Trader Joe’s UNEXPECTED CHEDDAR


96923-unexpected-cheddar

RAVE

In this case the hype is correct

Year in, year out, Unexpected Cheddar is one of TJ’s best selling products…and for good reason. It’s a “knock it out of the ballpark” item. TJ’s Unexpected Cheddar tastes like a an aged premium cheddar cheese with hints of Parmigiano. If you put this out on a cheese plate for company you are almost guaranteed to get some comment like, “Hmm this cheese is amazing, where do you get this?”

While I have not tried every cheese that Trader Joe’s sells (I wish!) I have to say Unexpected Cheddar is one of the best cheeses I have purchased there or frankly anywhere. I’m a huge fan of a good Cheddar, the sharper the better for my tastes. Is it because I’m a Damn Yankee (well a New Yorker) and Sharp Cheddar has always seemed to me to be a very Yankee or “East Coast” cheese? On this side of the Atlantic anyway as Cheddar cheese is quite English in origin. Historically in my taste memories, the Sine Qua Non of a classic Cheddar, that was in our house since we were kids was always CABOT CHEDDAR from Vermont.  If we didn’t have a piece of CABOT Extra Sharp Cheddar in our fridge we would at least always have a package of Cracker Barrel Extra Sharp as my dad’s favorite cheese was Cheddar by far. TJ’s Unexpected Cheddar is quite different from these classic cheddars like Cabot. Cabot Extra Sharp is wonderful and it’s actually sold at TJs (I recommend trying it)! But “Unexpected Cheddar” is unique, its got a texture unlike most any Cheddar you’ve tried. As Trader Joe’s own description is so perfect I’ll simply quote it:

Unexpected Cheddar has been a best-seller since it first hit our cheese cases, back in 2011. It presents itself as an aged Cheddar, and tastes like one as well. Until, it doesn’t. That creamy Cheddar takes an unexpected flavor turn, the texture seems to change as you eat – you might swear you were enjoying an aged Parmesan. On first try, it’s an unexpected pleasure. With subsequent purchases, the only unexpected part of the experience is that it continues to be such a great value. Then again, you’ve come to expect great values at Trader Joe’s, so our price of $3.99 for each seven ounce piece may not be so unexpected after all.”

Ignoring the marketing, the description of the taste and texture is exactly right. The texture is more crumbly than a regular cheddar. It may crumble apart when you slice it, not unlike a piece of Parmegiano Reggiano. There are flavor profiles in the Unexpected Cheddar which have that same “umami” overtones of a Parmigiano, Grana Padano or an aged Pecorino. I’ve tasted this with wine, and it pairs wonderfully with both whites and reds. Or beer for that matter. I can see this as a good pick for a wine tasting or a beer tasting.

At $4 for 7 oz. figure this costs a bit under $10/lb. for a super premium cheddar, a very good deal as usual from Trader Joe’s. Once you buy this you may find it makes it onto your “Always Buy” list. To be honest in our house, the biggest problem with UNEXPECTED CHEDDAR is it goes so damn fast. Its too damn tasty, way too easy for a package to get eaten in one day. Be warned.

Be sure to try this melted. On a cheeseburger? Gets a wow. Grilled cheese? The best grilled cheese you may ever have! In an omelet? On pizza or as quesilladas… They are all fantastic with this cheese. Want some ideas for foods to pair this with? While it is excellent on its own of course, I find it goes exceptionally well with fruit, such as apples, grapes, pears, or figs, added to a cheese plate. In particular, the ENVY or FUJI apples that TJ carries pair very well with this cheese. It is a little tricky to slice the cheddar perfectly as it tends to crumble a bit but thats OK as I promise you every last crumble will vanish. If you serve this to guests, you will get praise. Seriously, try this if you never have. You will love it.

By the way, TJ does now carry CABOT EXTRA SHARP VERMONT CHEDDAR. Also worth trying if you’ve never had it, Cabot Extra Sharp is THE classic East Coast cheddar cheese.

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