There aren’t many foods from my childhood that I still eat today. I haven’t had Top Ramen, my favorite food in Kindergarten, in ten years. I no longer make Bisquick pancakes smothered with Log Cabin maple syrup for an afternoon “snack” like when I was in elementary school. And the last time I tried a Snickers Bar – my favorite Halloween score, I took one bite and immediately dismissed it to the garbage can.
As I’ve been exposed to new and different flavors that are superior to the tastes of my childhood, my palate has matured considerably. How could I go back to Top Ramen and Snickers after enjoying fresh noodles and chocolate bars made with Guittard? I won’t even begin to discuss my thoughts on the Taco Bell ground beef tacos I used to beg my mom for in junior high. Though, for the record, I no longer “quiero Taco Bell.”
Yet even with my more discerning tongue, there are still a few foods from my youth that continue to draw my affection – peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, ice cream that’s been swirled into soup and Tillamook cheddar cheese.
My parents always have at least one “loaf” of the brilliantly orange cheese in the dairy section of their fridge, and it’s been our cheese of choice for crackers, twice baked potatoes, fajitas, and my mom’s slightly white trash egg casserole for as long as I can remember. A holiday at my parents’ home wouldn’t be complete without the Tillamook loaf involved in some capacity, and I don’t consider this a bad thing – at all.
When I received an invitation to attend a special Tillamook Cheese event at Akasha Restaurant this past Thursday evening, I was, of course, delighted to RSVP, “Yes!” I’d been curious about the Tillamook mini-buses that are currently touring the country for the Loaf Love Tour (I kind of want to own one now), and I was also really excited for the cheesetastic menu to be prepared by Chef Akasha Richmond. (She makes really good quinoa. And onion rings.)
On Thursday night, I showed up at the popular Culver City restaurant wearing a mustard color sweater that I felt was a little too close to the color of the buses for comfort. Which, of course, meant I had to take a picture with one of the three loaves parked outside. (It did not mean I had to print the picture out to show to my family at Easter. But I did anyway – I think my 13-month-old niece appreciated it.)
Upon my entrance into the restaurant’s bakery, I was immediately accosted with a familiar spread of appetizers – slices of Tillamook cheddar cheese with bread. I smiled, thinking of how at home this very same platter would be at my home. Yet even with my nostalgia for this and other traditional applications of the orange loaf, I was impressed with the different ways that Chef Akasha was able to incorporate the classic cheese into her dishes.
Yes, there was mac and cheese, but there was also a fried chicken salad with croutons made with cheddar cornbread. Yes, there were grilled cheese sandwiches, but there were also pulled-pork cheddar biscuits with crunchy slaw and a touch of jalepeño (incidentally my favorite bite of the evening). And yes, there were potato skins, but there was also a strawberry rhubarb crisp topped with white cheddar. (I couldn’t eat any because of Lent, but I hear it was delicious.)
I left the restaurant on Thursday night feeling even more confident in my continued love for the loaf and its place in my fridge next to my cave-aged Gruyere, Parmigiano Reggiano and Capriole goat cheese. It may not be particularly “gourmet,” but, ultimately, I think that’s part of what makes it so appealing. Especially since it is something I can share with that 13-month-old niece who happily devoured her snack of Tillamook cheese and crackers yesterday afternoon.
9543 Culver Boulevard
Culver City, CA 90232-2618
Check out My Last Bite’s write-up of the event here.
More information about the Loaf Love Tour can be found on the Tillamook website.