Tuesday, July 28, 2009

No Me Gusta Queso Falso

Though I don’t eat Mexican food very often, it’s something I’m quite fond of. Or at least I’m fond of the stuff called Mexican food in Utah. I can’t vouch for its authenticity. From what I understand, what I enjoy is probably more properly referred to as Tex-Mex. But regardless of what you call it, ever since I moved to the southeast region of the United States three years ago, I have discovered a fundamental difference between the Mexican-inspired dishes you’ll find in any Utah restaurant and those exact “same” dishes as prepared and served in Atlanta or Tallahassee. The difference? The kind of cheese they use. And that is a very important difference.

Having lived in Salt Lake City for nearly 28 years, I’ve eaten in many Utah Mexican restaurants. And what did I order almost every time I visited one of these establishments? Cheese enchiladas. As a child, I considered these my favorite food of all, ranking them above even that most sacred of child-friendly delicacies, pizza. And never once did I order a cheese enchilada in Utah and receive a tortilla stuffed with white American cheese. No way, Jose! And I would have remembered if I had, because it would not have been a very pleasant experience. But as soon as I moved to Atlanta, that is all I have seen. Granted, I’ve only eaten at maybe five or six Mexican restaurants in Georgia and Florida combined, but in each case, cheddar cheese was nowhere to be found. (Unless you count Moe’s Southwest Grill, which I don’t. And even they put a soupy “queso” sauce on their nachos rather than melted cheddar. But I’m only concerned with full scale restaurants here, so forget them.) The problem with American cheese—and my most recent waiter told me that’s what they use, so I’m not just guessing—is that it’s so fake. Well, it exists, obviously, but it tastes phony. Prepackaged. Blasé. Desagradable.

I assume Atlanta and Tallahassee are far enough apart to ensure that this is not unique to the few Mexican restaurants I have happened to try between the two cities. It must be a regional difference. But what a sad, sad difference it is. It’s one of the most lamentable aspects of my having moved across the country. Qué pena!


  1. I would have to agree with you, even though I am not there to try it, I don't like the sound of it. BLAH! Give me cheddar or give me death!

  2. This is really funny to me. See, most TexMex restaurants use a Mexican cheese called Asadero. It's white, it melts well without being oily (a problem cheddar has), it's got a mild flavor. No matter what your waiter told you, it's not white American cheese. I can't imagine a Mexican place using solely cheddar cheese. That just sounds wrong and kind of unpleasant.

  3. Downtown Guy, you're really proving to be my resource for all things Tallahassee. Perhaps it was Asadero, and perhaps the waiter was merely trying to tell me something familiar. (Or maybe he told me it was Asadero and then compared it to American. I was a little unsure about what he said, but I do know he was saying something about American cheese when I asked what kind it was.) Regardless, it did taste quite a bit like what melted Kraft Singles or Velveeta. Does that sound possible with Asadero? Also, is the idea of cheddar cheese in a cheese enchilada (ordered from a restaurant, at least) really atypical in these parts?

  4. Asadero is very mild and melts well. It's sort of the real cheese that American singles wish to be - does that make sense? And I'm sorry to tell you, but yes - you're not likely to get cheddar cheese in a regular Mexican restaurant around these parts. That seems very middle America to me. I mean, cheddar is an English cheese, so it's not exactly an authentic fit with Mexican food. Or even Texmex. I do use it at home, because it's cheaper and I use it for more than just burritos, but I don't look for it when I'm out to eat.

    Hey, now that I think about it - have you tried Cabos (in the Ross/New Leaf Market strip mall)? Give them a call, they may use cheddar or a cheddar blend.

  5. This is more of a culture shock than the post about tanning on campus in January! Are you sure you're alright? Will you survive? I will start saving pennies so that the next time you are here, I can take you to a cheddar loving restaurant. Hmm... it is oily isn't it downtown guy? But that's what makes it SO GOOD! :)