Night Cheese, Part V: Manteche

I am here to warn you about Manteche.

What is Manteche?

Don’t ask Wikipedia.


No worries. I’ll tell you what Manteche is.

Manteche is a disastrous cheese chimera crafted by the brain trust at BelGioioso Cheese Inc. in Denmark, Wisconsin. It has been on display as the sole cheese in the wine shop at Wegmans for about a month, and I have been practically dreaming about it since I looked more closely and read exactly what it consists of:


Here is a more detailed schematic:


Yes. Manteche is provolone cheese. And butter. How could we possibly go wrong?

Here is what iGourmet has to say about Manteche. There are four lies hidden in this description, can you find them?



#1: “is a unique cheese”

As a cheese, it is provolone, i.e. a fairly unexciting sandwich cheese. As a butter, it is unsalted butter, i.e. the most boring and pointless form of butter. Two different dorks in a room does not a quirky party make.

#2: “The Provolone and butter flavors pull from each other over time.”

I don’t even know what this means but I fell for it anyways. First of all, as you can sort of make out from the picture the only pulling these two sections are doing is AWAY from each other, I could barely hold them together when I was trying to eat the cheese. Second, I tasted the touching parts and the non touching parts of this stupid thing separately and the provolone was provolone and the butter was butter at every location, sorry but no.



#4: “is a tangier cheese”

This was quite possibly the blandest provolone I have ever tasted PLUS UNSALTED BUTTER WHAT ARE YOU EVEN TALKING ABOUT, BELGIOIOSO?

Despite all the above LIES I am still pretty gullible and thus 100% willing to accept that manteche, when obtained in “the Basilicata or Calabria regions of Italy,” might be a delectable and tangy treat. But don’t bother with this one stateside.


The Ez Factor:

He ate the cheese. Skipped the butter. (Danjumbo ate the butter.)

Night Cheese Part IV: “Is cheese. Smokey cheese.”

Today’s topic is smoked cheeses. A fun fact about my household is that neither my wife nor I can so much as look at smoked cheese without compulsively saying “Is cheese. Smokey cheese.” This stems from an incident long before we were married involving a bitchy Albertson’s checker and her caseophile bagger:

(To paint the full mental picture, this bagger had a voice, accent and overall demeanor that could best be described as “Pedro from Napoleon Dynamite”)

Bitch Checker: You can’t use this coupon.
Me: Why not?
Bitch Checker: This coupon is for cheese. You didn’t buy cheese.
Me: Yes, I did buy cheese.
Bagger: She did ::rummages through bags, produces braid of smoked mozzarella::see?
Bitch Checker: That’s not cheese.
Me: It’s mozzarella. Mozzarella is cheese.
Bitch Checker: (incredulous) That’s cheese?
Bagger: Is cheese. Smokey cheese.

Another fun fact is that I don’t really like smoked cheeses all that much. But I know I am in the minority here and there are some very interesting-looking smoked cheeses on the shelves these days, so let’s give it a shot!

Grafton Village Maple Smoked Cheddar


OK, you know what? Screw this cheese. It’s not bad or anything, but this cheese tastes like maple in the same way “applewood smoked bacon” tastes like apples, and by that I mean: this cheese does not taste like maple. Maybe I should have read more closely and I suppose I should have known better, but actually, can we stop manipulatively labeling smoked food like this? Can we really taste the difference between the particulate remnants of different types of wood? Just call it “smoked cheddar” and be done with it. Stop pandering to our subconscious pancake brains. This cheese tastes like cheddar, but smoked. Next.

Yancey’s Fancy Smoked Gouda with Bacon


Ah Yancey, we meet again. For those of you not familiar, Yancey’s Fancy is the Kettle Chips of cheese. I mean look at these flavors (and yes, it is now my life’s mission to find the maple cheddar, the maple bacon cheddar, and the strawberry chardonnay cheddar. And all the rest of the cheddars). As I alluded to before, I am really not a fan of smoked gouda, from concept to flavor. It’s basically ruining a perfectly good gouda. You take a nice, fresh cheese that ages to produce rich nutty undertones and satisfying little salt crystals of awesomeness and then you turn it into something that tastes like barbecued cream cheese with the texture of Velveeta’s backwoods cousin. No thanks. I thought the bacon could help out here, but it was not meant to be. BUT, if you are like 90% of the world’s population and love smoked gouda, you will probably love this cheese because it is really smoked gouda-ey, extra creamy, and it has bacon.

I also should mention that unlike most of the ill-fated purchases on this blog, neither of these cheeses were really a waste of money because my wife thinks they are both terrific.

The Ez Factor:

Maple Smoked Cheddar: Ezra can’t read, so the lucky bastard doesn’t know what it feels like to suffer the unfulfilled promise of maple. He ate this cheese, but didn’t push for more.

