Welcome, dear readers, to The Takeout Draft, our recurring feature that combines our love of food, fantasy sports, and arguing on Slack.
Every week, we will select a topic of conversation from the food and drink world. Takeout writers will then field a team via the snake draft format. After five rounds, The Takeout commenteriat will vote on who they believe was victorious in that week’s draft. At the end of the year, the staffer with the most weekly victories will select a charity of his/her choice that The Takeout will make a donation towards.
The winner of the previous Takeout Draft: Non-Alcoholic Drinks, as voted by readers: Aimee Levitt, for the second draft in a row!
This week, the topic is cheese, which we are irrationally excited about. Competing in the Thunderdome this week are members of the Takeout staff: Kate Bernot, Aimee Levitt, and Allison Robicelli. The randomizer has selected a draft order:
Let’s get ready to rumble.
Kate Bernot: Aimee, kick us off.
Aimee Levitt: All right. I’m going to start with... burrata! It’s so creamy and luxurious, especially since I can afford it only rarely.
Allison Robicelli: I can teach you how to make it. It’s a pain in the ass, though.
Kate: It is a luxurious-feeling cheese.
Aimee: See, that’s the thing: it’s nice to be able to buy it. And with fresh tomatoes... Sigh
Allison: One time I made burrata and filled it with spinach artichoke dip, and I’m surprised no massive food company has scooped me up to produce that sort of genius for them.
Another nice thing about burrata is that you can hold it in your hand and eat it like an apple while sitting in a bathtub. That’s a general life hack for you guys.
Aimee: Huh. That is how I imagine movie stars live.
Allison: For my first pick, I’m picking mozzarella. Without it, there would be no pizza. It has a million uses. It’s salty and creamy, and even though it’s flavor is mellow, it still adds so much.
Also, as I’m a guinea from Brooklyn I pronounce it “mutz-ah-rell,” so it’s a big cultural identifier for me. When I say it out loud, I always find my people. It’s like the Bat-Signal.
Kate: A versatile first addition to your team, able to cover multiple positions.
Aimee: Utility cheese.
Kate: Okay, for my first-round pick, I’m going with a cheese I love deep down in my soul: camembert. It’s like Brie’s even more flavorful cousin!
Aimee: Runny, stinky cheese ftw!
Kate: I love a soft cheese and camembert is a crowdpleaser: flavorful but not off-putting, earthy and complex.
Allison: It’s also a raw milk cheese, which makes it dangerous
Kate: When it comes to cheese, I live on the edge. For my second-round pick—and now for something completely different—smoked Gouda.
I could eat a wheel of it, truthfully. I must be restrained around smoked Gouda. It’s sweet and salty and ever-so-delicately smokey—a perfect combo.
Allison: This is a divisive one! Do go on.
Kate: I think it’s actually really good with a lot of other foods, too.
Allison: I feel like smoked Gouda is what happens when deli cheese has sex with a Slim Jim.
Aimee: Thanks for that image.
Allison: You’re welcome.
Kate: I take it all back.
Allison: Too late. Ruined it for everybody.
For my second pick, I’m going with good ol’ American cheese. You can miss me with your “it’s not really cheese!” bullshit. There is nothing better on a burger than processed yellow American.
Aimee: I have to give that one to you. Also for grilled cheese.
Allison: EXACTLY. And you know how sometimes a bit of cheese will leak out and burn on the pan while you’re frying up the sandwich? Fancy cheese doesn’t do that nearly as well. There would be no tuna melts without it.
Kate: My kingdom for a tuna melt.
Allison: No bacon egg and cheese sandwiches. It’s more American than apple pie.
Aimee: It’s got American in the name! I am so hungry now.
Allison: America might be a flaming dumpster of rancid garbage right now, but we can always be proud of our cheese slices.
Aimee: Does anyone else eat American cheese? Anyway... my next pick is aged Gouda. It was the first nice cheese I ever ate, and I associate it with happy memories of learning how to eat well.
Kate: Cheese memories are the best memories.
Allison: I’ve been eating a lot of nice aged Gouda recently. It doesn’t get enough love.
Aimee: It’s so good on crackers.
Allison: When it gets ripe and you get those nutty lactic acid crystals in there, damn. It’s buttery and caramel-ly and perfect.
Kate: Cheese crystals are little morsels from heaven.
Allison: And delicious with The Takeout’s signature apple butter recipe (I am so good at this)
Aimee: It was such a revelation to me to learn that cheese crystals existed. I feel like I never really lived.
My next pick is going to be another utility player: Parmesan
Allison: Honestly, I could not function without this cheese.
Aimee: It makes pasta and tomato sauce better, it’s the heart of pesto, it perks up pizza and gives it those little toasty brown patches, you can use the rinds for broth... You could even eat it in slices in a pinch.
Allison: “in a pinch.” C’mon Aimee. I eat the grated stuff with a spoon.
Aimee: Well, yes. I’m talking about on crackers for dinner.
Allison: You can also fry it up into crackers
Aimee: It’s a cheese that does everything!
Kate: I’ll pipe up to add that Parmesan gets crystals too, a gift from god and the angels.
Allison: Those little crystals come from aging. When the lactose turns into lactase If it’s a super crystally cheese, it has no more lactose. You can go hog wild on it without pooping yourself.
Kate: The more you know!
Allison: For my third pick, I’m going with cheddar. A fine aged one gives you those lactic acid crystals, that sharp bite, a bit of nuttiness and earth. Or, you can buy a block from the supermarket and eat it like you would a bar of chocolate.
