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Wisconsin Cheese .... amazing

I had a chance week before last to tour a bunch of Wisconsin cheese factories. It was simply amazing. I tasted cheese as good or better than anything i tasted on my tours in france. A must tour for any foodie.

Roth Kaase in Monroe is a great stop. They give some tours, have a computerized smear machine, an unbelievable store, and distribute many of the artisan makers in Monroe. They also employ 5 master cheese makers. Obviously based on the amount of Swiss apprentices there they must be doing something right. Cheese to must try:
Buttemilk Blue -- un beliveable finish ..real smooth
Gruyere -- there signature
Van Gogh -- really great with a hazelnut aftertaste

Chalet in monticello is the last maker of limburger in the United States. If that isn't reason enough their baby swis has won international awards. Lots of german accents in hte long time workers

Crave Bothers in waterloo has the best mozzarella and Marscapone in hte world. 100% organic and they make all their own power. Marcapone so good it ruins you for all others afterwords.

To set up tours go to www.wisdairy.com
Great road trips to see them all.
I think they even have a road trip / tour set up on the site

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  1. The Crave Bros. moxxarella has been my little secret here in St Louis lately! It is the most flavorful mozzarella I have ever had. I was able to pull some fresh on Sat! What a neat thing to do!

    Glad you enjoyed your cheese tour of WI. It's fun, isn't it???

    4 Replies
    1. re: CheesemongersWife

      Crave Brothers has a soft rind-washed cheese called Les Freres which is simply outstanding. It's available occasionally at Kowalski's in the Twin Cities area.

      1. re: CheesemongersWife

        CheesemongersWife,
        Would you be willing to reveal where in St. Louis you purchase the Crave Bros. mozzarella?
        Thanks very much,
        p.j.

          1. re: CheesemongersWife

            Thanks very much. I'll try to get over there on my lunch hour.
            p.j.

      2. I'm no cheese connoisseur, but when I go to Hayward and back, I always stop at the Burnett Cheese Factory on Hwy. 70, just east of Grantsburg.

        They may not be known for gourmet cheese, but their cheese curds and string cheese are phenomenal.

        1. I have some family of close friends who work at Roth Kase, and get to sample their product whenever I visit them. GREAT stuff.

          If you're in Madison, stop at Fromagination, on the Capitol square. Awesome little cheese shop, very Old World feel, cool staff, and a huge selection.

          1. Roth Kases Private Reserve won big at the ACS last year. It's great stuff. I second Burnett Dairy Cooperative. They are also involved in Fenceline Dairy's cheeses, and those are fantastic if you can find them. I think in the TC they may be available at the Farm in the Market at Midtown Global.

            2 Replies
            1. re: cheeseguysgirl

              What kind of cheese is the Private Reserve? And where can you get it?

              I've had the Roth Kaase 10-year old cheddar at a party and it was a revelation. Excellent. I don't think it's that easy to find. Anyone seen that anywhere?

              1. re: karykat

                It's a Gruyere style. You can get it at Lunds/Byerlys and Kowalski's (but not at Surdyk's). I've never heard of a Roth Kaase 10 year cheddar, so I can't tell you where you would find that, sorry!

            2. Then you've got to check out Tony Hook's 12 Year sharp cheddar... it is to die for - smooth, yet crystally. Love the stuff. I first found at the Madison Farmer's Market, and found it at the Milwaukee Public Market last week, but it was either $45.99 or $47.99 a lb! I order it direct from the farm & it seems it's much less than that, even with shipping to California. I've heard the Beverly Hills Cheese Store has it now, but I shudder to think of what their prices would be...

              Now I've got to try that Crave Bros stuff - I'm back in Milwaukee next week - any ideas on where to find - does Sendicks on Oakland have it or the Public Market?

              3 Replies
              1. re: torta basilica

                Their 10 year cheddar is just as delicious, and I would imagine less expensive and more readily available. I say it has the texture of crystalline fudge. Also a good version is Joe Widmer's 8 year cheddar. Harder to find, unless you're near Theresa, WI and go see him.

