Savory cheesecakes are a thing. Here are two to try now

The blue cheesecake from Marina restaurant in Pasadena.
The blue cheesecake from Marina restaurant in Pasadena.
(Marina Pasadena)
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If there’s a cheesecake on the menu, I’m ordering it. I appreciate New York-style, Italian-style, the cloudlike wedges at Yangban Society and the frozen “deli-style” ones that come in the blue box at Trader Joe’s. I don’t discriminate when it comes to baked cheese tarts.

And lately, I’ve been seeing cheesecakes made with cheeses you’re likely to find in the glass display case of a cheese shop. If you know where to look, you can enjoy cakes made with Gorgonzola or even Comté. There’s a feta cake at the Ruby Fruit in Silver Lake that I’ve got my eye on too. If you try it before I get there, let me know what you think. And save me a slice.

Blue cheesecake from Marina

When you near the end of your meal at Marina, an Italian restaurant just off Lake Avenue in Pasadena, your server likely will ask if you have room for dessert. After a puffy round of blistered flatbread accompanied by za’atar-dusted labneh, a bowl of seafood linguine tinged yellow with saffron broth, a Caesar salad with house-cured pancetta bacon bits and a white pizza painted with truffle béchamel, your answer might be no. But if your response is yes, they‘ll likely ask if you’re a fan of blue cheese.


Blue cheese can be a polarizing block of mold-speckled dairy, sharp, pungent and riddled with blue veins; people tend to either love it or despise it.

Owner Nader Kaiser loves it. So much so that he serves a blue cheesecake.

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“I’m actually surprised by how many people order it,” he said with a laugh after a recent dinner. “We go through at least one full cheesecake every day.”

The batter is a precise combination of Gorgonzola cheese, cream cheese, ricotta and sour cream, baked over a buttery graham cracker crust.

It has both the rich density of a New York-style cheesecake and the delicateness of a torta di ricotta. The texture is rich and velvety throughout with a slightly firmer edge at the back that you can sink your fork into.

Though the blue cheese isn’t visible, there’s no masking the Gorgonzola, with an ever-present but faint whisper of the cheese’s signature barnyard funk. Like an echo overheard in the next room, it’s there, but just barely.

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The slice is decorated with a jam or jelly made from whatever fruit is in season. Recently, it was tart kumquats.


It’s a dessert that may bridge the gap between the blue cheese lovers and haters. Something mild enough to appeal to the people who order ranch dressing instead of blue cheese with their chicken wings, however misguided they may be in that particular decision.

Comté cheesecake from Bicyclette

A small round Comté cheesecake topped with cherries from Bicyclette restaurant in Los Angeles.
The Comté cheesecake from Bicyclette in Los Angeles.
(Jenn Harris / Los Angeles Times)

My favorite seats at Bicyclette, Margarita and Walter Manzke‘s French restaurant in Pico-Robertson, are the two at the end of the bar. The ones within sniffing distance of the open kitchen, a mere arm’s length from the day’s dessert offerings, behind the wooden block where the baguettes are sliced, close enough to hear the satisfying soundtrack of bread cracking throughout dinner.

On a recent evening, opposite wheels of strawberry tarts, were petite rounds of Comté cheesecake.

“Comté is one of the cheeses we use a lot of,” Margarita said during a recent call. “I thought, let’s just make a Comté cheesecake.”

The dessert is Margarita’s take on a Basque cheesecake, something she also makes on occasion. It’s a style of cheesecake I first encountered in Los Angeles at Dave Beran‘s now-closed Dialogue restaurant in Santa Monica. He sold whole Basque cheesecakes during the pandemic to continue providing healthcare for his staff. Now, the burnt-top, crustless cheesecakes are everywhere.


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“Everybody loves it and everybody seems to be making it, but obviously we are a French bistro,” Margarita said. “So we put our French twist on it with the Comté.”

If you’re unfamiliar, Comté is a semi-hard, unpasteurized cow’s milk cheese that ages while absorbing moisture in the dark caves of the Massif du Jura mountains in eastern France. The cheese often tastes of brown butter and toasted nuts. I typically enjoy it by the hunk, unadorned.

Margarita makes a batter similar to her Basque cheesecake but substitutes some of the traditional cream cheese with Comté. Not wanting the cheese to get lost, she folds in grated Comté as well.

The dessert is baked in 4-inch ramekins until the middle just starts to hold together. Unlike the other Basque cheesecakes you’re likely to find around town, their tops black and surrounded by scorched parchment paper, Margarita’s tarts are a pale golden color.

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The palm-sized round is both marvelous and confusing, a dead ringer for good, soft, washed-rind cheese. It’s firm around the edges with a creamy center that’s almost oozing. The cheesecake leans savory, almost smoky. The buttery, fruity flavors of the Comté manage to come across without any real sweetness.

Alone, it would be a standout addition to any cheese board.


Under a heap of cherries soaked in simple syrup, a little citric acid and the leftover syrup from the finished jars of Luxardo cherries at the bar, I guess I’ll call it dessert.

Where to get savory cheesecake

Marina, 841 Cordova St., Pasadena, (626) 714-7228,

Bicyclette, 9575 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, (424) 500-9575,