Say cheese!

June 30 2017

Melt it on a burger, sprinkle it on top of pasta, add it to a sandwich, or eat it on its own. When it comes to cheese, there is a huge range of flavours to choose from and plenty of ways to enjoy it - so is it time to include even more of the dairy delight on your menu?
According to data from the US Department of Agriculture, the average American consumed 34 pounds of cheese in 2015. That was an increase of more than 40 per cent compared to 1996 - and it's easy to imagine that here in Canada the numbers are similar. After all, cheese is always on trend, it's also convenient, familiar and it tastes delicious. 
“Cheese consumption has been continuously going up for the last 20 years, and it doesn’t seem to be stopping,” explained Leslie Butler, an agricultural and resource economics lecturer at the University of California, Davis.

Choose your cheese

Cheese is a versatile ingredient that can really differentiate a menu, bringing both flavour and a range of textures (melted, spreadable, stretch and crispiness, for example) to recipes - and it can be incorporated at any meal time.
According to Technomic's MenuMonitor, the three most prevalent kinds of cheese on restaurant menus are mozzarella, parmesan, and cheddar. Other favorites that top the list include spicy jack, feta, blue cheese, and ricotta - many of these boast bold flavours that keep diners coming back for more.

Technomic's research has also shown that the fastest-growing cheeses on restaurant menus include American specialties like Colby, goat, and other soft, fresh cheeses; authentic European classics like gouda, raclette, emmentaler, and havarti; Hispanic and South American cheeses like enchilado, asadero, panela, and cotija; and several particularly flavourful varieties like smoked gouda, asiago and ricotta salata.
Peppery and chili-infused cheeses are particularly popular due to their fiery flavours, while creamy cheeses are often used to cool down the spice.

Let's get cheesy

If you're thinking about incorporating more cheesy flavours into your menu, there's an endless array of options to consider. Here are a few ideas you might want to consider:

  • Pizza - According to Executive Chef Craig Priebe, Americans eat approximately 350 slices of pizza every second - and that's a lot of cheese. In fact, there are around 70,000 pizzerias in the US and thanks to the younger generation's love of the Italian-inspired food, these numbers are likely to keep going up. The most popular cheeses used in the preparation of pizza are mozzarella, provolone, cheddar and parmesan - but you don't have to stick to the standard cheese flavours. For example, cheeses like feta, ricotta, and blue cheese could combine with other toppings to provide a unique and flavourful pizza.
  • Gourmet grilled cheese - There's nothing wrong with a bit of cheddar fried between two slices of bread. But if you want to up your grilled cheese game, why not add in some new tastes? Get Flavour suggests that halloumi and kefalotyri, two hard Mediterranean cheeses are perfect for grate-grilling and can be used in kebabs and other dishes. Provoleta a la parrilla can be seared brown outside, while remaining gooey inside and it's ideal for topping bread, filling tacos or served on its own as a bar snack.
  • Melts and dips - Perfect for sharing and small plates, melted cheese dips like fondue are growing in popularity - and are becoming preferable to the not-so-fresh flavours of queso and canned cheese dips. There's also raclette, a French-Swiss Alpine semi-hard cow's milk cheese, which is melted over a fire until it's bubbling hot - then it's theatrically scraped over food items like toast, potatoes, vegetables, and meat as it's being served.
  • Customizable foods - Offering a variety of cheeses is an easy way to add a customizable element to your menu. Whether you're providing a variety of cheese sauces for a macaroni and cheese dish, or providing a selection of shredded cheese to go on top of salads, pizzas or burgers, having a range of cheeses available will allow diners to transform their meals to suit their specific taste preferences.

There's no doubt that cheese is comforting, craveable, and a centerpiece of many cuisines from around the world - and adding new cheese flavours to a menu could help to differentiate your menu. And with cheese's popularity only expected to increase, maybe it's time to get a bit more creative with your cheesy offerings.