There is a cheese, widespread throughout the United States, called Monterey Jack. In most forms, it's kind of an "eh" variety, prone to bland commercial production, occasionally spiced up with some equally dull jalapeños in the paste.
Then there is the Vella Cheese Company's Dry Monterey Jack. It's something entirely different.
Complex, sophisticated, original, Dry Jack is wondrous. The great cheese writer Steve Jenkins lists it as one of his favorites of all cheeses, and I cannot really disagree.
Sonoma-based Vella, a longtime presence on the California cheesemaking scene, produces a few of the better versions of Jack, soft, buttery varieties. But the line of dried Jack is where the company really shines.
To make it, they age normal Jack for nearly a year, during which time it becomes dry and almost powdery, like Parmigiano. The cheese also acquires a depth of flavor that is simply impossible to attain in a younger cheese.
Dry Jack is pale yellow in color, with a taste that roams from sweet to nutty in a single nibble. Like Parmigiano, it's especially good as a grating cheese, used to enhance the flavor of other dishes. But you can also slice it very thin and include it in a cheese plate.