Cheese is a personal passion of mine. Melted on a sandwich, coating macaroni, crumbled on a salad or cubed with crackers and paired with a dry wine –– there’s really no way to mess it up. One of my favorite forms of cheese to consume is melted in a bowl, accompanied by a nice, crisp tortilla chip. Queso is the nectar of the dairy gods, if you ask me.
It’s safe to say queso is having a moment right now. Chipotle unveiled its highly anticipated queso this month — a new recipe with no preservatives, additives or GMOs. The queso was poorly received by the public, and Chipotle’s company stock value fell as a result –– a good lesson to never underestimate the power of cheese.
Fortunately, you don’t have to go all the way to Bakersfield or Condado to procure decent queso (Bakersfield’s is better than Condado’s, please feel free to fight me on this.). There are several eateries within the campus region of High Street that offer an array of quesos on their menu.
Because I enjoy a good cheese challenge, I wholeheartedly participated in a blindfolded taste-test of queso from Moe’s, Qdoba and Chipotle, High Street’s three fast-casual burrito titans. With queso being the trend right now, I thought it was time I weighed in on the debate.
Let me first preface this whole thing by identifying myself as a Chipotle loyalist. I’ve never stepped foot in a Moe’s or Qdoba because I am a creature of habit, and if I already know exactly how I like my burrito at Chipotle, why spend time fixing something that is not broken?
It has never bothered me that Chipotle hasn’t served queso because they go above and beyond with the heavenly delicacy that is their sour cream. I could eat it for every meal and also bathe in it and would not be opposed to baptizing my firstborn child in it.
To eliminate any bias, we used a neutral grocery store tortilla chip for all three quesos, and thanks to the blindfold, I had no idea what I was eating.
This queso was thick and creamy, flavorful without being too spicy. The kind of queso you can devour without even realizing the sheer volume you’re consuming until it’s too late and you’ve ruined your appetite and can’t eat the rest of your meal. Does that happen to everyone or is that just my problem?
This queso also had a good flavor, but the texture wasn’t as pleasant. I could tell there were some veggies in there, and I have a strong opinion about that. I’m not eating queso because I want to be healthy. In fact, it’s kind of the opposite of that. If you’re into chunky, vegetable-laden cheese, this is the choice for you. If you’re a queso purist like me and would rather get your vegetable vitamins elsewhere, I would not recommend.
This queso was instantly regrettable from the moment it entered my mouth. I could immediately tell that it was Chipotle’s, because it tasted the way the inside of a Chipotle restaurant smells. I noticed two unpleasant characteristics: the first was that it tasted as though a box of chalk had been ground up into the cheese, which created a distinctly distasteful powdery texture. The second was that it tasted like it was seasoned with whatever Chipotle uses to season its chicken, so the queso had a weirdly meaty flavor. Finally, this queso was also chunky with vegetables, and we’ve already established that I’m aggressively anti-vegetable in regards to queso.
Now, I do realize that I’ve just shredded this cheese (ha) and would like to take a second to talk about its merits. This is definitely the healthiest of the three quesos — there are no additives, preservatives or stabilizers, which help create the creamy, tasty texture I have come to expect in my other favorite quesos. I believe the lack of these unhealthy ingredients cause the grainy texture in Chipotle’s queso, so I guess this means you just have to pick your battle.
The identities of the quesos are as follows: queso No. 1 was Moe’s, queso No. 2 was Qdoba and queso No. 3 was Chipotle. To me, the clear winner was Moe’s. Qdoba’s wasn’t bad; Chipotle’s was terrible. I chose Moe’s for several reasons: the creamy, smooth texture was wonderful, and an added bonus is that it’s the cheapest of the three options, and Moe’s orders come with free chips. What’s not to love?
Like I said, Qdoba’s was good, especially if you’re into vegetables. As for Chipotle, I didn’t leave it during its E. coli crisis and I’m not going to leave them because they made a crappy queso.