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Hooked on Cheese: Dining Out on American Artisan Cheese

Hooked on Cheese: Dining Out on American Artisan Cheese



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These days, my work often takes me to Baltimore, a city whose food culture I’ve gotten to know well over the past few years. What stood out about both was how their menus made creative use of American artisan cheeses instead of simply tacking on a cheese plate as an afterthought. Needless to say, this is a growing trend that I wholeheartedly support.

Tucked away on a side street in the fashionable Federal Hill area, the brand spanking new Outpost American Tavern serves up delicious American fare and has the vibe of a classic neighborhood stomping ground. I loved their superb arugula salad with hush puppy croutons, oven-roasted tomatoes and a big, crispy goat cheese fritter. It was damn good, extremely fresh local cheese, seasoned perfectly and fried until crunchy – the ideal complement to the refreshing, balanced salad.

The next stellar meal I had was at Parts & Labor, an unfussy restaurant from the owners of the acclaimed Woodberry Kitchen. We started off the night with the Spicy Cheese, P&L’s delicious take on pimento. My friends and I fought over the last bite; I won. Then I had the Kilt Greens salad, which showcased the delectable St. Malachi from The Farm at Doe Run in Unionville, PA. Next up was their distinctive take on seven layer dip with Sea Island Peas substituting for refried beans, also featuring a healthy layer of grated St. Malachi. This was so good I decided it will be my own go-to version from now on. The restaurant had seven different menu items that featured or included artisan cheeses such as Hawks Hill Cheddar and Grayson from Meadow Creek Dairy, and that’s not even counting the well-curated cheese plate.

Uniquely, Parts & Labor also has a butchery and cheese shop. After dinner, I picked up a wedge of Firefly Farms’ Cabra La Mancha, a washed-rind goat’s milk cheese aged for 10 weeks. The piece I bought was thoroughly ripe, with a sticky orange rind, a tan interior and a white, unripened layer. I served it with slices of organic Fuji apple the following day to my new friend Lionel; the combination was outstanding. I opted to pair it with a St. Clair Sauvignon Blanc 2011 from the Marlborough region of New Zealand. Sauvignon blancs from this region are some of my favorite wines for cheese, and this one was no exception.

I hope to see more and more restaurants using American Artisan cheeses in their composed dishes. It’s yet another great way to get the word out about the magnitude of this moment in American cheese culture.

You can follow Raymond's cheese adventures on Facebook, Twitter, and his website. Additional reporting by Madeleine James.


  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley or basil leaves, or a mix
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 large loaf French or Italian bread (see note), about 18 inches long and 4 inches wide, split half lengthwise and crosswise
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 8 ounces freshly grated whole milk mozzarella cheese
  • 2 ounces grated Parmigiano-reggiano

Adjust oven rack to upper position and preheat oven to 425°F. Heat butter and 3 tablespoons olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat until butter is melted. Add garlic, pepper flakes, and oregano and cook, stirring occasionally, until garlic is softened but not browned, about 2 minutes. Stir in half of parsley/basil and a big pinch of salt. Remove from heat.

Place bread cut-side-up on a clean work surface. Using a rimmed baking sheet, press down on bread evenly until compressed to about 2/3rds of its original height. Place bread on top of rimmed baking sheet. Using a pastry brush, brush half of garlic/butter/oil mixture evenly over cut surfaces of bread, making sure to get plenty of bits of garlic and aromatics. Set aside.

Add tomatoes to remaining garlic/butter/oil mixture in pan, stir to combine, increase heat to medium, bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to maintain a bare simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until rich and reduced, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt.

While sauce cooks, spread 1/4 of mozzarella evenly over surface of bread and transfer to oven. Cook until cheese is barely melted, about 8 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside until sauce is cooked.

Spread sauce evenly over bread, then spread remaining mozzarella on top of sauce. Transfer to oven and bake until cheese is melted and just starting to brown, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle with Parmigiano-reggiano, remaining parsley/basil, and remaining tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil. Allow to cool slightly and serve.


  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley or basil leaves, or a mix
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 large loaf French or Italian bread (see note), about 18 inches long and 4 inches wide, split half lengthwise and crosswise
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 8 ounces freshly grated whole milk mozzarella cheese
  • 2 ounces grated Parmigiano-reggiano

Adjust oven rack to upper position and preheat oven to 425°F. Heat butter and 3 tablespoons olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat until butter is melted. Add garlic, pepper flakes, and oregano and cook, stirring occasionally, until garlic is softened but not browned, about 2 minutes. Stir in half of parsley/basil and a big pinch of salt. Remove from heat.

