Can cheddar get better? Three riffs on a classic.

At Crème, the peanut butter and Cheez-It cookies will transport you back in time to the school lunchroom. Photo: Crème.

Writer: Karla Walsh

In a typical year, Iowa dairies produce more than 300 million pounds of cheese. That’s about 100 pounds for every Iowan.

Obviously, there are plenty of tried-and-true ways to consume it — on a cheese board, atop a pizza, in a grilled cheese sandwich, or just on its own — but three local chefs have recently cooked up some new ideas. Their recipes use cheddar, but we can confirm: They’re pretty gouda.

Peanut Butter and Cheez-Its Cookie at Crème
Way back when, even the worst school days turned around when we found those Keebler peanut butter-filled cheddar cracker sandwiches inside our brown-bag lunches. Crème owner Sammy Mila felt the same way about the weird but wonderful flavor combo and developed a cookie recipe with those snacks in mind. “My funky new cookie is everything you love (or hate that you love) about those tiny cheese cracker-peanut butter sandwich cookies, but in full cookie form. It’s sweet, salty, a little umami and a lot of perfection,” Mila said of the cookie that debuted in February at the bakery just off Ingersoll Avenue. “I love to touch on nostalgia, and this cookie is that for me.” Same here, Sammy.

Spicy Better Cheddar Spread at Sisters in Cheese
Speaking of nostalgia, we’ve loved Better Cheddars ever since they showed up in the 1980s. More recently, the crackers inspired the Sisters in Cheese to whip up a new Southern-style pimento dip at their shop in Madrid. When co-owner Chelsea Johnson’s friend from Mississippi tried a sample of the original batch, “she said we’d nailed the Southern recipe and shared her mom’s cheese ball-adjacent recipe in exchange,” Johnson said. Declaring it even better than her own cheese dip, Johnson scaled up the party-size formula to offer half-pints and pints for retail at the shop. She said that with its shredded cheddar, mayo, a secret blend of spices (including cayenne pepper), chives and roasted chopped pecans, “it was an immediate hit.”

“It’s Corn” Wrap at Scenic Route
For a hot minute in 2022, a kid named Tariq made waves on TikTok with a catchy song about corn on the cob. Well, the earworm lives on, and it creeps back into our brains whenever we order its namesake wrap at the East Village eatery. The popular lunch item showcases Mexican-style elote corn spread with chicken, black beans, red peppers and pepper jack, all rolled into a cheddar jalapeño tortilla.

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