                1. re: cheeseguysgirl

                  I love that description - crystalline fudge - perfect!!

                  1. re: cheeseguysgirl

                    I tried the 10 year - thank you - you just saved me $13 a lb!! It is very very good - told the ladies at the West Allis Cheese counter at the Milwaukee Public Market about your description of it - they thought that was the best ever too & asked if they could use it... Hope you don't mind, said yes on your behalf :)

                    I bought some of the Menage a Trois goat, sheep & cow's milk cheese & liked that too - unfortunately left it at my MIL's & can't remember the maker.

                    Also got the Crave Bros. Mascarpone from Sendik's - yummmm!!!

                    Have been back there for very sad reasons, but it's amazing how good cheese cheers me up so!

                2. A few other suggestions:

                  The various styles of goat cheese on offer up at Bass Lake Cheese (just north of Hudson) are all worth the drive from Minneapolis/St. Paul, if not Madison.

                  BelGioioso is doing some great things with Italian-style cheeses up near Green Bay -- I particularly recommend the American Grana and the Crescenza-Stracchino, a tart, spreadable, incredibly bright and fresh-tasting incarnation of an Italian classic.

                  SarVecchio (Sartori's aged parm) is a sweet, nutty delight.

                  Some of the best string cheese in the state (it tastes like pure, fresh milk in solid form) is at Union Star Dairy up in Zittau, near Green Bay. More traditional (but excellent) string cheese is at Cedar Grove Cheese, near Milwaukee. Union Star's boutique aged cheddar is also terrific.

                  Don't miss the Gouda (particularly the Dutch Kase aged Gouda) from Madison's Babcock Hall cheese plant. Gary Grossen does an amazing job with it.

                  And there's a lot of good juustolepia (Finnish "bread cheese") out there these days. Worth trying if you haven't yet had it.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: jrnorton23

                    Union Star also has a wide variety of flavored cheeses including a muenster with habenero and a muenster with chipotle.

                    1. re: jlawrence01

                      their muenster with locally hand-harvested hickory nuts is *awesome* (wiping up drool)

                  2. love this stuff lately. if you can find the fenugreek gouda it's to die for:

                    http://www.hollandsfamilycheese.com/i...

                    can be found at a lot of the msp cheese shops incl lunds/byerly's. i'd love to get out to the farm in thorpe wi.

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: soupkitten

                      The family who makes the cheese (Rolf and Marieke Penterman) had an open house a while back that CG and I went to. They were SO nice, giving us a tour of everything-- I'll look for my pictures and try to post some. Their twin daughters are darling little munchkins- Joyce and Luna. They were recruited from Holland by the state of WI to come and make cheese- it's really a great story.

                      1. re: cheeseguysgirl

                        i would *love* to see the farm/dairy pix! all of their cheeses are terrific imo.

                        1. re: soupkitten

                          Here's a link to some pictures of Holland's and Saxon Dairy (in Cleveland, WI). I'll still try for some more later this weekend.

                          http://cheeseguy.com/wigal.htm

                          1. re: cheeseguysgirl

                            thanks very much for the pix. love the "cow massage" picture in particular!

                      2. re: soupkitten

                        They have some fenugreek gouda at Brennan's but I cannot remember if its that brand. Nonetheless that stuff was awesome. I bought a wedge and it was gone in 3 days.

                        1. re: EatWisconsin

                          the cheese is often labeled by its actual name "marieke gouda"--named after the 1st name of the wife of the husband/wife team. holland family farm is just the name of their farm, and i don't remember if it generally appears on the label or not. since the cheese shops generally get whole wheels of the gouda, i think marieke would be the name/brand you'd see. i think it's very likely we're talking about the same cheese though, and it is *awesome* as you say! :)

                          1. re: EatWisconsin

                            Sometimes, if the cheese shop is uber-anal about the spelling (although so few are these days), you may see it as "feonegreek gouda," since that's what the Penterman's sell it as. I guess that's the Dutch spelling of fenugreek, and they still get all their spices from Holland

