The Great Southern Cheese
We’re in the dog days of summer. Well, maybe the puppy days. Big boy will get here for August.
Summer is for playing in the water, drinking beer, and grilling out. And of course, it’s all about the pimento cheese.
Once something nobody outside the South had ever heard of, this secret Southern spread is making strides. It’s on Twitter. It’s popping up on ex-pats’ NYC restaurant menus. And it’s about to hit the silver screen.
Nicole Lang, a Virginia-based filmmaker and member of the Southern Foodways Alliance, has spent the past several months traveling through the South for a documentary on the great cheese spread, which will premiere in Oxford, Mississippi in October. Charleston was of course en route, where she interviewed Ted Lee, historian Robert Moss, and Hominy Grill’s Robert Stehling.
“I was shocked that a food as perfect as pimento cheese had existed: cheese, mayo, tangy peppers, cayenne, and I had gone my whole life without even a mere mention of it – anywhere,” Lang says as she recalls her first taste (circa 2007). She was hooked immediately.
Now, people’s opinions on pimento cheese can be as varied – and strong – as that of politics. So, we’re ready to take whatever agreement or disagreement comes our way in this next bold move. Here we go…CHARLIE’s Top 3 Countdown to the best pimento cheese ever:
#3: Palmetto Cheese. Otherwise known as “The Pimento Cheese with Soul.” The packaging immediately makes you want to love it – two down-home Southern women whipping up a batch with love. The spicy version of this one with the jalapenos is the way to go, as it balances out the super creamy texture. It’s the best mass-produced pimento cheese on the market, and you should never go below it in quality.
Available at most grocery stores.
#2: Callie’s Pimento Cheese. This was top of our list for a long, long time. It’s classic, with thick cuts of cheddar and less mayonnaisey than others. The fiery version is super hot, so stick with original on this one. It is impossible to eat this and not be a pimento cheese fan forevermore.
Available at Caviar & Bananas.
And the winner is…drum roll please….
#1: Ted’s Pimento Cheese. As in Ted from Ted’s Butcherblock. We were so dead set on Callie’s that Ted gave us the first taste free. He knew a junky when he saw one and knew we’d be back. He was right. Ted’s spread is not classic, so be prepared. It’s more savory, filled with mild chili spices, with almost a Mexican quality. It’s to die for. Slap some on top of his beef tenderloin and your life will never be the same.
Available at Ted’s Butcherblock.
The world of pimento cheese is a democracy. So here, Charleston, are your favorites:
“Palmetto Cheese, it is just good stuff! :)”
– Angela Newton
“Village Bakery! It’s the best ever!!”
– Katherine Austin Smith
“Giddy Goat! It’s local, fresh and contains ZERO mayonnaise! Also the owner is kind of a badass.”
– Katie Norris
“Second on the Giddy Goat. Caviar and Bananas makes an amazing version as well. I like both with a slice or two of jalapeno!”
– Erin Perkins
“Callie’s Biscuits & Pimento Cheese – either flavor is smooth and cracktastic, one bite and you’ll cold shoulder the shizzlit out of Palmetto (my former fave). Some meals for me consist of a tub of Callie’s, some homemade crostini, and a bottle of something red on the balcony. Git sum!”
– Chris Pertgen
“Palmetto Cheese (the kind with jalapenos) – it’s very addictive!”
– Carol Bain Linder
“Toss up between: Randall Everett Felkel’s with Grand Marnier or Kimberly Martin Baldwin’s recipe!”
– Kelly Martin
“Palmetto, the jalapeno kind. Jim N Nick’s paired with their spicy sausage links is a close second.”
– Antonia M. Krenza
– Nathan Needle
“Rita’s on Folly has an awesome pimento cheese burger!”
– Amanda Bunting Comen
“Poogan’s Porch Pimento Cheese Fritters with Green Tomato Chutney…because nothing beats fried cheese!”
– Whitney Chappell Grove
– Lyn Tally
“Totally agree on the Palmetto, with jalapeno! That bite adds just the right zip.”
– Edith Howle
“Palmetto Cheese with Jalapeno!”
– Heather Morin
“Callie’s Biscuits & Pimento Cheese – Fiery!”
– Rebecca Blackman
“Glass Onion. Their grilled pimento cheese sandwich is to die for.”
– Angel Powell
“Callie’s Biscuits & Pimento Cheese – the fiery!”
– Libba Osborne
“Laura Alberts on Daniel Island makes some FANTASTIC pimento cheese. It’s almost as good as palmetto cheese!”
“Hands down @calliesbiscuits pimento is the best. Introduced friends and fam to it now they demand I have some when they visit.”
– Joshua Labovitz
“Drop In Deli on Folly Beach has the best Pimiento Cheese in town – hands down. Their Pimiento Cheese BLT is rockin’ awesome.”
“Closed for Business! with the tomato soup, perfection.”
– Christa Cariddi
How about you? What is your pot of pimento cheese gold?
Story by: Caroline Nuttall