Fresh & Flavorful Straight from the Cheese Maker

I have had this post sitting as a draft for sometime now, and I’m FINALLY going to put some meat on it’s outline bones it and push it out of the nest to fly into the wide wide web world.

Writing this post reminds me of a blogging friend – the Do Gooder Mama – someone whose awesome blog hasn’t had much to say as of late.  I hope all is well with her and am including links to her blog for you to enjoy.

One of her posts Shop Small. Buy Local. Do Good. helps explain my reasons for buying cheese straight from the factory as part of our Cheese Ventures across this beautiful state of Wisconsin.  Some of my loved ones who shall remain nameless have yet to understand my cheese obsession. With our latest visit to Cady Cheese, I realized that it is simply enjoying the BEST quality food straight from the manufacturer, while taking short, delicious breaks on our family road trips.

If you’re ever along Highway 94 past Eau Claire and heading towards Minnesota, I would highly recommend a short jaunt to Cady Cheese.  Just follow the yellow brick road to the front of the store past the lovely landscaping.  We were greeted by several friendly and knowledgeable employees, who offered us samples (YES)!  We enjoyed freshly made colby cheese that squeaked as we chewed it. Amazing! And to think that I assumed only fresh cheese curds could squeak! We settled on three cheese: Golden Jack (picked by my 3 year old), 6 yr old Cheddar, and roasted tomato monterrey jack.  Pairing these cheeses with Capital beer – also purchased along our road trip – made for a delectable combination of Wisconsin’s finest for our dear Minnesota friends.

The Benefits of Shopping Small

Recently I’ve been noticing a remarkable difference in the quality of food purchased locally instead of from the supermarket. We’ve picked and purchased apples from farmers and have enjoyed a lot of produce from our local farmer’s market.  Food just seems to last longer and taste better.

Case in point – Daddy O. critiqued an asparagus and tomato side dish I made using grocery store produce, saying the tomatoes lacked flavor.  And sure enough, a farmer at our market explained to us that tomatoes you buy in the store are typically picked when still green, leaving them to ripen during transportation. The longer they stay on the vine, the more they develop their flavor.  (We’re hoping our tomatoes will ripen before the frost comes, so they’ll taste better!)

A few stats from Do-Gooder Mama’s post from E-Local:

– Throughout the United States, only about 33.6% of the revenue from national chains is reinvested into the community, which is very low compared to the 64.8% return from local businesses. (2009)

– If the people of an average American city were to shift 10% of their spending from chains to local businesses, it would bring an additional $235 million per year to the community’s economy.

In addition to great taste, the economic benefits are truly felt in your own community.  Being employed by a small business myself, I plan on shifting some of my buying to local stores – especially to all of the amazing cheese factories!

Have you frequented farmer’s markets or bought straight from the producer / cheese maker?  How do you support small business?

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Fresh Cheese – Squeaky Good!

I haven’t been blogging as much – nor visiting many cheese factories lately – as I, like so many other people, am trying to squeeze out all the fun I can from summer!  It HAS been fun and busy for sure.  Here’s one of our adventures that I had yet to record.

Earlier this summer, I took the kids on a road trip to meet a dear friend and her child at a farm.  This place is awesome as you can go in the pens with the animals.  We were catching chickens, feeding goats, meeting pigs, riding ponies, and petting the many farm kitties. It was a blast!  My friend & I also made our debut appearance as goat herders, catching a stray goat and directing it back into the pen.  Besides the goats who tried eating our shoes, they were quite adorable!  See my daughter feeding them below:feeding the goatsMy son wasn’t so much into the animals and just wanted to be held or sit on the antique tractor.  I did get a picture of him in these cute wagons though. playing in a wagonNeedless to say that excursion wore my kids out, so while they snoozed in the car on the ride back, I sought out a cheese factory along our drive. I briefly stopped at Baker’s Cheese – a place that my relatives rave about.  We were already big fans of their smoked string cheese, so I knew the store would have some more cheese-awesomeness.

ker's Cheese Factory StoreWhile they don’t have the best cheese billboard ever, they have a small, quaint shop with delicious string cheese and several other varieties. Here’s what I bought: aged cheddar cheese, smoked string cheese bites (it wasn’t the correct weight, so they put a “we goofed” sticker on it), and FRESH string cheese.

Fresh String Cheese, Smoked String Cheese, andAged Cheddar I think everyone in Wisconsin knows that when cheese is fresh it SQUEAKS!  This string cheese was squeaky good.  I only hope everyone can experience eating cheese fresh from the factory like I did! AMAZING!  We continue to buy the smoked string cheese from the grocery store, but I still long to go back to the factory for another supply of the fresh, squeaky stuff.

 

Cheese Taste Testing: Does 1 Year Matter?

