Vermont may remain my favorite food and beverage state, but man does Wisconsin give it a run for its money in the dairy department. I’d been to the mecca of cheeseheads before but only to visit my friend’s family lake home on the eastern Lake Michigan coastline, so the rest of the state has been new for me and yum yum yummy. My first cheesy stop was Marieke Gouda in Thorpe, which was my favorite cheesemaking stop of the Badger State. I could peek in and see the cows being milked, visit the little sweet calves (I had to google whether the multiple of calf was calves or calfs and hope it didn’t lie to me), see into the cheesemaking workroom through a glass panel, and feel like I was right in the process of making these delicious treats. Plus the little barn kitten came to beg for food from every diner outside and snuggled with me hoping for breakfast crumbs. Such a cutie. I got a couple of little leftover ‘orphans’- the teensy bits cut off from larger packaging, and a regular sized gouda wedge of a blend of ‘stinging’ plants like nettles, which all were super good of what I’ve tasted. Way to go, rare award winning female cheesemaker!
My second stop was in the town of Colby, which is where Swiss cheese was invented- just kidding, obvi Colby cheese is from here. I attempted to go to the original Colby cheese factory, which I drove by, but didn’t see a storefront? Alas. In town, however, I stopped by a shop featuring local cheeses where I picked up a Colby, some fresh curds (squeaky happiness!), and wonderful ice cream. Every time I eat a large amount of ice cream it makes me so happy in the immediate moment and so yucky for hours after because I so rarely consume fresh milk. One day I’ll grow up enough to just avoid but….
A little further on another day I stopped by New Glarus, an adorable Swiss-heritage town, where I of course got some Swiss-style cheese, and then in Monroe picked up some award winning Emmi Roth cheeses, and had dinner at a little cafe where the specialty is a stinky Limburger sandwich on dark bread with mustard and onions. Perhaps this would be a good test for engaged couples- go eat the stinkiest meal and see if you’re still able to stand one another in the morning without plugging your nose. It even comes with a mint! All kidding aside, it tasted pretty decent. The shop, Baumgartner’s, claims to be the state’s oldest cheese store.
My final big cheese stop was in Madison, where I picked up some cheese bread from Carr Bros. along with a few orphan bits, but the main event was an upscale artisanal cheese shop called Fromagination where they offer an assortment of fancy, expensive cheeses of which I bought many teensy bits. This is really the way to go to sample a lot of nice cheese, invest in the smallest possible amount to get a half dozen crackers worth of a $30/lb selection for a price I don’t run away from! Plus some of these hipster cheeses have funny names, like Goat Malone (named after the animal and town, but reminds me of the face tattoo guy), and one made of a mix of sheep, goat and cow called Ewe Calf to be Kidding Me. I got some fun Mozzarella from Cave, and a bunch of recommended and award winning little bits of some bleu cheeses, hard cheeses, and randomness.
My cooler is still about 1/3 full of cheese packages despite me eating a lot already. I made some great feta salad, a few caprese-style sandwiches, and some stellar cheese plates, snacks and meals with what I’ve tasted so far. All super delicious! Lucky for me I don’t often have access to a scale because, yikes.