At A-Camp this past May, I hosted a star-studded event entitled “String Cheese & Boxed Wine Tasting” with our Executive Editor Laneia.
At this epic workshop, about 30 A-Campers sampled a variety of string cheeses and boxed wines and ranked them on a number of important scales.
As you can see, it was quite an affair:
Our aim was to decide, once and for all, what the best kind of string cheese is, based on all the string cheeses available to me at Von’s and Trader Joes in Redlands, California, on May 28th, 2015. Also boxed wine:
It’s probably important to point out there was a lot of Franzia happening during this event. I will share our findings on boxed wine in a different post.
For now, let’s talk about string cheese! The cheeses are listed below in order of the most positively reviewed to the least positively reviewed. Everybody was asked to review the product on a five-star scale.
Frigo Cheese Heads – 3.6/5
Frigo was noted for its ease of stringiness and was the crowd favorite despite not tasting like real cheese. “Scary mascot but delicious processed cheese,” said one taster. “This tastes like it has a lot of chemicals in it,” said another.
The appreciation was not unanimous, of course: the cheese was also described as “quite bland” and “not so tasty.” “Unsettlingly stringy, rubbery, not much flavor,” wrote taster Christina S., adding, “Notes of Halloween candy?”
“Smells like plastic,” said taster Katie Mayo, who also found the cheese salty and “moist.” Another taster provided the seemingly contradictory description; “stringy bland goodness.” One suggested that “jalapeños” would improve the flavor.
Some additional commentary, from favorable to not-so:
“Best fucking cheese. A Good time for everyone around.”
“I buy this at home. Best I have tried so far!”
“Way less waxy than Trader Joe’s. Very pungent aroma in a good way. Peels very satisfyingly.”
“The level of stringy-ness is just incredible, but also how do they get cheese product to do that. I would eat this if I had just watched Netflix for 36 hours and had nothing else to eat.”
“Satisfying — would make great drunk food or melt well on nachos.”
“This tastes like pizza, but also I just learned I eat string cheese wrong so maybe my opinion doesn’t matter.”
“So stringy I think that if I cheesed it long enough I could spit out a sweater.”
“To be honest, I am not super into this cheese. I only gave it four stars because everyone else liked it. I would NOT make a sandwich with it.”
“From the beginning, I was kind of turned off by the ostentatious claims of being ‘America’s favorite cheese.’ Like, how can you know that?”
“It may be ‘America’s fave’ BUT IT’S NOT ENGLAND’S!”
Lucerne – 3.4/5
Lucerne also earned exceptionally high marks for “ease of stringing,” but some voters were fairly polarized on whether or not it qualified as Real F*ckin’ Cheese. However, it still received more Real F*ckin’ Cheese endorsements than Frigo. “Buttery,” said one taster. “This tastes like it’s actually made of cheese.”
This product was regaled for its pleasantness and softness as well as its capacity to shock the eater right out of their knee-socks. “Mellow but pleasant taste,” noted one taster. “Surprisingly pleasant,” said another. “Super soft and surprisingly good,” wrote yet another passionate cheese-consumer. “Wow! Pleasantly surprised,” said another, before writing a self-deprecating comment about the depreciation of their handwriting over the course of the afternoon.
String cheese expert Laneia was also taken off guard by this wily dairy stick, recalling “at first this cheese is disappointing, like its flavor is hiding in your mouth. But then! Then it is very delicious. I would make a sandwich with this cheese. Not too salty.”
Sydney Blanchard found the cheese “super soft but flawless,” adding that “I’m noticing string cheese basically always tastes like slightly cheesy air.” Another taster offered a similar review, “It’s not offensive, which is good — that’s what I look for in a string cheese. It’s not real cheese, but it’s at least less than 50% plastic and salt.”
Katie Mayo felt ambiguously romantic about her afternoon snack, declaring it “tasty, nothing aggressive,” then adding, “Your parents approve of this cheese. It could take you out.”
Cheese taster Sam T., however, did not mince words regarding her disappointment with the allegedly hard-working cows at the Lucerne Dairy Ranch:
“People like to say that you can’t have your cake and eat it too. In this case, apparently you can’t have your strings and eat it too. The stringiest cheese of the day has sadly also turned out to be the most flavorless. I long for the day when the string cheese professionals of the world combine forces to formulate a string cheese we can be proud of. God Bless America.”