                        2. Me and DH are huge Wisconsin cheese fans and have made forays to many factories. BUT if you LOVE cheese, please make your way to Cheese Days in Monroe. Every other year in September and THIS IS THE YEAR! www.cheesedays.com Monroe has a population of just under 10,000 people and during the 3 days of Cheese Days over a quarter of a million people are roaming around. We've been twice and would be going this year, but a darn trip to Austria got in the way. But seriously, hit cheese days and you wont' be disappointed. Nicest people in the world, Huber Brewery Blues Fest happens at same time, and don't forget to get your limburger/Braunschweiger sandwich (red onions opitional) at Baumgardner's on the main square. You can spend some of your day time or travel days visiting area cheesemakers.

                          And get your free wine-cheese-beer map here, so you don't miss anything (like New Glarus Spotted Cow beer):
                          http://www.mysavings.com/free-stuff/W...

                          1. Just wanted to say a quick thanks to all for this thread. We've known for years that there is great Wisconsin cheese out there, and sometimes a cheese store in NYC features it, but even though we go to Northern Wisconsin every year, we're never able to stop in/find much of it, as we fly into Minneapolis to get there. This year, due to dog's flying discomfort (!), we're flying into Chicago and driving up to Clam Lake, and it looks like we'll be able to stop in Madison/Monroe/Thorp en route! Cheese tastings may make our drive much more palatable, so to speak.

                            This may be too much of an aside, but we'll also need to do some grocery shopping en route, and I was thinking about Madison for that. I gather there is a Whole Foods there. Any other food specialty stores? Fishmonger? I usually cook most of the meals for the two weeks we are up there, and while the market in Hayward, WI is ok, and we plan to pack/ship some things, would appreciate any tips for grocery shopping.

                            8 Replies
                            1. re: MMRuth

                              Try to hit Madison on a Sunday for the Farmer's Market - your pantry will be stuffed with wonderful food!

                              1. re: torta basilica

                                Thanks - unfortunately we're landing in Chicago a Tuesday morning - sounds like fun!

                                1. re: torta basilica

                                  Are they open on Sundays? I always thought it was a pure Saturday morning thing-- that's what the emails they send me always say.

                                  1. re: cheeseguysgirl

                                    You are absolutely right - it is on Saturdays.

                                2. re: MMRuth

                                  For great organic/fresh/local food, I would try the Willy St. Co-op. Fishmonger: either Seafood Center on Whitney Way or Hughes Seafood on University. If you're looking for ethnic staples & produce, the vastly underrated Yue Wah is my favorite combination Asian/Middle Eastern/Mexican market in town. There is a Vom Fass that just opened for fresh oils, vinegars, etc...and that's in the same shopping center as a Penzey's Spices. Fromagination, mentioned above, is also worth a stop...although is seems like you're mapping out your cheese spree...

                                  -----
                                  Yue-Wah Oriental Foods
                                  2328 S Park St, Madison, WI 53713

                                  Vom Fass U S A
                                  3236B University Ave, Madison, WI

                                  Penzey's Spice House Ltd
                                  3252 University Ave, Madison, WI

                                  Hughes Seafood Co
                                  5533 University Ave, Madison, WI

                                  The Seafood Center
                                  712 S Whitney Way, Madison, WI 53711

                                  Willy St. Co-op
                                  1221 Williamson St, Madison, WI 53703

                                  1. re: itsbubbles

                                    Thanks - what a wonderful list - I'll look into it. We've not finalized our plans, but after seeing the various cheese makers listed above, we may decide to spend the night somewhere en route. And then I'll need a place for dinner! But I'll post a new thread when I get more organized.

                                    What is a "Vom Fass"?

                                    1. re: MMRuth

                                      Somewhere on the University of Wisconsin - Madison website is a listing of the Wisconsin master cheesemakers and their locations. That is definitely worth looking for.

                                      1. re: MMRuth

                                        Vom Fass is a German company that sells oils, vinegars, and spirits from the cask (well, sort of, here in the US, due to packaging laws...) Madison has the only American outpost. You can taste everything, that's what makes it such a cool experience.

