It’s starting: national food trend experts have labeled 2017 as “the year of the egg yolk.” African flavors, Spanish flavors and a Middle Eastern spice mix called baharat are all supposed to be hot, while almost everyone is excited about sorghum grain bowls for breakfast and foods grilled on a plancha.
I don’t even know what the hell a plancha is*.
What I can tell you is that 2017, similar to the last 10 years, will be the year of American artisan cheese. That’s because American cheesemakers continue to up their game in quality and innovation. And in Wisconsin, we’ve got a whole new generation of cheesemakers coming up who are pushing block cheddar and shredded mozzarella to the side and stocking specialty cheese counters with American Originals such as Le Rouge, Vat 17 and Wischago.
1. Le Rouge — this alpine-style cheese from Red Barn Family Farms is made by Master Cheesemaker Jon Metzig. It’s reminiscent of a table Alp cheese you might eat at in a farmer’s kitchen in Switzerland, and is made from the milk of six Wisconsin dairy farmers who all follow the Red Barn Rules.
2. Vat 17 — this sweet cheddar-style cheese from Deer Creek has been on the market for two or three years, but never gets the credit it deserves. The story goes that Deer Creek owner Chris Gentine worked with Master Cheesemaker Kerry Henning for years to develop an exact flavor profile of a cheese he was seeking, and the 17th vat of cheese they made finally fit the bill. Creamy yet crumbly, and chock full of calcium-lactate crystals, this cheese puts your average block cheddar to shame.
3. Wischago — Until about six months ago, Cheesemaker Brenda Jensen of Hidden Springs Creamery marketed this cheese as Manchego, but then a rather threatening letter from the Spanish Manchego Consortium persuaded her to change the name to Wischago. No matter. This aged sheep milk’s cheese is better than any imported Spanish Manchego you’ll find in an American grocery store.
*I googled plancha and according to Steven Raichlen’s Barbecue! Bible, a plancha is “a sort of griddle—a thick, flat slab of cast iron you place on your grill for searing small or delicate foods.” You can get a plancha insert for your gas grill for about $35, or you can purchase a Vulcan V1P18-NAT V Series Natural Gas 18″ Modular Heavy-Duty Plancha Range, 17,500 BTU for $3,538.75 here. I’m likely to do neither.