Take a seat, all other cheeses.
Before you prep your New Year's Eve cheese plate, stop and think. Are you about to enter 2019 eating the wrong cheese? Cheese that's practically wearing a pair of "2018" New Year's Eve novelty glasses and eating a Tide Pod while doing the "In My Feelings" challenge—that's how 2018 it is? Wow, you are so lucky we are here to help you. Or, more specifically, Chad Galer (a.k.a. "Chad the Cheese Guy")— a former dairy farmer and microbiologist with the National Dairy Council specializing in cheese—is here. We sat down with him to talk about the hottest cheese trends for 2019, from grilling cheese (which is different from grilled cheese) to cheeses infused with ghost peppers and curry. Here are his top picks.
Halloumi: So Hot Right Now
Galer notes that halloumi, a "grilling cheese" that's designed not to melt, has experienced a surge in popularity lately. And with good reason. "You can literally put it in your frying pan with a little dab of oil and some spices," he says. "Now you're getting caramelized butter and browned cooked notes along with the cheese. Grilled cheese without the bread is a good way to describe it."
Flavored Cheese, This Is Your Year
While Galer has noticed an uptick in cheese infused with savory flavors (think curries and spices associated with Greek and Middle Eastern food) pepper cheeses are really taking off. "The hotter the better," he says. "Ten years ago there was just your common Pepper Jack, and now all the cheese makers I talk to can't keep up with the new requests for different kinds of pepper cheese, from habanero chili peppers to Chipotle and those smoky flavors. Some people are going into ghost pepper cheese and seeing how hot they can make it."
Quark, You Are on *Fire*
This German "fresh cheese"—which is like a thicker Greek yogurt—has a "nice, acidic, smooth, creamy flavor," according to Galer. Plus, it's pretty high in protein. Cottage cheese is also having a bit of a moment again, Galer says, which means breakfast cheeses are back.
The Hottest Rind Is Washed Rind
America's noses are adjusting to stinky—or washed rind—cheese, Galer says. It's kind of a broad category, but some telltale signs include a sticky exterior, a reddish-orange rind, a yeasty, salty flavor, and a smell that's...kinda rank (in a good way!). Limburger, Taleggio, and Époisses are some common varieties (all taste milder than they smell).
Now go forth and revamp that cheese plate! And to get to know some of the U.S. farmers producing these very hot, very trendy, very now cheeses, check out the National Dairy Council's Undeniably Dairy site.