce, I wouldn’t use the big Italian or French cheeses that typically go into pasta. I’d use Good Thyme. It’s a great cheese, either in a sauce with a roux or just grated over the pasta with olive oil and black pepper.”

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Chili crisp

Chili crisp has been a part of Chinese cuisine for centuries, but it only became popular in America during the pandemic. We use crunchy bits of fried peppers, garlic, and onions, similar in texture to Rice Crispies. One reporter describes the flavor of chili crisp as “the salty, crackly pleasure of potato chips with a just-right amount of tingling chili heat.” Throw in the creamy goodness of white cheddar and that makes a pretty good summary of this cheese.

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Smoked Pepper

Of all the cheeses we’ve made over the years, this was our mother’s favorite. We really wanted to make a cheese that brought in the wonderful flavors of smoke, but smoke just doesn’t penetrate well as a rub. Should we age the cheese and then smoke it? Smoke it first? Maybe slice it up and cold-smoke it? The answer turned out to be simple: smoke the peppers instead of the cheese. That way you get all the wonderful smokiness plus a little kick of pepper too.

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Tarragon Dijon

We’ve featured this unique cheese in charcuteries and cheese spreads, and it never fails to cause a stir. It’s delicious on its own, but our favorite way to use it is in a homemade sandwich. Try it with arugula and prosciutto (or just about any kind of salted pork), some homemade mayo, and maybe a little truffle aioli if you want to splurge. Un-be-lievable!

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Chive wasabi

Before you bite into this cheese, you need to understand that wasabi is not horseradish.

Yes, they’re related, but what passes for “wasabi” in America is usually just horseradish dyed green, and it tastes very different. Real wasabi doesn’t have that burn-your-face-off bite. It’s fresher and sweeter, and it enhances other flavors rather than overpowering them. That’s why this cheese plays so nicely with prosciutto, beef, seafood, cucumber and other vegetables, figs, citrus, even a beer.

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Cranberry Cinnamon

If you set out a cheese spread or a tasting table for the holidays, this cheese is an automatic must-include. The sweet/tart combination of cranberries and cinnamon, backed by the creamy smoothness of the cheesy, will have guests clustered around the snacks reaching for more. Gingerbread crackers can make it even more festive.

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Apricot habanero

When we started making this cheese, it was quite a battle. Our mother was worried that people wouldn’t like a spicy cheese, but Ryan kept trying to sneak more and more peppers into each batch. One year, mom didn’t come with us to Beehive to make the cheese, so Ryan was free to put in as much as he wanted. He overdid it a little, but ever since then we’ve made it with a good kick to offset the sweetness of the dried apricots and the honey rubbed on the outside. It’s always a guest favorite.

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Porcini and morels

When we make our annual trip to Ogden to make cheeses with Beehive, it’s usually in the late winter, which is the only time to get fresh morel mushrooms in Utah. We chop them up, dehydrate them, add salt and sugar, and combine them with another of our favorite mushrooms, porcini. Morels and porcini have a much fuller, meatier flavor than the button mushrooms you typically see at the store.

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So which cheeses would make it to your charcuterie finals? Let us know your votes.

Eat well!

27x winner Utah’s Best of State

24x Best of State Caterer

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