Sunday, June 24, 2012

Tillamook's Loaf Love Tour, D Bar Desserts and a Pimento Cheese Recipe


One of Tillamook's 5 Loaf Love Tour buses.

Many of you may not know this, but it is burger week here in Denver.  Part of Tillamook’s Loaf Love Tour, the company is "bringing their cheese to the people" by sponsoring celebrations all over the country.  Starting June 23rd and lasting through the 30th , four Denver area restaurants will feature their own signature burgers using Tillamook’s cheeses as ingredients.   To see all four of the participating restaurants, view their burger descriptions, and learn more about Tillamook’s Loaf Love Tour, please click here.

I’m no stranger to the goodness that is Tillamook.  A few years ago I participated in their mac and cheese competition here in Denver and even though I didn’t win my region and a trip to their home in Tillamook, Oregon, I won lots of cheese that left me with a discerning palate forever spoiling me from completely enjoying anything else.

Last Wednesday I was more than happy to join several other bloggers and Tillamook representatives at D Bar Desserts for the kickoff of the Denver leg of this event.  As the name implies, this restaurant is not only home to some of the city's best desserts but some truly inspired light savory bites as well.  

 In addition to being a Food Network celebrity, our host owner Keegan Gerhard is also an award winning pastry chef and one very nice guy.   After enjoying drinks and appetizers on the patio we were invited inside the restaurant for a demonstration on how he prepares his signature burger. 
Keegan Gerhard demonstrating how to make his KGB burger while dessert ingredients bubble in the foreground.

The KGB burger is a decadent combination of savory waffles made with herbs and lots of Tillamook cheese, Kobe beef, bacon, and if it could get any better for this Texas girl, a slathering of homemade pimento cheese spread. 

Even though he is a famous chef, I must admit just between you and me that I was a little apprehensive about his ability to make really good pimento cheese.  I mean as far as I know you must be:  A. from the south, B. a female, and C. have blue hair, to possess the proper skills to make it really well, and as I observed Gerhard was none of the above.

As he started his demo, he began talking about how his wife was from Texas and how much he loved his mother-in-law’s Cool Whip and candy bar Snickers pie.  I soon came to figure that anyone who loves a favorite community recipe like that must know something about good old southern food, so maybe his pimento cheese was going to be good after all. 

Keegan Gerhard's KGB Burger available at D Bar Desserts



As you can tell from this photo, this burger was good beyond description.  From the crispy, cheesy waffle bun to the Kobe beef patty and yes his delicious pimento cheese spread oozing between the two, this burger was near perfection.  Oh and by the way, he served breaded and deep fried mac and cheese with a little sriracha ranch dip on the side taking this comfort dish to a whole new level.

Our tasting burgers with fried mac and cheese

Since desserts are what this restaurant was founded on, this post wouldn’t be complete without showing what sweets Gerhard and his staff cooked up for us on this night.
 
After we finished our burgers we were served the lightest and fluffiest churro that I have ever eaten, including those that I have made myself.  It was truly like eating a little cinnamon sugar covered cloud dipped in ganache.  I adored every bite.


The only consolation to finishing my churro was in the little white bowl sitting next to the empty spot where it once sat.  Upon cracking the caramelized sugar covering on top, I sunk my spoon into a creamy and perfectly sweet vanilla custard that waited underneath.  Each bite of this mini crème brulee no less than melted in my mouth.  This was truly a wonderful ending to a great evening.  

My pimento cheese

Since I have actually been planning on a pimento cheese blog for some weeks now, I thought that this was the perfect opportunity to use Gerhard’s inspiration and two of Tillamook’s cheeses.  I am proud to say that even though I don’t have blue hair my pimento cheese is legendary (well, in my family at least). I’m also giving you a few of my favorite variations of it that we frequently enjoy if you’d like to try something just a little bit different. 
My favorite BLT with pimento cheese.

As you can tell by my photos, this is a pretty versatile recipe that you can use on burgers, sandwiches or spread inside a celery stalk for one of my mother’s favorite appetizers from the 60s.  I always knew that if she was spreading pimento cheese inside a stalk of celery, something really special was about to happen.

Tillamook Pimento Cheese

I totally agree with Keegan Gerhard when he said not to use the jarred pimento (or pimiento) as they are just flavorless and too soft.  While he prefers to roast and peel his peppers, I prefer using fresh raw red bell peppers as I find their flavor to be brighter than the roasted ones. 

4 ounces Tillamook medium cheddar, grated and chilled

4 ounces Tillamook Vintage White Extra Sharp Cheddar, grated and chilled

2 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature

1/2 of a medium size red bell pepper, finely minced

1 scant tablespoon finely minced yellow onion

7 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 - 1/2 teaspoons sugar

1/4 teaspoons garlic powder


2 teaspoons Sambal Oelek chili paste or sriracha for a spicier taste (optional)

Pinch of white or black pepper (my momma never had any white pepper)

Place the cheddar cheeses in a large bowl; set aside.

In a medium size bowl add the remaining ingredients and blend well to form a dressing.  Pour the dressing over the cheese and fold the two together being careful not to over work.  This mixture is best when the cheese shreds are well defined with a creamy sauce holding them together.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes but preferably overnight.  Serve.

This recipe makes approximately 2 cups, enough for 6 sandwiches

Variations

Mexican Style Pimento Cheese

Prepare as above only adding ½ - 1 chopped jalapeno (fresh or pickled depending on your preference), 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro and a pinch of mild chili powder.

Smoky Chipotle Pimento Cheese

Prepare as above only adding 1 teaspoon adobo sauce from a can of chipotle peppers and 1 teaspoon of the chopped chipotle pepper from the same can.

Asian Inspired Pimento Cheese

Prepare as above adding 2 teaspoons – 1 tablespoon sriracha, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro and substitute the yellow onion with 1 – 2  large green onions, thinly sliced.

English Style Cheese Spread

Prepare as above omitting the red bell pepper, reducing the yellow onion to 2 teaspoons and adding 1 large green onion (white and light green parts only) thinly sliced and2 - 3 slices of crispy bacon, chopped.

Italian Inspired Cheese Spread

Prepare as above adding 1 tablespoon chopped sun dried tomatoes (packed in oil or soaked in water to soften), 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese and 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning.
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