The Good: Absolutely delicious on its own or as an ingredient, Melts well, Relatively inexpensive
The Bad: Better bulk sizes!
The Basics: A cheese that tastes like dill weed, Ostenborg Havarti With Dill is a buttery flavored soft cheese which delights the palate of anyone looking for a subtle cheese!
When I began reviewing cheeses, my critiques of cheddars quickly earned me notes from readers asking me to review a baseline cheddar which I would enthusiastically recommend. While I await those cheeses coming across my table, I have been eagerly trying other cheeses and I have found the unexpected: a perfect softer cheese. This came to me in the form of a brick of Ostenborg Havarti With Dill Cheese.
Those who know me will find it to be no surprise at all that I have fallen in love with a cheese which has dill. I love dill; it is my favorite spice. I also liked the Denmark’s Finest Havarti Dill (reviewed here!). But that I like a cheese that tastes like dill without the supporting cheese tasting sharp and tangy is surprising all those in my life who let me drone on about the quality of Ostenborg’s Havarti With Dill. This is a perfect cheese on its own or as an ingredient in dishes that call for a flavorful cheese. I was surprised that online it is available from so few retailers!
Ostenborg is a small cheese company in Europe which distributes their fine cheeses in the United States through the Wisconsin-based Roth Kase. This is one of the reasons European cheeses give American cheeses a run for their money (and I write that as a lover of American cheeses, save American cheese, and a proud citizen of New York, where we make some pretty kick-butt cheddars!).
The Havarti With Dill Cheese is one of Ostenborg's softer cheeses and is distinguished by its green wax coating. This is a softer cheese equivalent to American cheese in its consistency. It is very easy to cut with a cheese knife or cheese plane and it does not fracture like many, sharper, cheeses would. Because this is a fancy cheese, my partner and I were pleasantly surprised to find a block on Manager’s Special locally for only $1.99/lb. This is severely discounted, arguably because we live in an area where people see Havarti and have absolutely no idea how to use it and seeing that it comes from Europe does not seem to help its chances of selling here, either!
The Havarti With Dill comes in an 8 oz. block (at least online) and in stores may be available by the pound. It has tiny irregular holes, not so much like a finer Swiss Cheese, but like a block of blue cheese (which, I’ve noticed lately, tend to have little holes where there are bubbles from the cheese cultures working).
Ease Of Preparation
Well, this is cheese, not making a flawless omelet (though this certainly would be appropriate in a perfect omelet!), so preparing the Havarti With Dill Cheese is as easy as slicing open the plastic package and removing the green wax that surrounds the actual cheese. The wax is not at all poisonous, but there is no reason I can find to eat it. Fortunately, it peels off of this soft cheese quite 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, though it is a fairly soft (but not runny) cheese. At room temperature, it is very easy to slice it into chunks with a good cheese knife, though a cheese plane may drag awkwardly over this causing it to stretch and break as opposed to actually slice it.
When used on a burger, this melted very quickly, so those who like burgers more rare will find this to be an excellent component. But what was unsurprising to me was that this melts perfectly in omelets and other egg dishes and in its melted form the flavor of the dill in the cheese comes out even more than on its own. And that is saying something. Also, as extravagant as is may seem, using this for something as simple as grilled cheese makes a pretty amazing sandwich.
Smelling the Havarti With Dill is to open the consumer up to a scent that is absolutely incredible: dill! That the Havarti With Dill includes actual dill weed is utterly unsurprising to anyone with a sense of smell and a knowledge of dill. The only aroma one gets when unwrapping this cheese is that of dill weed, pure, concentrated and inviting.
That said, the consumer becomes perfectly prepared for the Havarti With Dill from the scent, but how mild the cheese is is both pleasant and complementary. Annoyingly, the packaging describes the Havarti as possessing a buttery flavor and that is exactly how this cheese tastes. The Havarti flavor is like a creamy margarine suspending the dill. And this cheese tastes like dill. It is not a subtle taste of the herb, but rather a robust, liberal use of dill that richly flavors the cheese so it possesses a creamy texture and taste and a flavor of dill in the taste and aftertaste.
When melted, the Havarti With Dill has no aftertaste, but extraordinarily enough, when it is cool, the cheese has a slight tangy aftertaste which is buttery, but has hints of the dill to it. I’ve found that for about two minutes after I swallow a cube of this Havarti, I can still taste the dill on my tongue.
My wife and I agree that the 1 oz. size is a ridiculous small amount for a cheese this good. I challenge anyone who loves dill to only eat a 1” cube of this amazing cheese! My wife, who just ate the last block we had in the house has been looking around since, asking me if I have a secret stash of it somewhere. Not possible; we consume this so voraciously it is astonishing that we had enough left for me to sample for the review!
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, ninety of which are from fat. As a great cheese, that is no surprise. The Havarti With Dill Cheese has no trans fat, 10 grams total fat of which six are saturated fat. That represents 32% of the RDA of saturated fat, so my partner and I are going to do some sit-ups to compensate for having so much of this fine cheese in the last few days! In addition to the fat, there is 9% of the RDA of cholesterol, 7% of the daily sodium, 6% of one's needed calcium and 6% of your daily Vitamin A in the cheese. There are no carbs and 6 grams of protein in this cheese. 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 pasteurized milk, cheese cultures, salt, dill and enzymes. There are no preservatives, which is probably why the block we purchased on December 1, 2009 expired on January 5, 2010. Anyone used to processed cheeses will find this to be quite a change in taste and quality. This food is a dairy product, which ought to be obvious considering the first ingredient is milk!
This is a cheese, so some care must be maintained in its handling. Refrigeration is recommended (actually, it doesn't mention that on the package, but it seems like common sense to me). Under those conditions, it probably lasts for months – manager’s specials near us only happen when a cheese gets down to the last few weeks of being fresh. 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 cheese, it does not fracture so clean-up 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, Ostenborg Havarti With Dill Cheese should not stain any clothing or dishware.
Wow! For a cheese that is buttery in flavor and not at all sharp, I never thought I would be singing such high praises. But Ostenborg deserves that praise for a mild cheese which complements all meats, eggs and breads I have used it with and is absolutely delicious on its own.
For other cheese reviews, please be sure to check out my takes on:
Yancey’s Fancy Smoked Gouda With Bacon
Cabot Smoky Bacon Cheddar
Emmi Cave-Aged Kaltbach Le Gruyere
For other food and drink reviews, please be sure to check out my index page on the subject by clicking here for an organized listing!
© 2011, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.