Emporium Selection Halloumi-Style Cheese Fries (Aldi)

A package of Emporium Selection Halloumi-Style Cheese Fries, from Aldi
I'm still not entirely sure what to think about these...

Emporium Selection Cheese Fries are the one product that got my mouth watering every single time I saw them sitting on an Aldi shelf. However I never pulled a trigger on buying them for various reasons: one time they were sold out, another time they were too expensive, and a third time our Instacart shopper couldn't find them.

Well, we went the next day to do some supplemental shopping and lo and behold we found them sitting on the shelf where they always are. Was our instacart shopper just blind? Uncommitted? Or did they happen to restock the shelves in the 24-hour period between when she went shopping and when we went shopping? I guess it doesn't matter, but it's just another perfectly valid reason to hate Instacart.

Anyway, my wife unanimously supported my decision to get these. We weren't really sure what to expect: I mean obviously cheese in a fry shaped form, but we expected them to also have some type of breading over them. Curiously these are literally just fry shaped pieces of cheese that you throw on the stove top to fry up. That means it's a terrifying experience akin to pan-frying bacon, as the oil spits and sputters all over the place, threatening to come in contact with your skin at any given time. My wife was a little disappointed that she had to make them that way, as we expected to just shove them in the oven and be done with it.

These are...interesting. I've had them over the span of 2 days and I'm still not even sure if I like them or not. Once cooked there is a layer of crispiness that settles around the exterior of the fry giving it a somewhat similar texture as if they were breaded. They cook up nice and brown and are kind of reminiscent in appearance to “beer-battered” products. At some points they reminded me of a much more upper-class version of Whisps, those little dried bits of fried cheese that you put on salads (or, if you’re like me, eat directly out of the bag). 

The flavor is really kind of ho-hum, at least on its own. These could have benefited from some dipping sauce, which really would have taken them to the next level, but we didn't happen to have any serviceable ones on hand. (We also discussed what sauce would even be appropriate to dip these in; we decided ranch would be fine, as well as possibly a marinara.) Even though these are just slabs of cheese, I really expected there to be a more complex flavor, especially given the price. And there was a lot of variance in the sizes of the chunks: while I do appreciate that (it’s a nice touch that resembles something “homemade” moreso than something factory-produced), there were a ton of teeny little bits that were way too small to be considered a “fry”. 

I’m not sure if my wife overcooked them, but all those little bits got extra crispy in the oven, and as it turns out, they were my favorite ones of the batch. At some points they reminded me of a much more upper-class version of Whisps, those little dried bits of fried cheese that you put on salads (or, if you’re like me, eat directly out of the bag). The larger pieces, though, that had more in common with a cheese stick than a fry, were just kind of boring. I was hoping for some seasoning, or spice, or something on them to help liven them up on their own, but there’s none of that to be found. 

Even despite all this, I will admit that these are similar to an appetizer you would get at a restaurant and pay upwards of $10 for. The quality of the product does appear to be rather high, from the look of its packaging, and even on down to the “Emporium Selection” title, which truly does sound like a distinguished brand, rather than an Aldi private label moniker. They have the appearance down, but the execution - at least in my opinion, and given the price - left a lot to be desired. 

I will also admit that, in a fit of hunger, I downed the remaining fries the next day. They almost seemed to taste even better after sitting out all night (which I probably shouldn’t have done considering cheese is pretty much entirely all dairy), but I have a feeling that was more my rumbling stomach doing the talking. 

With some modifications, I think these could cross the threshold into “great” territory, as these are a good “base” product that virtually begs to be experimented with. But right out of the packaging, they’re a rather interesting, mostly disappointing experience that could have - and probably should have - been a whole lot better.

Overall: 5.5/10. I’m still a little torn on what I think of these…which is usually a sign that they’re not very good. There’s a large variance in the shape and size of each one, which is a nice touch, but that means there are a ton of teeny ones that get burnt in the oven, and don’t resemble a “fry” at all. Surprisingly, these were my favorite ones, giving off a flavor akin to Whisps, those salad-topping bits of fried cheese that I’m addicted to. However, the larger ones - the ones with more of the cheese that you’re paying for - are just kind of ho-hum, with a neutral flavor that just isn’t exciting in any way. With some experimentation (dipping sauce, spices, etc.) these could be excellent, but right out of the packaging we were a little disappointed, especially when taking the price ($3.49 per 8 oz. package) into consideration. 

 

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