Cheddar, Meet Guava
I love a cheese pairing that makes me fall out of my chair. This happens more often than you might think. In this story, I am falling out of my chair because I can’t believe I am spooning guava paste out of a plastic Goya tub and slathering it on cheddar. Not once, but many times. Guava paste has changed the way I think about cheddar forever. And for this I have to thank my grrl Wendy, who blew threw town on a road trip when I was cutting into a sample of Governor’s Cheddar from Vermont Farmstead Cheese Co.
“We need to get some guava paste for that,” she said, and I fell out of my chair. We got into her car and we drove straight to Cousin’s in the Puerto Rican neighborhood not far from my house. Along the way, Wendy told me how she had grown up eating cheddar and guava paste on Ritz crackers at her friend Lauren’s house after school. This was in Nyak, in the ’70s. I wish I had grown up in Nyak in the ’70s.
Guava paste has a sour hook, just as cheddar often has a sour hook. That’s why the pairing makes star babies in your eyes. Sour and sour, plus sweet and sweet. It’s crazy crack. To make sure I wasn’t kidding myself, I dug around in my fridge for a tub of membrillo paste (made from quince) that I often serve with Manchego, a traditional Spanish pairing. Wendy and I tried them side by side. The quince paste was treacly; the guava was a happy hoolah-hoop of sweet and sour together.
Here’s what I recommend: next time you pick up a hunk of medium-sharp to sharp cheddar, drop in on a bodega and pick up a tub of guava paste. You don’t need to buy Governor’s Cheddar, which is balanced and creamy-crumbly with a pleasing sharp hook, but it’s definitely a perfect match. My friend Wendy says any medium-sharp Cheddar will do. I think it’s a genius way to serve a ubiquitous cheese, especially when you’re tired of the usual pairings, like cheddar and apples or cheddar and grapes.
A note on Governor’s Cheddar: Perhaps you remember my love affair with Lille Coulommiers last March? Well, this cheddar comes from the same maker, and it’s been shnurring up awards (shnurr is a “Wendy” word). Last year, it won the big fat cheddar award from the American Cheese Society (ACS), which is a triumph since there are some damn good cheddars made in Vermont, by Cabot and Grafton, to name just two.
I wanted to be blown away by this guy, but it was not the power ball I had hoped. Forgive me, I probably got carried away by the guava paste. Also, Governor C. arrived on my stoop a little sweaty, so it may have lost some life en route. Congrats to the folks at Vermont Farmstead for their raging successes.