Place bread cut-side-up on a clean work surface. Using a rimmed baking sheet, press down on bread evenly until compressed to about 2/3rds of its original height. Place bread on top of rimmed baking sheet. Using a pastry brush, brush half of garlic/butter/oil mixture evenly over cut surfaces of bread, making sure to get plenty of bits of garlic and aromatics. Set aside.

Add tomatoes to remaining garlic/butter/oil mixture in pan, stir to combine, increase heat to medium, bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to maintain a bare simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until rich and reduced, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt.

While sauce cooks, spread 1/4 of mozzarella evenly over surface of bread and transfer to oven. Cook until cheese is barely melted, about 8 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside until sauce is cooked.

Spread sauce evenly over bread, then spread remaining mozzarella on top of sauce. Transfer to oven and bake until cheese is melted and just starting to brown, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle with Parmigiano-reggiano, remaining parsley/basil, and remaining tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil. Allow to cool slightly and serve.


  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley or basil leaves, or a mix
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 large loaf French or Italian bread (see note), about 18 inches long and 4 inches wide, split half lengthwise and crosswise
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 8 ounces freshly grated whole milk mozzarella cheese
  • 2 ounces grated Parmigiano-reggiano

Adjust oven rack to upper position and preheat oven to 425°F. Heat butter and 3 tablespoons olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat until butter is melted. Add garlic, pepper flakes, and oregano and cook, stirring occasionally, until garlic is softened but not browned, about 2 minutes. Stir in half of parsley/basil and a big pinch of salt. Remove from heat.

Place bread cut-side-up on a clean work surface. Using a rimmed baking sheet, press down on bread evenly until compressed to about 2/3rds of its original height. Place bread on top of rimmed baking sheet. Using a pastry brush, brush half of garlic/butter/oil mixture evenly over cut surfaces of bread, making sure to get plenty of bits of garlic and aromatics. Set aside.

Add tomatoes to remaining garlic/butter/oil mixture in pan, stir to combine, increase heat to medium, bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to maintain a bare simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until rich and reduced, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt.

While sauce cooks, spread 1/4 of mozzarella evenly over surface of bread and transfer to oven. Cook until cheese is barely melted, about 8 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside until sauce is cooked.

Spread sauce evenly over bread, then spread remaining mozzarella on top of sauce. Transfer to oven and bake until cheese is melted and just starting to brown, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle with Parmigiano-reggiano, remaining parsley/basil, and remaining tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil. Allow to cool slightly and serve.


  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley or basil leaves, or a mix
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 large loaf French or Italian bread (see note), about 18 inches long and 4 inches wide, split half lengthwise and crosswise
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 8 ounces freshly grated whole milk mozzarella cheese
  • 2 ounces grated Parmigiano-reggiano

Adjust oven rack to upper position and preheat oven to 425°F. Heat butter and 3 tablespoons olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat until butter is melted. Add garlic, pepper flakes, and oregano and cook, stirring occasionally, until garlic is softened but not browned, about 2 minutes. Stir in half of parsley/basil and a big pinch of salt. Remove from heat.

Place bread cut-side-up on a clean work surface. Using a rimmed baking sheet, press down on bread evenly until compressed to about 2/3rds of its original height. Place bread on top of rimmed baking sheet. Using a pastry brush, brush half of garlic/butter/oil mixture evenly over cut surfaces of bread, making sure to get plenty of bits of garlic and aromatics. Set aside.

Add tomatoes to remaining garlic/butter/oil mixture in pan, stir to combine, increase heat to medium, bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to maintain a bare simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until rich and reduced, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt.

While sauce cooks, spread 1/4 of mozzarella evenly over surface of bread and transfer to oven. Cook until cheese is barely melted, about 8 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside until sauce is cooked.

Spread sauce evenly over bread, then spread remaining mozzarella on top of sauce. Transfer to oven and bake until cheese is melted and just starting to brown, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle with Parmigiano-reggiano, remaining parsley/basil, and remaining tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil. Allow to cool slightly and serve.


  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley or basil leaves, or a mix
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 large loaf French or Italian bread (see note), about 18 inches long and 4 inches wide, split half lengthwise and crosswise
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 8 ounces freshly grated whole milk mozzarella cheese
  • 2 ounces grated Parmigiano-reggiano

Adjust oven rack to upper position and preheat oven to 425°F. Heat butter and 3 tablespoons olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat until butter is melted. Add garlic, pepper flakes, and oregano and cook, stirring occasionally, until garlic is softened but not browned, about 2 minutes. Stir in half of parsley/basil and a big pinch of salt. Remove from heat.

