World Cheese Dip Championship set for Saturday in Fayetteville, Ark.
BY JASON ASHLEY WRIGHT World Scene Writer
Sunday, April 29, 2012
4/29/12 at 4:57 AM
Nick Rogers knows cheese dip better than the average snacker.
"I don't know how to explain the appeal of cheese dip any better than I could explain popcorn, candy bars or ice cream. It's just good," said Rogers, an attorney in Little Rock, Ark.
So good, in fact, it prompted him to do quite a bit of research, which led to his 2009 documentary, "In Queso Fever: A Movie About Cheese Dip." That video went viral, and someone eventually contacted him about doing a festival centered around cheese dip: the World Cheese Dip Championship, with the inaugural event held in 2010.
Before the third annual event in Little Rock this fall, cheese dip aficionados can compete in the first annual Sip & Dip on Saturday at the Washington County Fairgrounds, 2536 N. McConnell Road, in Fayetteville, Ark.
A partnership between the Northwest Arkansas Cheese Dip Classic and the Fayetteville Foam Fest, "Fayetteville Sip & Dip" will feature the region's first cheese dip competition, as well as a large-scale beer sampling festival. Live music, children's activities, and food and beverage booths will also be offered.
The public will join local celebrities, food critics and political dignitaries to pick the cheese dip that will best represent Northwest Arkansas at the third annual World Cheese Dip Championship.
In the thick of things will be Rogers, who found through his research that cheese dip as many of us know it was introduced to the world and restaurant menus in 1935 by Blackie Donnelly, an Arkansas restaurateur and owner of Mexico Chiquito.
That led to the documentary, which event maestro John McClure saw and decided to contact Rogers.
"There's a cheese dip culture here," said McClure, festival director of the Cheese Dip Classic.
Apparently, some folks are "shocked" that cheese dip started in Arkansas, McClure said. No one has discounted Rogers' claim since his documentary came out.
"You'd be surprised how many people don't even know what cheese dip is," said McClure, who's attended food shows and talked with cheese manufacturers in Wisconsin - Wisconsin, for crying out loud! - and they had no clue what he meant, wondering if he was talking about fondue.
Growing up in Arkansas, Rogers thought cheese dip was as common a snack food as popcorn.
"I assumed it was the same way everywhere else," said Rogers, who moved out of state after high school and quickly realized not many folks even knew what cheese dip was. His friends at law school in St. Louis had never tried it.
Maybe it's a Southern thing, as folks below the Mason-Dixon are "big on communal eating rituals," Rogers said. And cheese dip feeds that.
"When it's runny and eaten with chips, no one can stray too far from the bowl or else you'll spill on the carpet and your shirt," he said.
And everyone thought he or she had the best dip, said McClure, who also grew up in Arkansas.
"I was indoctrinated young, going to Razorback football games and tailgating as a child. Everyone brought cheese dip," he remembered.
In the two years they've put on the World Cheese Dip Championship, the festival has seen 60 different dips.
"That's the great thing about cheese dips - they're so versatile," McClure said. "It's gone way beyond Velveeta and RoTel. I think it's the ultimate comfort food. You get a good cheese dip, it's hard to take one bite."
Rogers' dip usually consists of Velveeta, RoTel, cumin and chili powder, he said.
"If I'm feeling fancy, I might start with a roux of milk, butter and flour, and then use real cheese instead of Velveeta," he said - it's difficult to get real cheese to melt evenly without the roux.
"People generally assume that because I now know so much about cheese dip, that I'm an expert at making it," Rogers said. "But any expertise I have comes from eating everyone else's stuff."
So here are a couple we like.
BACON CHEESE DIP
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 cup grated raclette or sharp Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup pepper jelly, melted
7 buttery crackers, crushed
8 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled
1. Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease an 8-inch square baking dish, and set aside.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the cream cheese, raclette, mayonnaise, onions and jelly. Transfer to the prepared baking dish.
3. Top with the crushed crackers and crumbled bacon. Bake 15 minutes. Serve warm with crackers.
- courtesy of "The Complete Southern Cookbook"
AVOCADO GOAT CHEESE DIP
Makes 2-3 cups
1 package whole-wheat pita chips (cut into 6 triangles each)
3 ripe avocados, peeled, pitted and cut into chunks
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt (plus more, if needed)
3 tablespoons lime juice
4 ounces cream cheese
4 ounces goat cheese
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Spread pita triangles on a sheet tray. Bake in the oven until crisp and slightly toasted. Chips will need to be rotated twice while baking.
3. In a bowl, combine avocados, garlic, cumin and salt. Use an electric hand mixer to mix ingredients together. Add lime juice, cream cheese and goat cheese, pulsing until smooth and blended well. Add a bit more salt, if necessary.
- courtesy of Libbie Summers, FoodNetwork.com
2012 Cheese Dip Classic
Fayetteville Sip & Dip includes the Northwest Arkansas Cheese Dip Classic and the Fayetteville Foamfest, 2-6 p.m. and 5-9 p.m. respectively, on Saturday at the Washington County Fairgrounds in Fayetteville, Ark.
The Cheese Dip Classic will be divided into amateur and professional divisions, with winners receiving cash prizes, as well as trophies created by a local artist.
The pro-division winner will also receive free entry into the World Cheese Dip Championship and hotel accommodations for that weekend.
Proceeds from the Cheese Dip Classic will benefit the Single Parent Scholarship Fund of Northwest Arkansas, whose mission is to create brighter futures for single-parent families by offering encouragement and access to higher education through community supported efforts.
Foam Fest proceeds will benefit Feed Fayetteville, a local nonprofit that aims to alleviate hunger through the cultivation of a local, sustainable food network.
Admission to the Cheese Dip Classic is $10, and tickets for the Fayetteville Foam Fest are $30. Entrance tickets for both events can be purchased together for $35.
For more information, visit tulsaworld.com/cheesedip
SIP & DIP
What: Northwest Arkansas
Cheese Dip Classic and
Foam Fest beer-sampling
When: Classic, 2-6 p.m.;
Foam Fest, 5-9 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Washington County
Fairgrounds, 2536 N. McConnell
Road, Fayetteville, Ark.
Tickets: $10 for classic, $30
for Foam Fest, $35 for both.
For more: tulsaworld.com/inquesofever
Original Print Headline: Queso de Mayo
Jason Ashley Wright 918-581-8483
A vendor serves his entry in a past World Cheese Dip Championship in Little Rock, Ark. The inaugural Northwest Arkansas Cheese Dip Classic, a precursor to this fall's world championship, is part of the Fayetteville Sip & Dip on Saturday in Fayetteville, Ark. Courtesy