It seems obvious to say the American cheese industry has aged well, and yet it wasn’t until I had the chance to sit down and chat with Laura Werlin, James Beard award-winning author and cheese queen herself, that I was able to savor its truth. It must have been the pairing of Laura’s voice with the sentiment that spoke it into existence in my world, literally and figuratively.
The topic first came up as we were discussing a few of the trends Laura believes will be headliners in 2019, one of which included a greater refinement of craft amongst cheesemakers.
“We’re going to see even better cheeses from existing cheesemakers. They’re getting better at their craft, and we’re going to see even greater quality improvement,” Laura told me. “As a result, the cheese buying experience is going to be easier and easier because the quality of today’s cheeses is better than ever. And, because of this refinement, I think we’re going to see small-and-upcoming and large-and-existing cheesemakers continue to make cheeses we’ve never seen before. That’s the hallmark of artisan cheesemaking. They aren’t bound by the same creative constraints as European cheesemakers, so they’ll continue to be very innovative with the cheeses they’re making.”
Similarly, 2019 as a whole will be unbound by any creative constraints. Essentially, in 2019, all things go: stripes with plaid, peanut butter and cream cheese, me and a good night’s sleep. While she pinpointed different sources of spice, including Japanese spice Chichimi Togarashi and popular Korean spices, and black garlic, truffle, and mixed-milk cheeses as flavor trend standouts in this year’s cheese world, Laura noted that this year will also witness more cheesemakers, retailers, and consumers alike thinking outside of the box and having fun with the endless possibilities of cheese. This will include both fresh takes on flavored cheeses, with companies like Cypress Grove, Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company, and Sartori Cheese already spearheading the movement, and new pairing ideas for cheeseboards.
“What’s so great about a cheeseboard is that everything you find at a grocery store can be put on a board. Walk down any aisle and you’ll find things that can be paired with cheese. Not just fruit, but vegetables like pickled carrots and spicy green beans, too. Cured meats and all the traditional cheeseboard accompaniments shouldn’t be overlooked, but I encourage retailers and shoppers to consider less traditional accompaniments, like nut butters, chocolates, mustards, and even snack foods like potato chips. It’s fun to play around and create something that’s more than just cheese and crackers on a plate,” Laura explained.
I think this might be the only encouragement me and my fellow cheese-thusiasts need to reinvent grocery shopping with a focus on the only food that truly matters: broccoli—just kidding, obviously, cheese! Just making sure you were paying attention!
Before we wrapped up the conversation, I asked Laura what first got her into cheese and her tale did not disappoint.
“I got into cheese because it got into me at a very young age. I have always loved cheese, but I didn’t set out to do anything other than eat it. Soon after becoming a food writer, I discovered that cheese was what I had the most passion and interest in. What I discovered is that, cheesemakers were and are my heroes, and I wanted to tell their story,” Laura revealed to me.
To indulge in a few of these stories for yourselves, check out Laura’s six cheese-themed books and keep your eyes peeled for her next industry event. And, for more insights into the 2019 cheese world, stick with us at Deli Market News.