                                  2. Try Barrique's in Fitchburg for some really great Wisconsin cheeses, as well as some outstanding European selections. Their Triple Cream Brie is delicious.

                                    1. Try the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board Website ofr a listing of tours, master cheesemakers, etc.

                                      1. A few other favorites of mine: everything from Felix Thalhammer's Capri Cheesery -- everything is goat, everything is organic. I'm particularly partial to the Mediterranean Feta. Chevre from Fantome Farm (I think it's sold _only_ at the downtown Farmer's Market.) Bandaged Cheddar from Blue Mont Dairy. Farmer John's Asiago and smoked Provolone. And seconding the abovementioned Hook's cheddar.

                                        1. I'm unable to reply to mmruth's post, but 'Von Fass' is from the barrel. I always thought it was from the tap, but double-checked & my dictionary says barrel - maybe it's a barrel attached to a tap :)

                                          1. Trega Foods in Little Chute, WI is a great cheese factory....I just love their 7 yr old cheddar......mmmmmmmmm (I'm actually trying this new blog, I am new to Chow, just registered.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Mrklevor

                                              Welcome to Chowhound! I loved Trega Foods as well. We were in Appleton two years ago for The Great Wisconsin Cheese Festival, and stayed in Little Chute. Cute place. Fun event, at least from the "cultural spectacle" standpoint.

                                            2. I recently sampled the goat cheddar by Carr Valley Cheese. Lovely stuff - rich and creamy and lightly goaty and just plain delicious. Luckily, it's available at Surdyk's, else I'd have to drive across Wisconsin for it.

                                              Carr Valley makes their cheese in La Valle, Fennimore, and Mauston. (The cheese is sold in various places around the upper Midwest.)

                                              http://carrvalleycheese.com/

                                              Anne

                                              -----
                                              Carr Valley Cheese Co
                                              1042 E State St, Mauston, WI

                                              8 Replies
                                              1. re: AnneInMpls

                                                I love his Snow White Goat Cheddar. It won Best in Show this year at the American Cheese Society competition (www.cheesesociety.org). Really well deserved.

                                                1. re: cheeseguysgirl

                                                  I'm hoping to stop by Carr Valley's Mauston store/factory (La Valle is a bit too far from the Hwy for me this trip). Anywhere else along 94 that's worth a visit, not only for the cheese but for the experience?

                                                  1. re: sarapeater

                                                    I'd like to know the same thing. I was going to stop at Carr's on my way home from Madison, but they are closed on Sundays.

                                                    I stopped by another place along 94 (which shall remain nameless) and I'm less than impressed.

                                                    1. re: BigE

                                                      If you stop by Carr Valley, you have to get their Snow White Goat Cheddar and their Black Sheep Truffle. With regards to SId's mixed milk cheeses (cow-sheep-goat, or sheep-goat, etc), I think they often taste very similar to one another but my preferred one is the Menage. Not to be confused with the cave-aged Mellage, which is much sharper and often in rugged shape.

                                                      Most of the other cheese places (like Mars, Ehlenbach's or The Cheese Chalet) have mostly flavored jacks and flavored cheddars, or aged cheddars (which are sometimes good, sometimes not).

                                                      1. re: cheeseguysgirl

                                                        the snow white blah blah won the big cheese society award, yes? I just got a GREAT map in the mail courtesy of the Wisconsin Cheese Board (Milk Board?). Can anyone tell me about Bolen Vale and/or Cady?

                                                        1. re: sarapeater

                                                          Yes, the Snow White Goat Cheddar did win Best in Show this past year. I love the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board's map- it really gives some great information. I don't know much about Bolen Vale, but Cady Creek cheese is a commodity maker who sells colby, co-jack, cheddar, pepper jack, that sort of thing.

                                                          1. re: cheeseguysgirl

                                                            thank you. I'm excited to drive through and eat cheese

                                                2. re: AnneInMpls

                                                  Carr Valley's Cocoa Cardonna is an experience not to be missed.