Recently, The Hot Dish stumbled upon a weird food blogger with a problem we felt distinctly capable of solving. Mike, the mastermind behind Putting Weird Things in Coffee, was in search of Juustoleipä, a Finnish cheese actually designed to be put in coffee. Local (meaning Wisconsin) cheesemaker Carr Valley makes an excellent Juustoleipä (translation: "bread cheese"), and we offered to mail it to Mike at the home offices of Putting Weird Things in Coffee all the way up in Canada. The rest is weird history:
1. When did you create Putting Weird Things in Coffee? PWTIC officially started about a year ago, in April of 2009. However, I've always been adventurous with food, and I've always had a blog, so the two had met before that. Way back in 2006 I wrote a post on my personal blog about putting peanut butter in coffee. I followed that up with a few other food experiments before the idea spun off into its own blog and focused on coffee.
2. More importantly,why did you start PWTIC? Oh, why does anyone do anything? Mainly for the simple reason that it had never been done before. I also noticed this growing trend of idiosyncratic websites devoted to a single topic, such as People of Walmart, Texts From Last Night, Cake Wrecks, Bea Arthur Mountains Pizza, etc. (see also: A Site for That). I figured I could hop on that bandwagon and get famous on the Internet.
3. What was your first experiment? Peanut butter was the first experiment. It seems so normal now, and was quite good despite some texture problems. I'm still looking for a good way to make peanut butter coffee a complete success.
4. So far what's been the most revolting and the most successful? The most revolting was probably Low Fat Whipped Dressing (the most popular brand up here is Miracle Whip, but this was the cheaper alternative; it's basically fake mayonnaise). It had a sour acidic taste, as if it immediately went rotten. I think drinking vomit would come pretty close to that experience. To this day I can't eat anything with that whipped dressing without being reminded of it.
The best was spicy smoked paprika and maple. A friend's mom suggested it, and it turned out delicious. I think the sheer novelty of it was a big part of what made it so good; I'd never experienced that combination of spicy and sweet in coffee before.
5. What sort of feedback do you get from people? The feedback to my face has been almost entirely positive. I gave a talk about PWTIC at a recent technology conference (read about it here); I was blown away and flattered by how many people came up to me with nice comments. I think most people love being vicariously grossed out.
Behind my back (e.g., comments in forums and blogs that link to PWTIC), people can be less kind. Some people are very protective of current food conventions, insisting that even adding cream and sugar is pushing it. I also get accusations that I have too much time on my hands, which I wish was true. Obviously the blog is partly meant to provoke though, so I appreciate that it's working.
6. Is there anything you absolutely won't put in your coffee? My one rule is that I won't put anything in coffee that I wouldn't eat on its own. So I don't really entertain the suggestions to put dog poop or my dick in coffee.
7. On to the cheese: how did you first hear about Carr Valley's bread cheese? An old blog friend sent me a link to a blog that suggested dipping bread cheese in coffee. Before that, I hadn't heard of Carr Valley or bread cheese, and had no way of getting it here in Ontario. Until you came along. Thanks again!
8. Is it the most legit thing you've put in your coffee? It's not like I sprinkle my coffee with bacon bits every morning. I do occasionally put legit things in there. I've even written about some pretty mundane things, like various chocolates. But I was surprised to see that Carr Valley suggested right on the label that the bread cheese could be dipped in coffee. I'd love to see the day when ordering a slab of cheese in coffee becomes a legit practice. Right now the baristas at Starbucks just look at me funny, then ask me to leave because "you're not making sense" and "you're making a scene" and "running a coffee blog won't make me go out with you."
9. How else did you eat the cheese? Other than with coffee? I made a grilled cheese sandwich with both cheddar and bread cheese. I also tried frying up cubes of it until they were a bit crunchy on the outside and melty on the inside, then dipping them in honey or maple syrup. Both were great. I've got a bit left; can't decide if I should try more stuff with coffee or something completely different. If you've got any suggestions I'm all ears. Eyes. Whatever.
9. Would you recommend the Carr Valley Cheese to Hot Dish readers? Hell yes. If bread cheese is commonly available in Minneapolis, then they have been given a special gift that most of the world will never experience. Treasure that. It's seriously delicious, whether it's dipped or plopped or baked into the coffee.
10. Where do you go from here? What are some upcoming items about to be placed in your coffee? I'd like to try a few different types of cheese now. Cheddar is obviously on the list. A reader also suggested something called "rat cheese," which is cheese that has never been refrigerated and has a black rind. I can't find any more information about it, but if I can track some down, it sounds gross enough that it just might work.
Someone else suggested blackstrap molasses. I had a traumatic experience with molasses as a child, plus it has the word "asses" in it, but I may have to get over these issues if I'm to keep pushing myself.
By the way, these suggestions always come with the disclaimer that "my grandpa used to do this." Either people used to be less picky about coffee, or other coffee adventurers are embarrassed about their habits.