Yancey’s Fancy Smoked Gouda with Bacon: After noticing that Ezra wasn’t overtly jazzed about his first taste of smoked cheddar, I did a side-by-side test: 4 pieces of maple smoked cheddar, 4 pieces of Yancey’s smoked gouda. He ate all of the cheddar, tasted the gouda, and then WALKED AWAY leaving three untouched pieces of smoked gouda cheese with bacon in it – this is almost completely unheard of. Then Danjumbo came over and promptly ate them, which is also almost completely unheard of (I feel like I should explain that in stark contrast to Ezra, the only human foods Danjumbo aggressively tries to eat are salami and doughnuts). I’m not sure what it means that my wife’s cat has almost the exact same taste in cheese as me while my cat has almost the exact same taste in cheese as my wife, but I’ll get back to you when I figure it out.

Origin Story

Something amazing happened last night that reminded me of how this blog started. I’m not talking about a few weeks ago, when I clumsily set up this Tumblr and kept posting things under the wrong account. I’m not talking about last year when I bought that first bag of Lays Chicken and Waffles potato chips. I’m talking way back in the day. Thirty years ago, in fact. Sit back and let me tell you the story of my earliest documented Horrible Food Decision.

Actually, I’ll let my Mom jump in to tell the tale:

You were next door at the Regans’ “helping” Judy Regan and her daughter (your friend) make cranberry bread. You were only 4 or 5.  She described that she had the ingredients laid out – including a big bowl of fresh cranberries. Before she could stop you, you decided to take a handful of cranberries (berries, right? Yummy!) and pop them in your mouth. She just described a look of shock, with big eyes, and horror as you started to chew those hard, sour berries. I suppose you spit them out, I don’t know, but we got a chuckle out of it afterwards. (Well, maybe not you.)

Fast-forward thirty years. It happened again.


I love Craisins. I love Trader Joe’s unsweetened freeze dried fruit. How could this be at all unpleasant? This might just be four-year-old me speaking, but four-year-old me is here to tell you: these things are disgusting. Do not buy them. And before you ask “You didn’t eat those Trader Joe’s freeze dried cranberries as a snack, did you?” don’t bother, because my Mom already did:


This exchange followed (emphasis mine). Do you even READ my blog, Mom?

Me:  wait, are the freeze dried cranberries not intended to be a snack?

Mom:  I would think anyone who had eaten a fistful of unsweetened fresh cranberries would know better than to “snack” on them. I would think they would be used as an ingredient in recipes – like stuffing with cranberries – things like that.

Me:  here is what has to say: “You can enjoy them as a crunchy snack, in a smoothie, as a yogurt topper, cereal addition, for baking, or rehydrate them in water (one to two minutes) to make them slice-able.”

Mom:  I could see adding them to a snack mix of nuts, pumpkin seeds, etc.

Mom:  Now I’ve got to try them. I’m going to try them in the snack mix I just described.

My work here is done.

Update: In fairness to my Mom, I should point out that the gchat above is edited, and she actually wants to try these awful things because I also mentioned to her that my wife loves them. My wife also loves unripe peaches and..well….

 Wife:  ha. i like those things

Me:  so gross

Wife:  crunchy and tart! it’s like built in portion control because you can only eat so many

Me:  if you can say that about a food, it is not a good food

Night Cheese Part III: Bread Cheese

I know what you’re thinking.

“Why on earth would you take a risk on ANOTHER Nordic cheese when the first one went so disastrously?”

Full disclosure: this blog is not chronological and I actually tried bread cheese way beforegjetost. And yes, if I had let gjetost sour my view of all Scandanavian dairy, I probably wouldn’t have had the pleasure. But if you think I would let one bad experience prevent me from spending hard-earned money on food that has an extremely high risk of being terrible, you obviously don’t get the point of this blog.

Bread cheese is great. Wikipedia tells me it is from Finland and actually called Leipäjuusto, or “Finnish squeaky cheese.” I’m gonna just go ahead and keep calling it bread cheese, because that name evokes images of my two favorite things: bread and cheese. It is in the family of “non-melting” cheeses like halloumi and paneer. Much like halloumi and paneer, it is awesome.

Bread cheese is not that expensive on the cheese spectrum, but at ~$8 a slab it is a little too pricey for me to buy as a regular cheese snack. Some Finnish versions are made from reindeer milk (!!!) and I would easily pay twice as much to try those, but the kind I got is from boring Wisconsin and made from cow’s milk, so no.

The process of making bread cheese involves a toasting step, and as a result it has these delicious-looking browned spots all over it:

I basically can’t look at a block of cheese with toasted brown spots all over it and not buy it, so here we are.

The texture is pretty dry and chewy. Wikipedia says that the people of Finland would make this stuff for multi-year storage. This will be good information to have when my wife is demanding that I decide which of my precious cheese scraps to sacrifice in the weekly fridge purge. And yes, it does squeak when you bite into it, which I guess is cool, but we have already established that I don’t really care about that kind of thing.

The flavor is highly reminiscent of halloumi. If you haven’t tried halloumi (you should) it is basically an extremely salty mozzarella that you can fry in a pan. Because it’s extra salty and extra dry, I want to describe bread cheese as the beef jerky of cheese. However, I don’t want you to go thinking it is as chewy as beef jerky, because it is not. It still tastes and feels like cheese.

