Unsolicited Endorsement: Armenian string cheese


Armenian string cheese is a game changer.

Don’t get me wrong; I love the classic, overly processed string cheese that I grew up with. There’s some in my fridge right now actually, if my girlfriend didn’t finish it off over the weekend. But Armenian string cheese is worlds better, and you’re missing out if you haven’t tried it.

It’s like how, as a kid, my parents wouldn’t let my sister and me eat the more expensive and hard to come by dark chocolate that our neighbors would bring back after visiting their native Belgium. We were perfectly happy with bottom-shelf, Halloween-style candy, and they saw no reason to waste high quality chocolate on us that we wouldn’t really appreciate. My parents called their private stash “grown-up chocolate,” and while it technically belonged to the same family as a Peppermint Patty or Twix bar, the gulf between the two only grew as my taste evolved with age.

Like grown-up Belgian chocolate, I first learned about Armenian string cheese as a kid thanks to my mom’s best friend, who traces her heritage to the small Middle Eastern country bordering Turkey, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Iran between the Black and Caspian seas. But unlike the dessert, kids were allowed to partake in the cheese, which is relatively easy to track down stateside.

Armenian string cheese is generally made with goat or sheep’s milk and looks sort of like a braided rope. The taste is deeper and much more satisfying than other string cheeses, though creamier, smoother and more elastic than its American counterpart. I thought the store-bought and shrink-wrapped kind I knew tasted peppery, but Armenian string cheese generally contains nigella seeds — also known as black cumin — and an aromatic spice known as mahlab that’s often paired with dairy.

I hadn’t thought about Armenian cheese in years, until I visited my parents and found some in their refrigerator. I liked it as a kid, sure, but my appreciation doubled as I tore off piece after piece, not just because it reminded me of my childhood, but because it tastes so damn good.