Place bread cut-side-up on a clean work surface. Using a rimmed baking sheet, press down on bread evenly until compressed to about 2/3rds of its original height. Place bread on top of rimmed baking sheet. Using a pastry brush, brush half of garlic/butter/oil mixture evenly over cut surfaces of bread, making sure to get plenty of bits of garlic and aromatics. Set aside.

Add tomatoes to remaining garlic/butter/oil mixture in pan, stir to combine, increase heat to medium, bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to maintain a bare simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until rich and reduced, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt.

While sauce cooks, spread 1/4 of mozzarella evenly over surface of bread and transfer to oven. Cook until cheese is barely melted, about 8 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside until sauce is cooked.

Spread sauce evenly over bread, then spread remaining mozzarella on top of sauce. Transfer to oven and bake until cheese is melted and just starting to brown, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle with Parmigiano-reggiano, remaining parsley/basil, and remaining tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil. Allow to cool slightly and serve.


  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley or basil leaves, or a mix
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 large loaf French or Italian bread (see note), about 18 inches long and 4 inches wide, split half lengthwise and crosswise
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 8 ounces freshly grated whole milk mozzarella cheese
  • 2 ounces grated Parmigiano-reggiano

Adjust oven rack to upper position and preheat oven to 425°F. Heat butter and 3 tablespoons olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat until butter is melted. Add garlic, pepper flakes, and oregano and cook, stirring occasionally, until garlic is softened but not browned, about 2 minutes. Stir in half of parsley/basil and a big pinch of salt. Remove from heat.

Place bread cut-side-up on a clean work surface. Using a rimmed baking sheet, press down on bread evenly until compressed to about 2/3rds of its original height. Place bread on top of rimmed baking sheet. Using a pastry brush, brush half of garlic/butter/oil mixture evenly over cut surfaces of bread, making sure to get plenty of bits of garlic and aromatics. Set aside.

Add tomatoes to remaining garlic/butter/oil mixture in pan, stir to combine, increase heat to medium, bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to maintain a bare simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until rich and reduced, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt.

While sauce cooks, spread 1/4 of mozzarella evenly over surface of bread and transfer to oven. Cook until cheese is barely melted, about 8 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside until sauce is cooked.

Spread sauce evenly over bread, then spread remaining mozzarella on top of sauce. Transfer to oven and bake until cheese is melted and just starting to brown, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle with Parmigiano-reggiano, remaining parsley/basil, and remaining tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil. Allow to cool slightly and serve.


  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley or basil leaves, or a mix
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 large loaf French or Italian bread (see note), about 18 inches long and 4 inches wide, split half lengthwise and crosswise
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 8 ounces freshly grated whole milk mozzarella cheese
  • 2 ounces grated Parmigiano-reggiano

Adjust oven rack to upper position and preheat oven to 425°F. Heat butter and 3 tablespoons olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat until butter is melted. Add garlic, pepper flakes, and oregano and cook, stirring occasionally, until garlic is softened but not browned, about 2 minutes. Stir in half of parsley/basil and a big pinch of salt. Remove from heat.

Place bread cut-side-up on a clean work surface. Using a rimmed baking sheet, press down on bread evenly until compressed to about 2/3rds of its original height. Place bread on top of rimmed baking sheet. Using a pastry brush, brush half of garlic/butter/oil mixture evenly over cut surfaces of bread, making sure to get plenty of bits of garlic and aromatics. Set aside.

Add tomatoes to remaining garlic/butter/oil mixture in pan, stir to combine, increase heat to medium, bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to maintain a bare simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until rich and reduced, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt.

While sauce cooks, spread 1/4 of mozzarella evenly over surface of bread and transfer to oven. Cook until cheese is barely melted, about 8 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside until sauce is cooked.

Spread sauce evenly over bread, then spread remaining mozzarella on top of sauce. Transfer to oven and bake until cheese is melted and just starting to brown, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle with Parmigiano-reggiano, remaining parsley/basil, and remaining tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil. Allow to cool slightly and serve.