Trader Joe’s Original String Cheese – 2.8/5
The folks at Trader Joe’s may know how to expertly coat a banana slice in chocolate and freeze it, but it seems when it comes to making an adequately stringy string cheese, your local dried mango dispensary has not proven itself worthy of the task.
TJ’s string cheese was panned first and foremost for its ineffective stringiness. “Not stringy,” growled one taster, adding, “Can peel in solid strips. Concerning.” Another wrote, “the flavor is pretty decent but it strings ‘chunky style.'” It even caused Sam to question her own abilities to string her cheese, declaring, “this cheese may need to be just for the string cheese experts.” Elizabeth English didn’t even make a selection on the stringiness scale for this one, instead scrawling “FUCK THIS” over the scale itself on her cheese-tasting card. “The consistency reminds me of a mucous plug but I ate it anyway,” she wrote below.
“Decent flavor,” lamented Rachelle Wise. “But texture and stringability is poor.”
It was not universally disliked, however. At least one person found it to be “pretty cool.” Dwyn Asher felt that “after all the other cheeses, I am very enthusiastic about it. Less plastic tasting than most.” L.J. Sallee liked it too. “Good for snacks — people or dogs,” she advised. “This is my go-to cheese for everyday consumption at home. Not so awesome for stringing, but yummy factor compensates for that.”
This cheese also found a fan in Christina S., who declared it “delicious” and “easy to open.”
Sydney Blanchard was downright enthusiastic about this item, calling it “the best food I’ve had on the mountain so far.” (Ed. note: there wasn’t much competition for that honor.) “Tastes like childhood.”
Once again, an unnamed tester had the following suggestion: “jalapeños are needed.”
Other negative reviews included Camille Wiseman’s evaluation that it “tastes like a block of cheese dressed up as an imposter string cheese,” and Louise’s assertion that “If you really feel like string cheese and there’s nothing else around, it’d do.”
Finally, one disappointed tester lamented, “Overwhelming taste of sodium and desperation.”
Sargento – 2.1/5
Sargento received mixed reviews, especially when it came to ease of peeling. “I typically love Sargento cheeses,” wrote Rachelle Wise, “but was disappointed with this string cheese. Poor flavor and low stringability.” Other reviewers noted:
“Basically wax and not fun to peel at all. Pretty unmemorable.’
“Flavour is alright and I’m sure it’d string if you used a grater.”
“Starts off stringy, then just fails at life.”
“Only strings in big pieces. Tastes like plastic.”
“These are not strings. These are layers peeling off of my cheese. Who designed this? This is false advertising at its most sinister.”
“This cheese is not easy to string and it tastes too bitter. Should be creamier. Garbage cheese, essentially.”
Christina S. was appalled and personally insulted by her stick of Sargento, scrawling BAD BAD BAD on her tasting sheet, adding “too squishy to string, tastes like chemicals, but so HARD to string.” However, she did find that it paired well with Franzia Sunset Blush. Many reviewers questioned the product’s classification as cheese:
“This is just not cheese. Just no.”
“Too tough. Smells funny, doesn’t taste like cheese. The more I east it, the more I can’t stand it.”
“Bland, comparatively. A little oily.”
“What the fuck is this.”
“I need a spit cup. I don’t understand. This is not string cheese. I’m so angry. Sargento stop lying.”
“I feel strongly that these have all tasted like cheese without jalapeños.”
Dwyn Asher found it “unsettlingly firm.” Furthermore, Dwyn expressed a fear for her own health, managing to jot down “concerned I will die after eating this because this cannot be cheese. All that yoga mat material Subway was using in their bread is what this cheese must be made from. How could someone do this to cheese?”
Still, at least one reviewer noted, “I really like the way this cheese peels off nice and thin, but still wide enough for a substantial bite.”
“No one likes me anymore because this was my favorite so far and they all hate it,” wrote Elizabeth English, who was unfortunately unaware that I was suffering a similar fate on my end of the room, where Laneia was suggesting that perhaps her and I looked for entirely different things in our string cheese.
