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Pimento cheese is making a comeback in the foodie world
Pimento cheese, a longtime Southern tradition, is having a resurgence in the foodie world and among top chefs. The spread is versatile, easy to make and easy to dress up for any occasion. - photo by Michelle Boaen Jameson

Pimento cheese recipes

"Pimento Cheese, Please!"

Time Magazine article

Valentine's benefit
2 Dog Restaurant will have a special Valentine's Day five-course dinner on Feb. 14. Proceeds will be donated to the North Georgia Food Bank. $80 per couple. 770-287-8384.


Use it as a topping for hot dogs and hamburgers, make fancy little tea sandwiches on white bread, use it as a dip for celery sticks or crackers, even modernize it with pita or veggie chips — pimento cheese is just about perfect for any occasion.

And now as value- and price-conscious cooks look for cheap and easy meals, the traditional Southern dish is now getting national attention and is being described as "trendy" by bloggers, magazines and marketing gurus.

The spread is typically made with mayonnaise, sharp cheddar cheese, pimentos and spices and put on bread for a yummy sandwich.

Surprisingly though, pimento cheese is being forecast as one of the hottest food trends of 2011 by Bon Appetit and Time magazines and by Andrew Freeman & Co., a marketing forecast company, among others.

Tina Roberts, co-owner of 2 Dog Restaurant with chef and husband Tim Roberts, said she has seen the popularity of pimento sandwiches rise recently.

"It's very trendy, and all the Southern women want it at their weddings," she said. "They want these chic little Southern country weddings. We've got a lot more calls for weddings because people are going a little more casual for weddings ... we aren't plaid shirts, but we're not starched either.

"People have downsized and are cutting out the unnecessary frills."

2 Dog, locally known as an eccentric café with interesting menu items, has put a twist on the traditional pimento cheese sandwich for the last year.

The grilled pimento cheese sandwich is dressed up with feta cheese and sun-dried tomatoes and then grilled on fresh baked, homemade bread.

"Once upon a time my husband made this wonderful concoction called feta and sun-dried tomato spread and it was so good that all the land wanted it," said Roberts.

Cream cheese and herbs also are added to the spread for extra creaminess and depth of flavor.

"Then we deemed it as a sandwich at 2 Dog about a year ago, and we started grilling it and we called it the Sun-dried Tomato and Feta Sandwich. All the people in the kingdom said it's a pimento cheese sandwich, so we changed it to a Grilled Pimento Cheese sandwich."

In an e-mail from Andrew Freeman & Co. the rise in popularity of pimento cheese is attributed to the "home-spun/retro resurgence that is very popular — especially of a more rustic sort," and "more interest in Southern foods in general."

The Southern comfort food is perfect for your child's lunch box to a dressed-up appetizer at a cocktail party, the sandwiches are a staple at The Master's in Augusta every year.

Ed Waller, owner of Green's Grocery in Gainesville, said there is something very special about the pimento cheese sandwiches at the prestigious annual golf tournament.

"The white bread and the cheese is great, and it's not overwhelming," he said.

At Green's, two varieties of homemade pimento cheese are made in the store: spicy with jalapenos and regular. Customers can buy the spread in a tub or even get a sandwich made in the deli at the grocery store.

"It's just cheddar cheese, mayonnaise and other ingredients I'd rather not say, pretty simple recipe," he said.

The simplicity of pimento cheese is one reason why Amy Evans Streeter, oral historian at Southern Foodways Alliance at University of Mississippi in Oxford, Miss., thinks pimento cheese has become trendy, although she hadn't seen any of the recent news on pimento cheese.

"It's good to know because we are actually collaborating with a filmmaker who is doing a documentary on pimento cheese," Streeter said.

"This is a collaboration of our SFA Greenhouse Initiative, which offers microgrants and any additional funds to people who are working in film to get the project off the ground, keep the project running or finish it up."

Nicole Lang Key, from Virginia, is the creative force behind the film "Pimento Cheese, Please!"

"Her film is due ... to be completed this fall because it will premiere at our Southern Foodways Symposium in October, which is an annual symposium that we have on the campus of the university," Streeter said.

The Southern Foodways Alliance has known the significance and love of pimento cheese for years, and inspired the 2003 Pimento Cheese Invitational and a cookbook.

"It is inexpensive to make, it's easy to make and it travels well and seems to make everyone happy," Streeter said. "It's kind of an all occasion meal, too."

Streeter added that homemade versions of the spread with homemade mayonnaise is the ultimate treat.

"I much prefer homemade — it's apples and oranges between homemade and store bought," she said. "It really is easy to make, so there is really no reason not to make it.

"I was talking to someone yesterday who said his mama brought pimento cheese for everything, weddings, funerals, if you have a flat tire."


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