While I have not tried every cheese that Trader Joe’s sells (I wish!) I have to say Unexpected Cheddar is one of the most interesting and best cheeses that I’ve tried from TJ’s. It is also apparently one of TJ’s best selling products.

I am a huge fan and love a good Cheddar cheese, and the sharper the better for my tastes. Is it because I’m a Damn Yankee (well a New Yorker) and Cheddar seems to be a very Yankee cheese? On this side of the Atlantic anyway, as Cheddar cheese is quite English in origin.

Historically in my tastes memories, the Sine Qua Non of a classic Cheddar cheese, that was in our house since we were kids, was always CABOT CHEDDAR from Vermont. If we didn’t have CABOT in our house, we would at least always have a package of Cracker Barrel Extra Sharp cheddar in the fridge, as my dad’s favorite cheese was Cheddar by far. Unexpected Cheddar is quite different from a classic cheddar such as Cabot (wonderful by the way and sold at TJ). UNEXPECTED CHEDDAR has a taste and texture unlike any Cheddar you’ve probably tried. So “unexpected”, yes absolutely. As Trader Joe’s own description is so apt, I’ll just quote what they say:

“Unexpected Cheddar has been a best-seller since it first hit our cheese cases, back in 2011. It presents itself as an aged Cheddar, and tastes like one as well. Until, it doesn’t. That creamy Cheddar takes an unexpected flavor turn, the texture seems to change as you eat – you might swear you were enjoying an aged Parmesan. On first try, it’s an unexpected pleasure. With subsequent purchases, the only unexpected part of the experience is that it continues to be such a great value. Then again, you’ve come to expect great values at Trader Joe’s, so our price of $3.99 for each seven ounce piece may not be so unexpected after all.”

Forgetting the marketing part the description of the taste and texture is exactly right.

This cheese has a texture that is much more crumbly than a typical cheddar, so yes it is  somewhere between Parmesan and Cheddar. This must be due to aging. As you slice this cheese, it may very well crumble and fall apart on you, not terribly unlike any aged cheese and especially like a piece of Parmegiano Reggiano. There are flavor profiles in the Unexpected Cheddar which have that same “umami” overtones of a Parmigiano or Grana Padano. I tasted this with wine, and Unexpected Cheddar pairs wonderfully with wine, as well as beer. It would be a great pick if you are doing a wine tasting, or a beer tasting for that matter! If you serve this to guests, you will get much praise from them as well as  “mmm whats this cheese?” comments.  At $4 for 7 oz. figure this costs a bit under $10/lb. for a very high quality premium cheese, not a bad deal as usual from Trader Joe.

If you try a package of this cheese I think you will not be disappointed. You too may find it makes it onto your “Always Must Buy” TJ List. Its a standout among Trader Joe’s products, which is why its always among their top sellers. To be honest in our house the biggest problem with UNEXPECTED CHEDDAR is it goes so fast…Its so damn tasty, its too  easy for the whole package to get eaten in a day. Be warned.