By Kara Nielsen, Food Trendologist
For Saltshaker Marketing & Media
I was a French major in college and spent my junior year abroad in Paris. We started the year living with families in Tours, where it’s said the spoken French is the clearest in the country. What wasn’t clear was how to tackle the cheese course that was part of most meals.
While my parents came from cheese-rich Wisconsin that didn’t mean I knew how to properly slice a piece of French cheese, eat it once I did or know when to stop. Getting comfortable with the nightly cheese course was one of the first big cultural lessons we Americans learned, and one that has paid off handsomely. In today’s artisan-cheese-loving world, I’m ready for any platter that comes my way.
Cheese plates this season may well be laden with a few new styles of artisan cheese that cheese mongers, experts and consumers are excited about. These are coming from innovative cheesemakers taping the wide range of global cheese styles for inspiration, collaborating with other artisan producers and innovating with ingredients like nuts to craft vegan cheese.
Janet Fletcher, publisher of the weekly blog Planet Cheese and author of numerous books on cheese, tells me she is keen on the current trend of beer-washed cheeses. “I’m loving Meadowood Farms Ledyard, which is wrapped in grape leaves soaked in beer.” Ledyard's made with Deep Purple, a wheat beer made with Concord grapes, to be exact. The grapes, like the cheese, hail from Madison County, New York. Beer-washed cheeses are a classic European style that is being produced today by collaborative-minded cheesemakers and their local craft brewers much to our gooey, stinky delight. And if you can’t find a beer-washed-rind cheese, just try another hot trend by pairing cheese with craft beer.
A newer style of cheese deliciousness comes from Australia where marinated goat cheese has long been a staple. Aussies Gerard and Susan Tuck missed this favorite after a move to Northern California; this led them to open Chevoo which produces three trend-forward flavors of local goat cheese curd hand-blended with seasonings and packed in infused extra virgin olive oil. I’m impressed to see Aleppo-Urfa Chili & Lemon flavor, featuring Syrian Aleppo pepper and Turkish chiles, alongside the more familiar Smoked Sea Salt & Rosemary flavor, but I would welcome any of them on a cheese plate. Lenny Moonsammy, Director of Sales for Chevoo believes the marinated cheese category is the next big thing in cheese. “People really love it because it’s so easy to eat,” say exclaims.
Non-dairy innovators are also producing artisan-style vegan cheese from cashews, almonds, coconut oil and cultures. These are terrific vegan foods that allergy sufferers and special-diet followers may also enjoy. Treeline Treenut Cheese transforms cashews and acidophilus into flavored soft spreads and firmed aged cheese. Miyoko’s Kitchen uses organic rice koji for its “cultured nut product” made from cashews and coconut oil in cream cheese, mozzarella and aged styles. (Miyoko’s Cultured VeganButter is also pretty remarkable!)
I may not have been trained in the art of vegan cheese in France, but with my open mind and palate, I’m ready to dive in and give these cheese trends a taste.