Yes, reader, much like Elizabeth, I prefer the Sargento because it feels firm and genuine, and I like how it strings into chunks instead of wispy strings like the wisps of a young maiden’s hair. It’s fine that you all hate it. More for me.
Precious – 2.1 / 5
At least one reviewer struggled opening their package of Precious Stringsters String Cheese, nor was she able to string the cheese once she successfully divorced the fussy snack from its oppressive plastic wrapper. Other tasters found success opening their cheese, but were generally unimpressed with what lay inside. For example, one muncher observed, “Creamier and more sour than expected.”
Christina S., who did disclose a concern that Franzia had “killed her taste buds,” found it squishy, with “chunky strings” and “more flavor but not sure if that’s good.”
“This tastes like super fancy string cheese but it’s not,” one eater lamented. Laneia stated without hesitation that she disliked the cheese, finding it “greasy at the end, and sad. It strings off in chunks and it’s sad.”
Sydney Blanchard pointed out a very unfortunate association, confessing, “I hate that the name of this cheese reminds me of the film Precious. That was not a family film. This cheese tastes like nothing at all, but the texture is velvety.”
“It kinda melts in your mouth,” Camille Wiseman began, full of hope, before adding, “but not in a good way. Heavy and rubbery.”
Rachelle Wise, however, found love in her Precious Stringster package, endorsing it like so: “It’s the cheesiest. This has way more flavor than the others — almost a soft sour overtone that is actually nice.”
Finally, I’d like to share this disturbing review of the product that should serve as a crucial cautionary tale:
“First I’ve tried with absolutely no smell. Moderately stringy. I’m not crushingly disappointed. Texture reminds me of eating strangely dry mud. I have no clue what this taste even is. Really feel like I need to repress my feelings about this and then have a panel about it next camp.”
Galbani Precious Provolone – 1.9/5
This particular brand was purchased on accident (I thought it was the same kind as the Precious string cheese discussed above and only bought one package of it) and therefore only a few brave testers were able to consume this option. However, many testers by this point in the event had consumed far too much Franzia and processed cheese to continue shoving additional items down their pieholes, so its scarcity was really a blessing in disguise.
Unfortunately, this limited edition selection didn’t exactly arouse its potential appreciatiors: “Not stringy at all,” lamented Dwyn Asher. “Pretty bad. Too firm. Why did this cheese ever happen?” Other reviews weren’t much better:
“I’m so sad. Never again.”
“The description made this sound amazing, but it is a big let down.”
“Tastes better than the mozz but feels so fake.”
“Bendy, stringy, hard, fine, whatever, I want a nap, I miss Trader Joes.”
“Smells like it’s already gone bad. No flavor at the start and then pleasantly develops into feet.”
“Not as stringy or as tasty as it could be. However, I have yet to taste a cheese that combines a passable cheesiness level with a passable tastiness level. This cheese is, in a word, adequate.”
“This one is moist and very generic tasting.”
“As far as the Galbani was concerned, what the actual fuck is this? Is this a food? Did I just lick a cow? What is happening?”
“Bland, pasty, mushy. Resembles glue after chewing.”
At least one person enjoyed the cheese, remaking, “very hefty — bang for your buck. Easiest to peel.”
Finally, Sam fit this cheese into a larger and more frightening narrative, remaking:
“Once more the greedy head of the major food corporations has slandered the good name of string cheese by trying to pass off this unpeelable stick of rubber as actual string cheese. My childhood is ruined.”
There you go. When you make bad string cheese, you ruin childhoods.
Unfortunately, I was unable to locate Polly-O string cheese in the Redlands area, thus this fan favorite was excluded from the event. However, I did a search on the webbernet and learned that Serious Eats recently did a string cheese taste test of their own and Polly-O came out on top for being “exactly what we’d expect in a string cheese: not intensely cheese-flavored but just the right hit of salt. Not too stiff either, this one peels off in smooth, easy strands.”
Unfortunately, Serious Eats did not reveal the gender identities or sexual orientations of its testers and therefore I’m unable to provide you with a conclusive determination on whether or not Polly-O would titilate the tastebuds of queer people specifically. You will have to find out on your own.