Make Your Life a Little Cheesier

Who doesn’t like the ooey, gooey melt in your mouth goodness of a grilled cheese sandwich? I know I would never pass one up. Just thinking of it makes me salivate at the idea of biting into two crunchy, butter pieces of toasted or grilled bread, only to have a sharp, cheddar cheese ooze out of the middle of it. It’s the perfect comfort food or it can make a quick meal idea, especially when combined with deli meat and grilled as a panini. When you are splitting hairs on what to serve for dinner, know that grilled cheese can be that old favorite that will make even the pickiest of eaters happy. Cheers to cheese! According to our cheese department buyer, Shelly, add your favorite pesto or jam to your grilled cheese sandwich to liven up this old favorite and to add some flavor pizazz!

However, like me, you may gravitate toward the pre-sliced cheese as an easy, convenient option when you are short on time. Yet remember that slicing up one of Valley Natural Foods’ specialty, artisan cheeses only takes an extra minute or two and they offer you more robust, carefully crafted and unique flavor profiles. Artisan cheeses reflect varying delicious subtleties and layers of savory flavors that translate into more pleasure and tasty enjoyment in every bite!

So if I’ve hooked you on not only making a grilled cheese sandwich tonight, but to do so using artisan varieties, watch out because you will soon become addicted to Valley Natural Foods’ specialty cheese department and you may be on the path to calling yourself a cheese connoisseur. However, if calling yourself a cheese connoisseur sounds too uppity to your friends, how about just saying you are a big cheese head? And no, there isn’t a football reference to that pun! If that isn’t cheesy enough, I don’t know what is! Cheese humor aside, do know that the specialty cheese department at the co-op has a huge, almost endless assortment of local and imported cheese options, made from cow, sheep and goat’s milk.  If you don’t know what cheese to use for what dish, let our cheese department experts guide you!

Now that you are a wannabe self-described cheese connoisseur or big cheese head, let me introduce you to Deer Creek Specialty Cheeses, made in what many people may call the cheese lover’s state – Wisconsin.

Co-owner of Deer Creek Specialty Cheeses with his wife Julie, Chris Gentine of Plymouth, Wisconsin, has a long and storied history in the cheese making business. Gentine started working at 15 for his grandfather’s cheese company, Sargento Foods. Later on he joined Masters Gallery Foods, his father’s cheese packaging and distribution company, as a retail merchandiser and bulk cheese trader. In 2006, Gentine and his wife went their own entrepreneurial cheese route, founding The Artisan Cheese Exchange. The Artisan Cheese Exchange represents cheeses manufactured completely by hand in small batches, using the highest quality of ingredients and under the attentive eye of the Master Cheesemaker, ensuring each one is an artistic expression of full-bodied flavor.  Including the highest quality of ingredients means the Artisan Cheese Exchange represents cheeses made from milk that is hormone, antibiotic and BST-free.

Deer Creek is one of these handmade varieties within the Artisan Cheese Exchange family, bringing with it 21 top U.S. and International Awards within the past four years. The names of the specific cheeses within the Deer Creek line-up are also alluring and their flavors are enticing, adding fun, humor and difficulty on deciding which one to buy! Another intriguing factoid is that each cheese variety includes a unique, artistically designed label, created by the Gentines’ very own daughter, which adds to the eclectic vibe Deer Creek elicits.

Here’s a rundown of the Deer Creek selections available at Valley Natural Foods, with hopes of making your decision of which to buy a little easier.

1. Deer Creek’s Rattlesnake Cheddar – $16.99/lb. 

(Sold in about ¼ pound wedges which are in the $4 range)

To say this cheese has a bit of bite, pun intended, is an understatement. However, for someone like me, who enjoys a bit of spicy, hot zest to her food, this cheese delivers like none other. Made with a dynamite combo of tequila and habanero peppers, Deer Creek Rattlesnake Cheddars cultivates a pleasant, lingering heat in the back of your month that isn’t too overpowering but definitely very noticeable, unlike some other supposedly “hot cheeses” I’ve tried. However, do note that I’m saying this as a spicy food lover. Therefore, if heat is not what you are looking for, you definitely want to avoid this one before it bites you back! This cheese is also very attractive and artistic-looking, with the habanero threads representing a rattlesnake pattern throughout it.

2. Deer Creek’s The Stag (Aged Cheddar) -$23.49/lb.

(Sold in about ¼ pound wedges which are in the $6 range)

First place winner in the 2013 American Cheese Society’s competition, this aged cheddar variety is described as on the Artisan Cheese Exchange’s website as very rugged, with strong layers of toffee and butterscotch flavoring. As it ages, it develops a slight crystalline crunch that activates one’s taste buds, enhancing its flavor and texture.

3. Deer Creek’s The Fawn (Mild Cheddar) -$20.49/lb.

(Sold in about ¼ pound wedges which are in the $5 range)

The Fawn is also a four-time award winning cheese, which also includes an International honor. Made by Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker Kerry Henning of Kiel, Wisconsin, this young cheese, aged only up to one year, is a fuller and complex-flavored cheddar, with milder and sweeter notes when compared to other aged varieties.

4. Deer Creek’s The Robin (Colby) – $10.99/lb.

(Sold in just under ½ pound wedges which are in the $4-$5 range)

The Robin has a fresh, buttery taste combined with a salty finish.

5. Deer Creek’s Vat 17 (Extra Sharp Cheddar) – $23.99/lb.

(Sold in just under ½ pound wedges which are in the $4-$5 range)

This five-time cheese winner has a very deep and bold flavor profile, which is cultivated through a two-year aging process.

Learn more about Deer Creek Specialty Cheeses here:

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