Even in the dog days of summer, we can’t shake off the allure of something creamy and melty.
We think melty cheese is always in season, and chefs seem to agree. On the road to finding the Best New Chefs, 2017 we encountered some seriously indulgent dairy, like the super-hyped raclette at the restaurant by the same name in New York’s East Village.
“Raclette is a traditional dish among shepherds in the Valais region of Switzerland and Haute Savoie region of France,” says Edgar Villongco, the chef and owner, who is expanding within and outside the city. “We just adapted them for the restaurant setting.”
Get a crash course in raclette—and intel on more creamy cult curds across the country.
Thirty minutes before dinner service is right when chef Mark Ciaburri starts melting, pulling and rolling cheese curds into mozzarella for the most popular starter at his Charleston restaurant: super fresh mozzarella with chunky pistachio pesto and grilled ciabatta. “The most important factor while making fresh mozzarella is the saltiness of the water,” says Ciaburri. “It should taste like the ocean.”
“We wanted to put something like a queso fundido on the menu, and the next thing you know, we were like ‘I think we just made a beer and cheese soup,’” says chef Rick Bayless. He’s talking about how he combines the best of his newest Chicago restaurant and neighboring brewery with a luxuriously rich soup, made with Colby Jack and Cruz Blanca’s Pilsner. It’s been a hit, and now Bayless and the team are back to brainstorming queso fundido.
Villongco brings back the art of melting semi-firm cow’s milk on a cheese rack and scraping it over boiled new potatoes, viande des grisons (air-dried cured beef) ham and saucisson sec. Fun fact: Raclette derives from the term “racler,” which means “to scrape.”
At Mike Isabella’s Greek outpost in Bethesda, Maryland, chef George Pagonis modeled his cheese saganaki after a cheese board, pairing griddled kefalograviera cheese with honey. “Together they make an addictive sweet-salty combination,” he says.