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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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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Cheese Lovers Paradise FOUND!

 

I LOVE WI CheeseAs the next stop on our cheese ventures, we recently traveled to Cedar Valley Cheese Store and Factory, located in Belgium, Wisconsin.  I was a little apprehensive, since the first cheese store we visited was much smaller and more quaint, while still making VERY delicious cheese.  This was in stark contrast to the factory feel that we saw here:

Cedar Valley Cheese Factory

I posed by their sign for fun, since Daddy O. had done the honors in our last cheese store visit. Here’s the big sign just across from the towers in the parking lot:

Cedar Valley Cheese StoreWho knew that their specialty was fine Italian cheese?  This made me feel better – reassured, actually.  Plus there were A LOT of people going inside of the store on this crisp Fall Saturday morning.  Let’s see what they have…

Cheese galore at Cedar Valley Cheese Store

We discovered CHEESE PARADISE!!  They had varieties from other Wisconsin cheesemakers, their own unique cheeses, HUGE wax covered wheels of cheese, and plenty of samples.  AMAZING!! We had a hard time deciding what to choose, so we started off with some samples of blueberry cobbler cheddar (yum), maple syrup cheddar (kind of a breakfast cheese), cranberry cinnamon cheddar (very festive), smoked gouda (so good-a), cherry infused cheese (mild tasting), and caramel cheese (dessert)!   Ultimately, we opted to stick with Cedar Valley Cheese, buying a 6 Year Old Cheddar, Applewood smoked cheddar, and ranch flavored cheese curds.

Sampling Cedar Valley Cheese CurdsDelicious Cedar Valley Cheese Curds

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see, the ranch cheese curds were a hit.  We had to sample them in the car instead of waiting to eat them at home.  The cheese was protected on the ride home as my husband put it in our son’s carseat.  What a guy!  We tried the 6 Year Cheddar that night, and we gave it a 4.5 out of 5. From what our taste buds could recall, and with the help of our cheese tasting book, the Nasonville 6 Year Cheddar was a 5 out of 5.  Until the next cheese stop on our map, we have a well stocked supply to enjoy.