I am also completely fascinated by non-melting cheeses, so I decided to see what would happen if I microwaved a chunk for 10 seconds.

Here it is before:

Here it is after:

Holy crap. It sizzled like crazy and turned into a soft, airy nugget that tasted, looked and smelled like the browned top of an extra-cheese pizza (aka Heaven). I highly recommend doing this.

As for other methods of serving, Wikipedia also tells me it is good with sweet stuff, and can also be served as either a side dish with, or in (!!!) coffee. This is a wonderful coincidence, because I was also recently made aware that there are people out there putting butter in coffee and claiming that it tastes good and won’t kill you instantly. I am going to save the bread cheese/coffee experiment for a future “Weird Coffee” post, which will also conveniently give me an excuse to buy more bread cheese.

The Ez Factor:

Ezra took this cheese and ran with it. Meaning, he literally picked it up and ran away to another room to eat it. This is not normal behavior for him, and I’m assuming it means that not only did he like it, he was also paranoid that I would suddenly decide I enjoy eating cheese off of the floor and steal it back from him. Unlikely.


I basically didn’t eat popcorn at all from 2007-2014, due to a lingering dental issue that we really don’t need to get into. This year, I got my mouth all fixed up! This is my popcorn post.

Now that I am in the midst of my personal popcorn renaissance, it has recently become my go-to dessert. I tend to go for kettle corn. I have a penchant for kettle corn, thanks in part to San Diego Padres games in the 1990s and in part to the fact that before my teeth were fixed, the only way I could safely approach popcorn was the Kettle Corn flavored Popcorners they serve on JetBlue flights. Today I can admit that Popcorners, while a special and important part of my life, are not popcorn at all. Popcorners will be the subject of about 6 other separate posts, but we will not mention them again here.

The great thing about popcorn that happened sometime between 2007 and 2014 is that you don’t even have to pop it anymore! Here is the popcorn section at Wegmans:

Overwhelming, no? Do they even sell unpopped popcorn anymore? I don’t know! I don’t care! America is great.

The all-around best kettle corn is probably Trader Joe’s. Two varieties, light and regular, both delicious. Buy them, they are great. I haven’t been to Trader Joe’s in months so I don’t have a photo. Do you really need a photo? It’s pastel pink (regular) and blue (lite) bags with Victorian-era drawings on them. You’ll figure it out.

In the normal retail world, there are two good kettle corns: Angie’s Boom Chicka Pop and the frou frou one with pink himalayan sea salt and coconut oil. I don’t remember the name but it’s right under the blue and yellow boxes in the above pic. It has a pink Buddha on it. Buddha Something Popcorn.

Angie’s Boom Chicka Pop is pretty good, not too sweet, zero grease, ONLY 20 GRAMS OF CARBS PER 3.5 CUPS. Put all 3.5 cups in my mouth. It is not as sweet as Trader Joe’s. I don’t like sweet a whole lot, so I like that.

The Buddha one is a little oversugared to the point of being Cracker-Jacky.Way too sweet for my tastes. I guess the Wegmans gods heard me complaining about that, because now they don’t carry it anymore. However, the plain Buddah stuff is coated with coconut oil, so it has that really satisfying movie-theater-popcorn mouth feel. It can easily be lightly kettle-fied with a light sprinkle of sugar.

With all of that background out of the way, we finally get to the point of this post: Angie’s Pumpkin Spice Popcorn:


A gorgeous endcap and I trust Angie. Angie gives me great, non-greasy, lightly-sweetened kettle corn. Angie is my homegirl. But is she, really? Let’s look more closely at the bag. See that?


It says “Holidrizzle.” Holidrizzle, my nizzle. Do you know what that means? DO YOU KNOW WHAT HOLIDRIZZLE MEANS?



Had I realized that this popcorn had FROSTING on it, I never would have bought it. But I did, and now I can never stop buying it. And before you can say “oh but it’s seasonal pumpkin spice, it’ll be gone soon enough” it’s called “Holidrizzle” and I know where this story is going.

The take-home point here is that this pumpkin spice popcorn is one of the best things I have ever eaten, and that kettle corn is a slippery, slippery slope. Buy this popcorn, don’t buy this popcorn, I don’t care. Just know what you are getting yourself into.

Flavored Potato Chips, Part 2

Round two of Lay’s Great Potato Chip Experiment is now upon us. Thankfully these reviews are fresher in my memory:

Mango Salsa: These were basically a mango-infused play on a BBQ-flavored chip. Most people who aren’t total weirdos like BBQ-flavored chips, so what’s not to like here?



Bacon Cheddar: Oh hell no. Don’t wanna try ‘em, not gonna try ’em. Fool me once, shame on Cheesy Garlic Bread potato chips. Fool me twice, shame on me for buying a full-sized bag of those fucking cappuccino chips what was I thinking?