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Ideation: Menus Get Cheesy

While many chefs choose specialty cheeses that tie into their restaurant’s cuisine, some get a little edgier. These dishes highlight a few top choices.

Fiscalini Farms Cheddar Cheese Soup

“Fiscalini is a great farmstead cheese made in Modesto, just 100 miles from here,” says Percy Whatley, executive chef at Yosemite Park’s Ahwahnee Hotel dining room. “I especially like the 18-month aged bandaged cheddar I use in this recipe because of its sharpness.” To add to this soup’s California character, Whatley uses all local ingredients, including Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

Wisconsin Cheese Plate with Turkish Figs and Spicy Pecan Brittle

A classic cheese course covers a spectrum of flavors and textures. At Denver’s Solera, Goose Sorensen plates Camembert, Grand Cru Gruyere Surchoix, Italico and Creamy Gorgonzola, along with house-made condiments. “The figs and pecan brittle are updates on traditional fruit and nuts. The acidity and crunch cut the richness of the cheese,” he says.

Gruyere Gnocchi with Snails and Yellowfoots

New York City executive chef Craig Hopson sources from Murray’s Cheese, a wholesale/retail operation near his One if by Land, Two if by Sea restaurant. Although gnocchi is typically made with Parmesan, Hopson looked for something “nutty and sharp” to give these a more definitive flavor. “I tweaked the recipe to get in the maximum amount of Gruyere without compromising the texture,” he says.

Baked Brie with Buckwheat Honey Sabayon

While at Zola in Washington D.C., chef Frank Morales developed this sweet-savory dish for the Epcot Food & Wine Festival. Fine-dining restaurants are increasingly pairing cheeses with honey varietals; Morales took this trend a step further by creating a recipe that combines the two. The robustly flavored buckwheat honey offers just the right counterpoint to the creamy brie. 

Halloumi Saganaki

Produced on the island of Cyprus, halloumi is a semi-hard, handmade cheese made from sheep and goat milk. It’s a favorite of Michael Psilakis, chef-partner at New York City’s Anthos, who imports the most authentic ingredients for his upscale Greek-inspired menu. “Halloumi maintains its integrity through cooking; the unique texture allows me to roast, grill or fry it without losing its shape,” he notes. 

Ballyvolane House Cheese Souffle

Dinner is a seasonal spread at this country inn, located in County Cork, Ireland, with local produce, meats and cheeses playing a starring role. This signature souffle is made with shredded Dubliner, a hard Irish cheese. Owner Justin Green likes to serve the souffles hot from the oven in individual ramekins accompanied by balsamic vinegar-dressed baby greens as a salad course. 

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