  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley or basil leaves, or a mix
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 large loaf French or Italian bread (see note), about 18 inches long and 4 inches wide, split half lengthwise and crosswise
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 8 ounces freshly grated whole milk mozzarella cheese
  • 2 ounces grated Parmigiano-reggiano

Adjust oven rack to upper position and preheat oven to 425°F. Heat butter and 3 tablespoons olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat until butter is melted. Add garlic, pepper flakes, and oregano and cook, stirring occasionally, until garlic is softened but not browned, about 2 minutes. Stir in half of parsley/basil and a big pinch of salt. Remove from heat.

Place bread cut-side-up on a clean work surface. Using a rimmed baking sheet, press down on bread evenly until compressed to about 2/3rds of its original height. Place bread on top of rimmed baking sheet. Using a pastry brush, brush half of garlic/butter/oil mixture evenly over cut surfaces of bread, making sure to get plenty of bits of garlic and aromatics. Set aside.

Add tomatoes to remaining garlic/butter/oil mixture in pan, stir to combine, increase heat to medium, bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to maintain a bare simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until rich and reduced, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt.

While sauce cooks, spread 1/4 of mozzarella evenly over surface of bread and transfer to oven. Cook until cheese is barely melted, about 8 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside until sauce is cooked.

Spread sauce evenly over bread, then spread remaining mozzarella on top of sauce. Transfer to oven and bake until cheese is melted and just starting to brown, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle with Parmigiano-reggiano, remaining parsley/basil, and remaining tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil. Allow to cool slightly and serve.


  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley or basil leaves, or a mix
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 large loaf French or Italian bread (see note), about 18 inches long and 4 inches wide, split half lengthwise and crosswise
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 8 ounces freshly grated whole milk mozzarella cheese
  • 2 ounces grated Parmigiano-reggiano

Adjust oven rack to upper position and preheat oven to 425°F. Heat butter and 3 tablespoons olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat until butter is melted. Add garlic, pepper flakes, and oregano and cook, stirring occasionally, until garlic is softened but not browned, about 2 minutes. Stir in half of parsley/basil and a big pinch of salt. Remove from heat.

Place bread cut-side-up on a clean work surface. Using a rimmed baking sheet, press down on bread evenly until compressed to about 2/3rds of its original height. Place bread on top of rimmed baking sheet. Using a pastry brush, brush half of garlic/butter/oil mixture evenly over cut surfaces of bread, making sure to get plenty of bits of garlic and aromatics. Set aside.

Add tomatoes to remaining garlic/butter/oil mixture in pan, stir to combine, increase heat to medium, bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to maintain a bare simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until rich and reduced, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt.

While sauce cooks, spread 1/4 of mozzarella evenly over surface of bread and transfer to oven. Cook until cheese is barely melted, about 8 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside until sauce is cooked.

Spread sauce evenly over bread, then spread remaining mozzarella on top of sauce. Transfer to oven and bake until cheese is melted and just starting to brown, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle with Parmigiano-reggiano, remaining parsley/basil, and remaining tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil. Allow to cool slightly and serve.


  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley or basil leaves, or a mix
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 large loaf French or Italian bread (see note), about 18 inches long and 4 inches wide, split half lengthwise and crosswise
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 8 ounces freshly grated whole milk mozzarella cheese
  • 2 ounces grated Parmigiano-reggiano

Adjust oven rack to upper position and preheat oven to 425°F. Heat butter and 3 tablespoons olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat until butter is melted. Add garlic, pepper flakes, and oregano and cook, stirring occasionally, until garlic is softened but not browned, about 2 minutes. Stir in half of parsley/basil and a big pinch of salt. Remove from heat.

Place bread cut-side-up on a clean work surface. Using a rimmed baking sheet, press down on bread evenly until compressed to about 2/3rds of its original height. Place bread on top of rimmed baking sheet. Using a pastry brush, brush half of garlic/butter/oil mixture evenly over cut surfaces of bread, making sure to get plenty of bits of garlic and aromatics. Set aside.

Add tomatoes to remaining garlic/butter/oil mixture in pan, stir to combine, increase heat to medium, bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to maintain a bare simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until rich and reduced, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt.

While sauce cooks, spread 1/4 of mozzarella evenly over surface of bread and transfer to oven. Cook until cheese is barely melted, about 8 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside until sauce is cooked.

Spread sauce evenly over bread, then spread remaining mozzarella on top of sauce. Transfer to oven and bake until cheese is melted and just starting to brown, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle with Parmigiano-reggiano, remaining parsley/basil, and remaining tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil. Allow to cool slightly and serve.


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