Back in March when we went up to Door County, Wisconsin for a weekend sans children, we picked up some cheese to bring home and sample like any reasonable cheese lover would do.  While we didn’t stop at the cheese making location, we snatched up this beauty: a 5 Year Aged Sharp Cheddar made by Renard’s Cheese and a White Cheddar Cherry Cheese from Lautenbach’s Orchard Country Winery & Market.  This is an amazing market store with cherry flavored anything you can dream up (wine, salsa, olive oil, cheese, cider, jam, spread mix, soups, desserts). While I’m not a fruit-wine fan, we steered clear of the wine tasting area and honed in on the refrigerated section.

Renard's 5 year cheddar

Renard’s Cheese: 5 year cheddar

White Cherry Cheddar

Maple Leaf Cheese: White Cherry Cheddar

Now I realize it is now May June and cheese purchased in March just does not last long in our house (more on that later though). We tasted the 5 year cheddar and took notes in our handy cheese tasting guide (nerdy – yes, but effective record keeping).

It was creamy, tangy, and smooth, and not as crumbly as a 6 year Cheddar. We thought it would pair well with a bottle of MacMurray Pinot Noir. Oh, and most importantly my son liked it too.

Maybe 5 year Cheddars deserve some more love. I think I will have to just taste more to find out for sure.

Happy cheese eating!

Best Cheese Billboard EVER!

I have felt like a bad blogger / commenter lately!  Last week I had the super bug of all daycare germs – no fun.  And I’ve been so tired at night after the kids go to bed.  Whine…whine…I know! Meanwhile I have lists of ideas for blog posts stacking up.  Quick, while the motivation is still with me, I’m going to attempt to complete this post!

We recently found greatness in our cheese-ventures! The best cheese billboard EVER at the Colonial Cheese House in Omro, Wisconsin.

Get UR Awesomeness HERE!

As a cheese lover, I don’t think it can be said ANY better than this.

As a proud Wisconsin native (or Sconnie), I love the placement of the cows and ice cream next to the best sign ever. We should all simply embrace the Dairyland and Cheesehead labels and have fun with it!

As a shopper, I was NOT disappointed.  Though this was a cheese distributor and not a cheesemaker, where we typically try to buy cheese for our own Cheddar Off, they offered a wide variety of cheeses among other Wisconsin specialties: fish fry, sausage, etc.  We walked away with a smoked cheddar and a vegetable flavored Muenster that was out of this world.  Yet another satisfying ending to another cheese venture!

Happy cheese eating everyone!

Have you come across billboards or signs that really speak to you – like this one did to me?  I’d love to see pictures or hear about it.

 

Savoring a 5 Star Wisconsin Aged Cheddar

What do you do when your children are fast asleep in the car, and you know the 20 minute drive home won’t cut it for a good nap?  Well, if you’re like me and Daddy O., you do what any cheese love would do – grab your cheese map, plug an address into your GPS, and GO DISCOVER ANOTHER WISCONSIN CHEESE!

We traversed some back roads, going over some gentle, mostly snow covered rolling hills to Widmer’s Cheese Cellars in Theresa, Wisconsin. Actually the car time felt sort of like a date with my husband, giving us some quiet, uninterrupted time to catch up and really talk to one another – something that can be difficult to do in the busyness of child-rearing.

English: Looking east at the western welcome s...
Looking east at the western welcome sign for Theresa, Wisconsin. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Widmer’s Cheese Cellar dates back to the 1920’s, started by Swiss immigrant John O. Widmer.  The storefront of the cheese shop includes the crests of the Swiss states – a great first impression to this German speaking girl!  We joined a few other cheese lovers in the small shop, drooling over the many varieties of cheddar, brick, colby, and fresh cheese curds.  After some deliberation, we left with a 6 year aged Cheddar, vegetable colby, and Lagerkaese (foil pack aged brick). Our children practically slept until we reached home, giving us even more quiet and pleasant car time.

The Tasting and Savoring

Finally, we were home and opened our fine dairy finds. We were delighted with the 6 year Cheddar!  It was creamy, buttery, and tangy with a slight crunch that made for all around deliciousness!  We gave it a 5 out of 5 possible stars!  The vegetable colby cheese was a huge hit shredded over scrambled eggs and in sandwiches.

I’m sad to say that the Laegerkaese was a disappointment with a taste that we best captured as the musty basement flavor.  Somehow our son enjoyed eating it, but perhaps his palate is not as developed at 17 months old.

Our Cheese Record

How do we keep track of each of the wonderful 6 year cheddars we have tasted? We were given a great little book from one of the original Cheddar-Off attendees called 33 Pieces of Cheese. It’s a great way to take notes and rate each cheese, detailing each dimension of cheese on the flavor wheel.

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