I was batting around food suggestions with a couple of fellow food bloggers who make their residence here in Little Rock but both hail from parts unknown (i.e. Texas). I brought up grabbing some pimento cheese, to which one of these fine writers replied, "Oh, you Arkies and your pimento cheese." Needless to say, I was taken aback, and immediately expressed my skepticism that the delightful cheese and pepper spread wasn't universally as loved as it seems to be here. After all, pimento cheese is a signature item at the Master's Tournament at Augusta Golf Club as well as being a staple food for finger sandwiches, quick lunches, and spreading on crackers for hors d'oeuvres. It's a simple, delicious food, and as one of those Arkies who is in love with stuff, I thought I'd discuss it today.
My own experience with pimento cheese began with Mrs. Weaver's, the cheap store-bought spread that's still the main type of pimento cheese found in supermarkets. It's by no means great, but every time I have a healthy dollop smeared across a piece of light bread for a fold-over sandwich, I'm transported in an instant to summers spent with my grandmother — she always seemed to have some on hand. Later, we upgraded to the Kraft-brand spread, which while creamier (and maybe even a little tastier) just doesn't have the nostalgic pull on me like Mrs. Weaver's. As an adult, I learned to make the stuff myself, and the recipe has become the source of a good-natured and ongoing debate I have with my mother-in-law: she adds a touch of sugar (and sometimes walnuts) to her spread, whereas I use no sugar and the saltier Japanese-style Kewpie Mayonnaise for a more savory spread.
We've got people making fantastic pimento cheese here in Little Rock, with my favorite being the sriracha-spiked version from Hillcrest Artisan Meats. H.A.M. takes a creamy, spicy spread, layers it with thin-sliced salami, and then presses the whole thing into a crunchy, buttery mass of cured-meat and cheese goodness. There are a lot of good sandwiches out there, but that one might be my favorite in the entire metro area. Fans of Ashley's are generally very positive about the pimento cheese served there, although with a new chef coming in to make changes, nobody's sure the dish will stick around. As a word of friendly advice to the new guy: keep the pimento cheese as a gesture of goodwill. I promise you'll thank me for it. The Root periodically serves pimento-cheese, and it must be good because they've always run out every time I've tried to eat it — maybe one of you can tell me how the stuff is down there in the comments. Lastly, Big Orange puts a generous pile of it on a burger with green tomato relish that is a gooey, messy delight.
So how about it, Arkies? When it comes to cheese and pimentos, how do you like it? Who makes the best? And for those of you joining us from outside of God's country (i.e. Texas), have you managed to sample some of the good stuff in your time here? Let us know.