The Trader Joe's Vanilla Cheese Charcuterie Connoisseurs Will Love

Vanilla and dairy just go together: whipped cream, crème brûlée, lattes, ice cream. But what about cheese? Trader Joe's is betting on the curious combination enthralling customers by carrying Sweet Vanilla Cardona from Carr Valley Cheese. The Wisconsin creamery's Cardona cheese is a sweet, mild, slightly nutty semi-hard goat cheese with notes of toasted sugar, making it an easy base for mixing with vanilla. After the curds are taken out of their brine solution, Carr Valley cheesemakers incorporate vanilla beans and coat the wheels in vanilla sugar. The cheese is then aged for a few weeks, developing notes of caramel, coconut, and nutmeg. Take a look at the rind, which is edible, and you'll see flecks of vanilla bean.

Trader Joe's recommends eating it as a standalone snack, on a charcuterie board with the brand's strawberry preserves, or alongside some fruity merlot. However, a dry rosé brimming with strawberry notes would make for an equally inspired afternoon picnic pairing. As a different approach to dessert, the chain grocer also recommends grating the cheese over some French vanilla ice cream for double the dairy. It wouldn't be the first time that cheese ended up somewhere surprising!

Other ways to serve up Trader Joe's vanilla cheese

Director of Culinary Research at the Institute for Culinary Education James Briscione's book "The Flavor Matrix" is all about matching flavors by using their chemical fingerprints, analyzing flavor compounds to find connections, and making sometimes shocking pairings. For example, Briscione found that vanilla, which has over 250 compounds, pairs with foods you might expect (milk, cream, peach, nectarine, citrus, whiskey) and some you might not (tomato, corn, and asparagus).

Taking that into consideration, you might try replacing the mozzarella in a tomato and peach Caprese salad with some Sweet Vanilla Cardona cheese as a lovely summer salad. Be sure not to skimp on the balsamic vinegar and pinch or two of salt in order to balance the sweetness of the cheese and the peach.

Continuing with the summery theme, grill up some corn on the cob and make a brown butter vanilla compound butter to slather on it, then grate the cheese over it for a sort of sweet version of elote, Mexico's elite street snack. If you want to really stretch your imagination, you could always top asparagus and watercress pearl barley risotto with this Carr Valley cheese instead of pecorino. Or, for more options on your cheese plate, put out some orange marmalade or cherry jam alongside the recommended strawberry preserves.

This cheese comes from a highly decorated creamery

Carr Valley Cheese Company is over 100 years old and still owned and operated by the founding Cook family in central Wisconsin. And like true midwesterners, they're modest: they simply say on their website that they have "won numerous awards over the years," their brand has won more top national and international awards than any other cheesemaker in North America. Considering how many exceptional cheeses there are throughout the country, that's saying something.

And Wisconsinites sure do love them and their Cardona cheese. In a Reddit thread about the Vanilla Cardona, one commenter who has frequented the Carr Valley shops on numerous occasions is confident in the cheese's excellence. Another Redditor laments for those of us who don't live in Carr Valley distribution territory: "As a Wisconsinite, it pains me that this is a limited product to TJ's. We can always buy it here because it's local. I'm hoping they offer some of [LaClare's] chipotle honey goat cheese next because it is amazing." Time will tell whether Trader Joe's is listening.