Franciscan friars living around Monterey California first crafted a mild white cheese in the 19th century. Fame arrived when Scottish real estate tycoon and dairy-owner David Jack started marketing his own version of their recipe, first under the name “Jack’s Cheese” and later as “Monterey Jack”.
During prohibition Gaetano (Tom) Vella and his wife Zolita converted an old brewery into an artisan cheese company. Vella‘s Dry Aged Jack became a local treasure prized for its sweet-nutty character and a rind with notes of black pepper and unsweetened cocoa.
Amazingly palate-stimulating the dry cheese is just great when roughly sliced on a dense toasted roll that’s been generously apportioned with avocado slices and fig jam. A California alternative to Parmigiano-Reggiano, it can also help elevate a variety of pasta dishes where it offers its own local profile of sharp, clean, nutty, earthy salinity.