The Good: Tastes good, Melts well, Best when melted
The Bad: Not terribly sharp or distinctive, Strawberry flavor is exceptionally mild
The Basics: A disappointing cheddar, Yancey's Fancy Strawberry Chardonnay Cheddar picks itself up when melted, though it is still impossible to recommend.
The real danger one faces when one becomes a fan of a brand of foodstuffs comes in forgetting how that brand stacks up against others outside the brand. In my case, when I am blown away by my initial experiences with a food company's products, I tend to grade harder as I go along, forgetting to stop and consider how the product is compared to other, similar products. In the case of Yancey's Fancy cheeses, I came terribly close to underrating their Strawberry Chardonnay Cheddar cheese before I considered how good it was compared to other, standard cheddar cheeses as well as other cheeses in general.
And even though I could not, ultimately, bring myself to recommend the Strawberry Chardonnay Cheddar, objectively it is a far more average cheese than the dismal failure I initially considered it. Allow me a moment to explain: Strawberry Chardonnay Cheddar disappointed me because I came into it thinking it could be an extraordinary cheese. I imagined that the cheddar flavor would be sharp and tangy and be offset by a delicious sweet, subtle strawberry flavor. Instead, the cheese is bland with fruit chunks embedded in it. It was only when melted that the fruit flavor truly came alive and made this mild cheddar into something worth eating.
Yancey's Fancy is a small cheese company in Upstate New York and they are exceptionally responsive to customer needs as well as production issues. 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.
The Strawberry Chardonnay Cheddar Cheese is one of Yancey's Fancy's New York Artisan Cheese, distinguished by its red wax coating. This is a pasteurized process cheddar which is aged for months. Because it is not a sharp cheddar, it is a somewhat softer cheddar cheese equivalent to a standard mild cheddar. It is very easy to cut with a cheese knife or cheese plane, until one hits one of the strawberries embedded in it. Despite being a fancy cheese, it is not more expensive than some of the more common brands; locally we find the Strawberry Chardonnay Cheddar at about $7.99/lb.
Ease Of Preparation
This is cheese, not making a cheesecake from scratch, so preparing the Strawberry Chardonnay Cheddar Cheese is as easy as slicing open the plastic package and removing the red wax that surrounds the actual cheese. The wax 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.
The Strawberry Chardonnay Cheddar handles like a standard cheddar for melting needs, though the place I found this cheddar fit best for melting was on a bagel.
The essential aspect of any cheese is how it tastes. Here the Yancey's Fancy's Strawberry Chardonnay Cheddar Cheese initially disappointed me. The Strawberry Chardonnay has a very mild scent which is completely overcome by the scent of the cheddar. There is no fruit scent captured in this cheese at all. That was my first warning that the flavor would probably not be as intriguing as the name implied.
Tasting the Strawberry Chardonnay Cheddar Cheese is a mixed experience. Most people who enjoy cheddar will find this to be exactly what they expect of a cheddar; it is slightly softer than most cheddars, but has a distinctly cheddar cheese taste (some things define themselves and cheddar cheese tastes like cheddar cheese) with a very subtle aftertaste to it of something a little tangier. The tang from the cheddar cheese flavor in this cheese is very mild. When at room temperature or cool, the Strawberry Chardonnay Cheddar does not taste like strawberries even when one encounters a strawberry in the cheese. In other words, even though the cheddar flavor is exceedingly mild, it is enough to overwhelm the taste of the strawberries inside.
The only time the strawberries actually seem to overcome the cheddar flavor enough to inform the tastebuds that there is a fruit on their tongue is when the cheese is melted and hot. For some reason, this mutes the cheese flavor and makes the cheese slightly fruity and it does taste like strawberries around the actual strawberries. Unfortunately, even on bagels, the Strawberry Chardonnay Cheddar is not as impressive a taste as a good strawberry cream cheese.
Like all Yancey's Fancy cheeses, the Strawberry Chardonnay Cheddar cheese has a recommended serving size of 1 oz., which the packaging estimates at approximately a one inch cube. Even with this cheese, I found myself eating more than just 1" cubes!
This is a cheese, so it contains fat and it pretty low on other nutrients. That said, the recommended serving size has 110 calories, eighty of which are from fat. The Strawberry Chardonnay 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 using this on half a bagel is pretty much the saturated fat allowance for a day. 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.
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 primarily aged cheddar cheese, infused low-moisture strawberries, and chardonnay. That makes it mostly natural and that is a refreshing change from many mass-produced cheeses. This food is a dairy product, but it contains no alcohol.
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 Strawberry Chardonnay Cheddar Cheese would have lasted until mid-March 2011 (about nine months when we got this and I originally wrote the review!). 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 - save around the strawberries - 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 Strawberry Chardonnay Cheddar Cheese should not stain any clothing or dishware.
Yancey's Fancy Strawberry Chardonnay Cheddar cheese is a bit disappointing, but it is still better than most average mild cheddar cheeses. While Yancey's Fancy ought to be applauded for their initiative with this flavor, the execution of it does not live up to their high standards.
For other Yancey’s Fancy cheese reviews, please check out my takes on:
XXX Sharp Cheddar
Wasabi Horseradish Cheddar
Champagne Aged Cheddar
For other food and drink reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!
© 2011, 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.