Sophisticated cheese flavours bring new life to an old favourite

Sophisticated cheese flavours bring new life to an old favourite
By Frank Weber
June 7, 2013

Cheese flavours and trends in the restaurant and foodservice industry

It can be a challenge to talk about trends when the subject has been around for 7,000 years, give or take. In the case of cheese, many of us in the foodservice industry thought we had seen it all. There are literally thousands of different cheeses out there and most of us have our “go to” cheeses – the cheese comfort zone, so to speak. But that should change soon.

Drunken cheeses are on the rise and we are finding a growing number of them in our cheese shops and well-stocked grocery stores. These cheeses are washed with Armagnac, infused with grappa and red wine, and flavoured with port, beer or cognac. However, the amount of alcohol in these cheeses won’t be a threat to your blood-alcohol levels, even when consumed in staggering amounts. The subtle flavours shine on their own or paired with jellies, pears and walnuts.

Most of these varieties are of the hard kind and can be conveniently skewered as little party snacks and are equally delicious as part of a cheese platter or grated over risotto, polenta or salads. One of the best sellers in this category is the Italian Testun di Barolo according to Agim Pristine at the Cheese Boutique in Toronto. The deep flavours of the wine pair well with dried figs and apricots.

Goat cheese on the rise

Goat and sheep milk cheeses are among the ones to watch out for in 2013 and beyond. Eastern cultures are discovering a taste for western delicacies and these varieties also fare well with lactose-intolerant consumers. We are seeing an increasing number of local producers, particularly out of Quebec, making some very good quality artisanal goat cheeses.

In addition to the specific flavour and varietal trends such as those mentioned above, there are also some significant behavioural shifts in consumer purchasing habits when it comes to cheese. Education about the quality of coffee, olive oil and recently premium teas has resulted in consumers making the informed choice to enjoy higher quality products. Cheese is going upscale, artisan or just plain better. Excellent quality cheeses have been around for a long time but now we are seeing more of them at our local grocery stores and in an increasing number of flavours, textures and varieties. This may simply be a case of consumers enjoying better selection now than 10 years ago but the point is, we are more willing to explore.

Ardent Mills Organic 2016

In line with this shift, we’re noting a decrease in processed cheese sales and an increase in purchases of the “good” stuff. Italian Parmesan, for example, is enjoying record sales as we discover that there is more to it than a simple sprinkle out of a can.

Italian influence

Another Italian contribution on the rise for several years now has been the Burrata. Virtually nowhere to be found five years ago, this is the king of buffalo mozzarella, with a creamy centre that oozes yummy goodness when torn in half. Every tomato dreams of becoming a salad topped with Burrata and drizzled with balsamico. With more extremely well-made local Burrata on the market, this trend will continue and we should see more at summer barbecues.

Cooking with cheese is nothing new but there are some interesting developments to be found in the various kitchens of the world. Artisanal Bistro in New York is a hybrid restaurant and cheese shop with a menu heavily focused on cheese. Here we can see a clear revival of the cheese fondue. Is this old fashioned? Maybe not. Chorizo, bacon, potatoes, pears, chicken tenders and prosciutto are being dipped together with veggies and the obligatory French baguette. The gooey goodness has been tweaked and next to the tried-and-true appenzeller, gruyere and emmentaler combo, we see concoctions like gouda and stout emerge. This is like the welcome revival of an old friend and what could be easier for your dinner party than a cheese fondue?

Top 10 sandwich cheeses

  1. Cheddar
  2. Mozzarella
  3. Swiss
  4. Monterey Jack
  5. Havarti
  6. American/Processed
  7. Cream cheese
  8. Gouda
  9. Parmesan

Source: Technomic Inc., The Canadian Sandwich Consumer Trend Report, 2012

Tasty truffle flavours

Back at the Toronto mecca for cheeseophiles, Agim Pristine reports that cheeses with white and black truffle are on the rise. For those with a weakness for this gold-priced substance, Boschetto or Moliterno are some of the gems to ask for. Try these grated over a mushroom omelette or au natural with good sourdough bread.

Dark chocolate, the new “healthy” treat, has also discovered its love for cheese and goes particularly well with some fortified triple cream cheeses such as Brilliant Savarin or Piere Robert. Replacing the cracker with a thin square of chocolate with a minimum cocoa content of 65 per cent or more will become my not-so-guilty pleasure for 2013.

All in all, cheese will have a bright future and perhaps for the next 7,000 years. Look out for some of these delicious time savers for tonight’s dinner and perhaps match one up with a bottle of wine to offer your customers a new chance to savour the good life of cheese.

Top 10 main dish cheeses:

  1. Cheddar
  2. Mozzarella
  3. Parmesan
  4. Swiss
  5. Goat Cheese
  6. Monterey Jack
  7. Cream cheese
  8. Blue Cheese
  9. Asiago

Source: Technomic Inc., The Canadian Sandwich Consumer Trend Report, 2012

See also:

About the author

Frank Weber is the founder of Liquid Vision Concepts, a foodservice consultancy firm based in Toronto. With over 25 years of experience in the foodservice industry, Frank and his company provide a wide array of services from location scouting and lease negotiations to concept and design, food and equipment sourcing, menu design and staff training. Frank can be contacted at For more information, visit

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