“If there was a house of Cheese, I would definitely live in it” stated Chad this afternoon. And he would…likely without inviting Elliot and me. This is what happens when you marry a cheese guy. From eating handfuls of shredded cheese to indulging in a carefully planned cheese plate to competing with his brother on who can eat their Christmas block of cheese fastest, Chad is a lover of cheese…beyond compare to anyone else I have met. It is only fitting that our Valentine’s tradition involves cheese as we explore pizza options around the Twin Cities, state, region, nation, and hopefully, someday, world. Cheese. I mean, what’s not to love? You can melt it, sprinkle it, top it, mix it, cut it, spread it, layer it, bake it, and [fill in the blank] it. It is a versatile ingredient to accompany other foods or to enjoy as a stand alone. Because of this, cheese is not necessarily unique or something new (in fact it has been around for over 4,000 years) and I am sure you have read some “best of” list in regards to it… I’m not here to argue the “Cheese Capital of the World” or to give you wine pairing ideas (though wine with cheese is HEAVEN). But I am prepared to share with you:
Chad’s Top 5 Cheese Delights
- Cheese Curds: Growing up in Minnesota, neighbors to where cheese was born in the USA, cheese curds are part of our being. Whether fried, fresh, or topping a heap of fries, we know how to do curds. In regards to the fresh variety, according to Chad, the squeakier the better. As you bite down the curd should squeak against your teeth. Some people would say that this means they are fresh. Chad’s favorite squeaky fresh curds are from Nelson’s Cheese and Deli in St. Paul, Gordy’s Supermarket (various locations in Wisconsin), and UW River Falls (the Agriculture department would make them fresh and sell them at the student union). The next best thing to a fresh curd is a fried curd. Minnesotan’s would argue that our fried curds are even better than Wisconsin’s. The batter that we choose is lighter and tends to highlight the cheese more (think cheese tempura). When it is State Fair time in MN, fried cheese curds are a must (Mouth Trap in the food building). But if you are craving this ooey-gooey treat beyond those 10 days during the year, you can get them, just as good, at Mac’s Fish and Chips (we have one right by our house of course).
- Cheese Plate: One of Chad’s favorite meals at home. All you need are an assortment of cheese, crusty bread or crackers, some delicious meat and accompaniments (grapes, olives, peppers, garlic, honey, chutney, preserves, etc). When buying cheese for a plate, a good rule of thumb is to buy something creamy, fresh, funky, nutty and sharp. If that is cheese overload, find your local cheese monger for suggestions. Chad’s favorite cheese mongers are located at the following businesses: Surdyk’s, Kowalski’s Market, St. Paul Cheese Shop, and Whole Foods. Everyone NEEDS a cheese monger in their life. They will change your cheese world!
- The Mimi: Punch Pizza makes some of the best Neapolitan pizza in the nation. Their pizza has won national and international awards. Part of the goodness…their cheese. They use fresh mozzarella and mozzarella di bufala with the option for extra. So of course you would find Chad frequenting their locations. His favorite pizza is The Mimi. It is like a caprese salad on top of a hot garlickly pizza crust. Must eat with a knife and fork but the full belly of goodness is well worth it.
- Mama’s: Mama’s Pizza Parlour is in East St. Paul. We don’t frequent this location often as the amount of cheese consumed during one meal is likely to take years off your life..but, if you are willing to take the oh so delicious risk, order the Sampler Platter (Mostaccioli, Spaghetti and Ravioli), add baked cheese (I swear it $10 of cheese for only $1.50 more) and enjoy an unbelievable pound of melted cheese with a side of pastas. Even Chad prefers to share this meal with me as we watch, jaws dropped, as those much braver than us challenge one another to finish a platter solo. Can’t wait for our next bi-annual visit.
- Juicy Lucy: Minnesota’s claim to fame. A burger stuffed with cheese that may burn your mouth when you bite into it, especially if you are the impatient type. So good. So cheesy. Chad’s favorite…The Nook in St. Paul (specifically on his menu every time we go, the Paul Molitor, a juicy burger stuffed with boiling hot pepper jack cheese). But Matt’s Bar, The 5-8 Club and the Blue Door are local favorite’s as well. Chad also has mastered making them at home. Two 1/4 pound home-prepared beef patties, a pocket in the middle of each, a fair helping of cheese in the middle (his favorite comes from Bongard’s creamery), pressed together around the edges and grilled to perfection (medium rare). If it weren’t for the Nook, I don’t know that we’d survive winter in Minnesota (i.e., charcoal grill hibernation season).
So there you have it. Chad tested and approved. We are now off to indulge in cheesy pizza goodness. Hope your Valentine’s Day has been just as cheesy…as in the food 🙂