No one really needs an additional reason to eat cheese. It’s amazing on pasta, pizza, and burgers, in sandwiches, eggs, and tacos, and the list goes on. But what about more sweet dishes? Like coffee or ice cream?
Some think of the salty, fatty, sometimes stringy texture and wince at the thought of melty cheese somehow making it inside or on top of their sweet meal finisher. But it’s not so far-fetched.
Arguably the mind-opening gateway to cheesy dessert for many people, cream cheese makes it into some of the best sweet stuff, like cheesecakes and frostings. Mascarpone — cream cheese’s fattier, more acidic Italian cheese sister — is often paired perfectly with berries; goat cheese is phenomenal with honey; and charcuterie boards typically aren’t complete without a fruit or sweet jam component, proving that there’s a perfect time, place, or pairing for everything.
Though I’ve yet warmed up to the idea of cheddar on apple pie, I won’t turn my nose up at it either (I do, however, happily indulge in thick slabs of cheddar and crackers with a smother of strawberry preserves — a habit my mom formed long before either of us ever knew what a charcuterie board was). What I do know, though, is that there are several Houston restaurants incorporating cheese into their dulce menus in creative ways — some of them fueled by social media, and others just because cheese in dessert can be damn good.
Here are five of Houston’s cheesiest desserts that fromage lovers — and even the haters (so long as you’re not severely lactose intolerant) — can enjoy:
Parmesan espresso martini by Betelgeuse Betelgeuse
Fueled by a Tik Tok trend, the parmesan espresso martini made with real parmesan has made it to Houston’s pizza and cocktail bar, Betelgeuse Betelgeuse. In the words of the guy next to me at the bar, who ordered a pickle-tini (pickle juice and vodka, everyone): “Coffee and cheese? That’s weird.”
But is it, really? Technically just aged milk, cheese has been used as a cream alternative in places like Colombia and Scandinavia for years. According to a Betelgeuse bartender, the bar mixes a concoction of milk and half and half and loads of parmesan cheese, bringing it to a temperature that allows the cheese to melt. Bartenders then stir the cheesy concoction into a creamy consistency before chilling it. Later, they pump the parmesan liquid with CO2, carbonating it into the foamy, salty, cheesy goodness that floats atop the espresso martini.
No surprise, seeing as how Houston loves their espresso martinis, but this drink is a bestseller at Betelgeuse Betelgeuse. Though the parm espresso martini hasn’t quite caught on yet at other establishments, new French restaurant PS-21 does sprinkle a hint of cheese in its re-imagination of the espresso martini. As an ode to Veracruz, Mexico, this vodka-based espresso martini is laden with mole spices, brandy, and a sprinkle of cotija cheese.
Cacio e pepe ice cream from Craft Creamery
Craft Creamery chef Steve Marques has been known to experiment with lots of unlikely savory ingredients in his ice creams — pho broth, hatch chiles, and smoked brisket being just a few — so in comparison, mixing a little pecorino cheese and pepper into ice cream doesn’t sound as obscure. The first time I tried this ice cream was with a friend who had absolutely no idea what cacio e pepe was, so there were no qualms when presented with the idea of trying it. Guess what? He loved it. Now, it’s one of my favorite flavors at Craft, too — an uber-rich and creamy combination, with just enough saltiness and a nice punch of pepper.
Parmesan cheesecake from Nancy’s Hustle
Crafted mostly from parmesan, this latest dessert from Nancy’s Hustle is worth a try. Served sans crust, the cheesecake gives literal cacio e pepe vibes, with a light and airy base that’s drizzled in a black pepper honey. A server compared it to ending dinner with a top-notch cheese board, which can be credited to the fact that it has just a hint of sweetness.
Cinnamon rolls from Luloo’s Day and Night
Given the little convincing most people need to eat cream cheese in dessert, this one almost feels like cheating, but the cinnamon rolls from Luloo’s Day & Night were too good not to include. With a cinnamon-y and sugary inside and a spiral of cream cheese on top, these should not be limited to dessert and can be enjoyed morning, noon, or night. Pastry owner Alyssa Dole stresses that the cream cheese truly is the driving force of this delicious pastry and what makes most cinnamon rolls so addicting.
Opt for the large-sized cinnamon buns or the cute miniature ones, and if you’re dining in and get there some time after a batch was made, don’t be afraid to ask someone from Luloo’s to warm them up. Dole agrees — they’re even better when they’re warm and gooey.
Mascarpone with berries popsicle from Popston
Houston native Jonathan Delgado has created a paleta shop that has mastered delicious popsicle flavors, ranging from mangonada Tajín and fresh watermelon to blueberry mojito. The mascarpone with berries popsicle, more of a smooth gelato texture, came as a pleasant surprise to me when sampling his popsicles one day, but served as a perfect and light, handheld treat. So when in search of something ever-so-slightly different than ice cream, and certainly cheesy, try this.