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QSR Feature
Sacre Bleu, Cheese!

The quarter-pound burger is topped with mild blue cheese crumbles, Applewood-smoked bacon, sautéed onions, creamy steakhouse-style sauce, lettuce, and tomatoes.

Finding the right blue cheese was key to developing the sandwich, and Wendy’s had to work with its supplier to get the right balance, says company spokesman Denny Lynch.

“The profile is not as dramatic as some varieties,” he says. “Blue cheese can be repellant to people, but ours is toned back a little. I’ve had people who say they don’t like blue cheese call this a great cheeseburger. But if you like blue cheese, this also will be on your radar screen, because the cheese is still very flavorful.”

One of the more unusual blue cheese and beef offerings is the Tri-tip and Bleu sandwich at the Red Smoke Grill in Pleasanton, California. Tri-tip is a bottom sirloin sold extensively in California, and it is cooked using the Santa Maria barbecue style, named for the central California coastal town where it became popular.

Owner Jim Painter says his seven-year-old fast-casual restaurant uses Stella brand blue cheese crumbles on the sandwich, along with caramelized onions and horseradish sauce. And it’s not just burgers, chicken, and salads that use blue cheese in the quick-service restaurant industry. Pizza has long employed Gorgonzola as a cheese topping, and at least one small Wisconsin pizza chain offers a blue-cheese pizza.

Glass Nickel Pizza developed the Socre Bleu Pizza, with crumbled blue cheese, Canadian bacon, yellow onions, hard salami, and fresh-diced tomato. Walnuts are added on request.

“It’s been on the menu nine or 10 years, and it’s pretty popular,” says Megan Nicholson, one of the owners. “I think some people are a little wary of the walnuts, but that’s what makes it. When people say they want to try something different, that’s the one I suggest.”

A pizza with Gorgonzola, Granny Smith apples, Applewood-smoked chicken sausage, walnuts, sautéed yellow onions, and house blend cheese is being tested.

Soup is another menu segment for creative chefs to try blue cheese.

The Pumpkin Butternut Squash soup at Souper Jenny, a 10-year-old Atlanta shop, uses Point Reyes blue cheese crumbles to top the dish. In addition to pumpkin and squash, the soup includes onions, garlic, and vegetable stock.

“The Point Reyes variety seems to work best,” owner Jenny Levison says of blue cheese from Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co. in Marin County, California. “It crumbles well and I like the texture. The soup has a savory, creamy flavor, and a little goes a long way.”

At San Francisco Soup Company, the zucchini and blue cheese soup “is an example of how we try to upscale soup,” says Steven Sarver, co-owner of the 11-unit, Bay-area chain.

“Broccoli cheddar soup is known around the country, so we upgraded it with zucchini and blue cheese,” he says. The zucchini is oven-roasted, with some of it diced and some puréed before being added to the soup stock. The blue cheese provides flavor and texture.

Some side dishes even count on blue cheese, including the macaroni and cheese at Boston Market.

“We use three cheeses, and blue cheese is one of them,” says Richard F. Davis, vice president of culinary innovation at the chain headquartered in Golden, Colorado. “Blue cheese is not a huge percentage of the recipe, but it’s enough to make a difference.

About six years ago, The Loop Pizza Grill started serving warm blue cheese potato chips at the chain’s 19 restaurants in the Southeast.

“Because we are counter service, it is hard to serve appetizers,” says Cathy Manzon, director of marketing. “But since it takes up to 15 minutes to cook the entrées, we thought the blue cheese chips would be a possible option for customers.”

Thin potato slices are deep fried and topped immediately with rosemary, thyme, and salt. The Loop’s homemade blue cheese dressing is drizzled on, crumbled blue cheese is added, and the chips are heated before being garnished with thyme, oregano, and parsley.

“They have gone over great,” Manzon says.

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