The Good: Melts well
The Bad: Fairly expensive, Way too hot for general consumption.
The Basics: An unpleasantly hot and spicy cheese, Yancey's Fancy Hot Wasabi Horseradish Cheddar Cheese is concentrated with the wasabi and horseradish flavors that tastes terribly hot!
My wife is into hot and spicy foods more than I am. I tend to like flavorful foods that do not overwhelm my tastebuds. So, it might seem odd that I like the salty, hot flavor of most wasabi peas as an occasional snack. When my partner and I were planning one of our cheese, wine (for her) and Frasier nights, she picked out a block of Yancey's Fancy Hot Wasabi Horseradish Aged Cheddar Cheese and my heart sank. I had been hoping for one of the blocks of XXX Sharp Cheddar from the same company, but that night it was not to be.
Instead, while I snacked on another flavor of Yancey's Fancy cheese, my wife chowed down on Yancey's Fancy Hot Wasabi Horseradish Cheddar Cheese. When I had a sample, I nearly gagged. It was so spicy and hot that I did not enjoy it at all. It has taken me almost a month to get to the small block she left me for review, but as I slowly consume it, I'm discovering my initial impression was an enduring one; this is a spicy hot cheese which is unpleasant to taste and not one I would enjoy as an ingredient in other dishes.
Yancey's Fancy is a small cheese company in Upstate New York (where we are known for cheese). They specialize in making "artisan chesses," which are fancier cheeses designed more for enjoyment on their own as opposed to as a garnish of other things or as ingredients in other dishes.
The Hot Wasabi Horseradish Aged Cheddar Cheese is one of Yancey's Fancy's New York Artisan Cheeses, distinguished by its green wax coating. This is a pasteurized process cheddar which is aged for an undefined number of months (it does not say on the package, but we assume more than six months). As a result, it is a somewhat softer cheddar cheese equivalent to a standard mild cheddar in its consistency. It is very easy to cut with a cheese knife or cheese plane and it does not fracture like many, sharper, cheddars might. Because this is a fancy cheese, it is a bit more expensive than some of the more common brands and locally we find it at about $8.99/lb. for the Hot Wasabi Horseradish Cheddar.
Ease Of Preparation
This is cheese, not understanding all of the allusions on Frasier, so preparing the Hot Wasabi Horseradish Cheddar Cheese is as easy as slicing open the plastic package and removing the green wax that surrounds the actual cheese. The wax is not poisonous, but there is no reason to eat it. Fortunately, it peels off of this soft cheddar very easily. One need only be attentive to the temperature surrounding this cheese as it will melt at higher temperatures. At room temperature, it may sit out and it retains its shape nicely without getting soft in any way that makes it awkward to simply cut and eat pieces of it.
When used on a bagel, this melted at a decent speed and was quite good. It handles like a standard cheddar for melting needs. If one wanted to use it as an ingredient in a dish, it would handle well enough to replace any regular cheddar cheese.
The essential aspect of any cheese is how it tastes and here is where a cheese-lover like myself feels a little cheated by Yancey's Fancy's Hot Wasabi Horseradish Cheddar Cheese. The Hot Wasabi Horseradish Cheddar Cheese has a strong horseradish scent which I recall from every Passover I ever participated in (having studiously avoided horseradish otherwise). The scent of the horseradish overwhelms the nose and is so strong it opens the nostrils right up.
Tasting the Hot Wasabi Horseradish Cheddar Cheese is a mixed experience which goes from bad to worse, depending on the temperature. When the cheese comes out of the refrigerator and is cold and solid, the wasabi taste dominates. It is a cold burning taste on the tongue and it overwhelms the sense of taste with a strong spicy taste that is strong enough to bring tears to the eyes.
As the cheese reaches room temperature, the horseradish flavor takes over. It seeps into every bite of the cheese and overcomes the cheddar flavor. Instead, creates a fiery flavor that encircles the tongue and burns out the mouth and nose of the consumer. The cheese flavor is entirely sublimated and overwhelmed by the spices in this cheese, making it unpleasant in every way.
Melted, the flavor is still that of wasabi and horseradish with little other flavor. The result is that the cheese is little more than a melted or solid form of wasabi horseradish.
On the plus side, this cheese has no aftertaste. Unfortunately, once the taste fades from the tongue, it dissipates completely, even from memory.
Yancey's Fancy Hot Wasabi Horseradish Cheddar Cheese has a recommended serving size of 1 oz., which the packaging estimates at approximately a one inch cube. Even cheeses that don't grab me seldom net so little consumption in a single sitting! But this one I managed to consume little more than that.
This is a cheese, so it's not like it is going to have a health food value to it. That said, the recommended serving size has 110 calories, eighty of which are from fat. The Hot Wasabi Horseradish Cheddar Cheese has no trans fat, 9 grams total fat of which five are saturated fat. That represents 25% of the RDA of saturated fat, so those who use this in recipes will pretty much be damning themselves to a week without any other saturated fats. As well, there is 9% of the RDA of cholesterol, 11% of the daily sodium, 20% of one's needed calcium and 6% of your daily Vitamin A in the cheese. There is a negligible amount of carbs (less than a single gram) and 6 grams of protein. In other words, this is not the greatest food to try to live on on its own.
Even so, having reviewed a lot of different foods, this is not the worst food in the world by any stretch of the imagination. The ingredients are quite simply aged cheddar cheese, wasabi powder, horseradish flavor and a lone preservative (trisodium citrate). That makes it mostly natural and that is a refreshing change from many mass-produced cheeses. This food is - obviously - a dairy product, so its not for those who are lactose intolerant.
This is a cheese, so some care must be maintained in its handling. Refrigeration is recommended and under cool, dry conditions in its package, our Hot Wasabi Horseradish Cheddar Cheese would have lasted until early July 2010 (about six months). Regardless of what the packaging does or does not say, this is a dairy product and should not be kept at or above room temperature longer than it must.
Because this is a softer cheddar, it does not fracture, so cleanup is usually as simple as wiping the blade of whatever one is using to cut the cheese with. If it is melted and ends up on clothing, be sure to consult your fabric's care guide. On its own, Yancey's Fancy Hot Wasabi Horseradish Cheddar Cheese should not stain any clothing or dishware.
This is a terrible cheese, but it does what it promises to do in creating a hot cheddar cheese that tastes like wasabi and horseradish. This is also the saving grace of the cheese; those who like those flavors are likely to enjoy this and it does taste like what it claims to, albeit in super-concentrated amounts.
For other cheese reviews, please check out my takes on:
Yancey's Fancy Champagne Aged Cheddar Cheese
Emmi Cave Aged Kaltbach Le Gruyere
BelGioioso Extra Sharp Provolone
© 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.