Visits home to Oklahoma are always a golden opportunity to prey upon a parent’s indulgent instincts. My family sees me infrequently enough that I can usually get away with suggesting some kind of tasty splurge, which always results in merriment and my mother gawking at prices she didn’t notice until we got to the register. On my last trip home, I decided to direct my bargaining powers at my favorite of all food groups: cheeses.
Given that eating more cheese is also a new year’s resolution of mine, I had all the excuse in the world to drag my mother to the nearest Reasor’s. The Oklahoma-based grocery store chain I visited frequently in my youth now boasts over 300 different kinds of cheese in each of its larger stores, an almost inconceivable bounty. Better yet, small samples are placed at random all around the deli area, so an average trip to the store can become a one-woman cocktail party at the drop of a hat.
Taking advantage of my mother’s incredulity at the staggering selection, I selected four different cheeses to try, some of which were better than others. Here’s the rundown (clockwise from top).
Manchego 6-Month Aged El Greco
Billed as a goat cheese, the packaging actually lists sheep’s milk as the primary ingredient. But the hoofed mammal that gave up its lifeblood for this dairy is irrelevant because the cheese is so desperately bland that you won’t care to eat more of it anyway. And despite its lack of flavor, it somehow managed to have an unpleasant aftertaste that wasn’t rank enough to be interesting. A sample swayed my mother at the store, but the reality was disappointing. Pair it with something flavorful like a summer sausage and try to enjoy the texture, because the taste won’t be keeping anybody around for long.
Pico de Queso
The name captures the essence perfectly: this one is basically a taco in cheese form. The onion and pepper flavors shine through the subtle cheddar with a pleasant, memorable heat. Hell, it even looks like a fiesta with veins of red and green flavor scoring the pale surface of the block. This cheese would, of course, be divine on a taco, but it’s also good enough to demand individual attention. Eat it by itself or make nachos out of it.
Blackberries and Wine Cheddar
Initially subtle and understated, this cheese proved to be a steady performer for the duration of my time home and was the first block I finished. There’s a soft, appealing blandness texturally and the light hints of blackberry pair well with any meal. But the real magic happens when you eat this cheese together with an actual blackberry—the sweet and savory elements blend deliciously and give the dairy a whole ‘nother dimension. Bonus points for a gorgeous plum marbling fit for a granite countertop and the fact that this cheese was homegrown in the Sooner State.
Porter Beer Cahill Cheddar
With a rich brown coloring, this cheese is a real looker, but the taste underperforms. It was a strong cheddar, sure, but the beer notes didn’t show through at all. Plus, with the highest price of the bunch–$23.99 a pound!—this wedge should have been filing my taxes in addition to titillating my tastebuds. It did neither. Make it a visually striking bruschetta if you’ve got some sitting around and don’t be lured in by its false promise if you encounter it in the wild.
Post and Photo by Bailey James.