Aimee: Sharp or mild?
Allison: It depends on how saucy I’m feeling. It goes with apple pie. It goes with tacos. It goes with crackers. It goes with everything! It’s actually in my favorite ice cream.
My favorite ice cream is from this shop in Baltimore called The Charmery, and it’s a sweet cream base mixed with Ritz crackers and shredded cheddar.
Kate: I’ll take 7.
Allison: And they’re not skimping on the cheese and crackers, either. It’s like a cheeseball that’s held together by ice cream.
Allison: There are a few foods in America that are worth a pilgrimage. This is one of them.
Kate: For my third-round pick, I choose another rare treat: Stilton blue
Haters can step the hell aside. Give me a cheese that clears my damn nostrils
Aimee: That’s a bold choice.
Allison: Of all the blues, I’m partial to Stilton. It has a faint taste of walnuts that you won’t find in a lot of more pungent blues
Kate: The salt! The tang! The creaminess! Now I will look out for a hint of walnut, too, next time I have it.
Allison: As is the case with Roquefort, which is too aggressive, or Danish, which is what most people think of when they say they don’t like blue cheese. Stilton is well balanced. I’d call it a beginner’s blue cheese.
And boy howdy that fat content! That stuff just melts on your tongue.
Kate: And for my fourth-round pick: cotija
That’s another one I need to be restrained around because I will just break off crumbles and eat them until the whole piece is gone
Aimee: Nothing wrong with that.
Kate: It’s so... springy? I really appreciate the texture and its mildness.
Allison: It’s like a more aggressive Parmesan. I’ve got a bag in my fridge at all times.
Kate: I get it in wheels at my grocery store and they do not last long.
Kate: well, they’re small wheels, sorta like this
Allison: It’s like a queso fresco situation. Super salty, which I love.
For my fourth pick, I’m taking cream cheese, which is one of my favorite secret ingredients. Throw it into mashed potatoes. Make it into a cheese ball, or on a sandwich with marmalade and bacon. Whip up a cheesecake, or some cream cheese frosting.
Kate: It really needs to break beyond its bagel confines. I mean, it’s delicious on a bagel, but so much more versatile.
Aimee: In a rugelach dough!
Allison: Sometimes, when I make waffles, I’ll whip cream cheese with powdered sugar and vanilla, then keep adding milk until it’s pourable like syrup. Cheesecake waffles!
Aimee: Oh my god. That sounds amazing
Allison: I am the queen of ridiculous-yet-brilliant decisions
Aimee: For my fourth pick, I choose bread cheese!
Kate: ... bread cheese? Is there a cheese of which I am not aware?!
Aimee: It’s kind of like the Wisconsin version of Halloumi. You toast it up on a grill, and sometimes it’s flavored with garlic.
Kate: My life has been a lie.
Aimee: Once I spent a rainy week in a cabin in Wisconsin and I ate bread cheese toasted on a fork over a fire, and it was absolutely glorious.
Brun-uusto Bread Cheese: “Brun-uusto is a Wisconsin-made ‘Bread Cheese’ from Brunkow Cheese of Darlington, Wisconsin. Baked to perfection, this Wisconsin cheese is to be served warm to enjoy its soft, buttery flavor. The expert Wisconsin cheesemakers at Brunkow have translated Brun-uusto into an authentic version of Juustalepia (Juusto), a specialty cheese with Finnish and Swedish origins.”
It’s got this nice buttery flavor, and it’s toasted!
Allison: I am looking this up. Is this a Midwest thing? I have never heard of this. Is this like that Provel crap you were telling me about?
Aimee: No!!!!! This is a real cheese!
KB: BREAK IT UP, BREAK IT UP
Allison: I’m still not 100% positive about what Provel is, and you’ve explained it to me multiple times.
Aimee: I’m going to send each of you a package and then you will see. Provel is a lab experiment. Bread cheese is real.
Allison: I mean, I’m never going to turn down cheese.
Aimee: And for my last pick, Kefalotyri, just because I can never get over watching waiters in Greek restaurants set it on fire while yelling OPA!
Allison: I love things that are on fire.
Aimee: Who doesn’t?
KB: hot cheese 🔥
Allison: Okay, my final pick: gjetost
Kate: Guys I’m going to hate spell checking this draft
Allison: I’m half Norwegian, and this was something that was always in the house when I was a kid. And you should have thought of that before we decided to draft cheese. Again, no planning. That’s what makes this exciting.
Gjetost is essentially caramelized cheese. It’s made by cooking milk til the sugars caramelize, which produces a cheese almost like a fudge.
Kate: Here for it.
Aimee: Yay toast!
Allison: It’s creamy and spreadable, and can be used savory or sweet. I like it schmeared on a well toasted English muffin. You can also mix it into hot caramel, or perhaps eat with some firm sliced apples that have been tossed in bourbon
Kate: that’s living your best life
Okay, my final pick is also spreadable and great on toast and, in my opinion, criminally overlooked: raclette. When I see that raclette booth at the holiday markets, oh baby, get out of my damn way
Aimee: Oooooh, yes!
There’s a guy at the farmer’s market in Chicago who has an enormous wheel that he just keeps warming and scraping all day.
Allison: Raclette is not criminally overlooked. No one sees Raclette and says “meh.”
Kate: Few people know what it is, though
Aimee: Some people have been put off by the smell. But they are foolish.
Allison: Who the hell are these people put off by the smell? What’s wrong with them? Maybe they’re all having strokes. At the same time.
Kate: Well gang, that concludes this draft. Remember to take your Lactaids.