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Wisconsin Cheese

This summer we plan on spending a couple of weeks touring Wisconsin where our grandchild will be attending college in Madison. My wife is a mid-westerner and we lived in Chicago and Western Michigan for about ten years. We currently live on the Vermont/ Quebec border and have gotten used to eating really good cheese and fine breads. I was wondering what was available in terms of good cheese and breads in and around Wisconsin. I have tasted what is supposedly good Wisconsin cheese but I always thought the wax goes only on the outside. I remember some good cheddar in Michigan and the Country Dairy in New Era served a great hamburger with some fine cheese curds and acceptable cheeses but Wisconsin seems to make cheese only for those who relish quantity over any quality.
I am sure there are some fine artisanal cheeses made in Wisconsin and would appreciate any heads up. I am not expecting a fine Muenster like those from Alsace but a cheddar as good as what Kraft Canada sells in Canada would be acceptable. As a heads up anyone visiting Canada you might want to try Kraft's Crackerbarrel Cheese here in Canada it is nothing like what I once bought in Chicago.

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  1. Wow, I'm not sure how to take this post ,I am taken back with the undertone of your request. Granted I am from Wisconsin so I am biased. But being that Wisconsinites are known for the politeness and for being helpful , I'll head you in a good direction. I don't know where you bought your Wisconsin cheese but Wisconsin cheese makers consistently win world championships.Kraft cheddar? You have to be kidding- Carr Valley makes outstanding aged cheddars. I have included a link to a map of Wisconsin cheese makers that will help you out with your journey. Also a link to the numerous awards won at the world championships.
    http://www.eatwisconsincheese.com/wis...
    http://www.eatwisconsincheese.com/
    http://www.eatwisconsincheese.com/wis...

    2 Replies
    1. re: Living4fun

      Thank you very much. I know there are great cheeses in Wisconsin its just that I have been very disappointed with what people have suggested. I have been generally pleased with the information I have gotten on Chowhound. I am reminded of a story about looking for a good Chinese restaurant in Michigan City Indiana and being told there were two a not so good one downtown and a "wonderful" buffet. Fortunately the buffet was closed so we discovered the Oriental Pearl downtown which turned out to be terrific but of course I really have very little use for buffets. Regarding Kraft Crackerbarrel in Canada: Kraft does not make cheese here it buys its cheese from various producers and Kraft Cheddar in Canada is generally very good and on occasion wonderful often better than Balderson, or Armstrong and Kraft Mclaren's processed cheese pack is well worth trying. I was just expressing my frustration at not being able to get good cheese at the supermarket in Chicago. Here in Stanstead Quebec our local supermarket has about 50 exceptional cheeses and across the border in Vermont there are a number of great producers but the supermarkets leave a lot to be desired and Kraft and Land o'lakes just don't do it for me but Cabot does put out a reasonable product. I am especially fond of raclette any suggestions.

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      Oriental Pearl
      902 Franklin St, Michigan City, IN 46360

      1. re: Moedelestrie

        >> I was just expressing my frustration at not being able to get good cheese at the supermarket in Chicago.

        That is as off the mark as your assertions about the quality of Wisconsin cheese. There are lots of places to get good cheese in Chicago, including some of the local supermarkets. Some of the very best selections of cheese are at supermarkets in the Chicago area ranging from Fox & Obel to Foodstuffs to Whole Foods. Even my local Dominick's carries some high-quality cheeses (e.g. Maytag bleu from Iowa). Specialty shops in the area also have some excellent cheese selections. Perhaps the best selection of cheese in the Chicago area is at Pastoral's three locations in Lakeview, the Loop, and the French Market. Another place with an excellent cheese selection is Schaefer's, the liquor store in Skokie. All of these places (with the exception of Dominick's) have staff who are experts on the cheeses they carry and can help you find exactly the kinds you prefer. And yes, some of the highest quality cheeses in our markets are from Wisconsin, as well as Illinois and Iowa and Indiana, in addition to others from both coasts and overseas.

        You would be better off asking where to buy the best cheeses and doing so with an open mind, rather than assuming the worst from long-ago experiences. Do some research here on Chowhound and then check out the places recommended here. The Midwest is full of excellent dairies (as well as wineries, produce farms, etc) and the quality of food available here has improved steadily over the years, just like everywhere else.

    2. Like Living4fun, I live in Wisconsin although I grew up on a dairy farm in Illinois and am well aware of the prejudices that certain residents of Illinois have toward this state.

      Like Living4fun, I also am stunned by your undertone. I would make suggestions, but I am afraid that you have already made up your mind that nothing from Wisconsin is acceptable.

      However, if I were talking to a visitor who was genuinely interested in exploring what our state has to offer, I would encourage her to enjoy a drive around southwest Wisconsin. There are many award-winning artisan and family cheesemakers who permit tours. Madison is a good home base for a day trip.

      1. I am sorry about the undertone. My wife and I eat cheese every day usually accompanied by the and complimentary to the bread I baked that day. I spend most of my Chowhound surfing at the Quebec site. I was hoping that my query would be met by the kind of response that a similar question would be met with on the Quebec site. I really am looking for specifics. What where when and with what. I remember having an excellent very very old cheddar at a cheese maker in Wisconsin about 25 years ago. I was hoping that I could get some leads on what someone would find an excellent cheddar whether mild, medium or old. I was hoping for some leads on what someone might have believed to be an excellent goat cheese whether a fresh chevre or an aged goat cheddar. I enjoy a good mild mozzarella and I am not enough of a snob to not relish a good American munster. I was hoping that someone might suggest a local cheese that might not have wide distribution but might be the ideal accompaniment to a local heirloom apple. I am looking for local baked goods that scream Wisconsin. I want to experience the pride that people feel when they try their hardest to please their customers and their guests with food they love. I want to experience the foods of Wisconsin prepared and served by people who see the preparation of food as an avocation as opposed to a livelihood. I used cheese because it supposedly epitomizes Wisconsin but I am more interested in what Chowhound users say than what is written in brochures.

        What is your ultimate rural Wisconsin food experience? Make me empathize make me want to experience the same magic moment. My wife and I are retired and we have the opportunity to experience the food cultures of Wisconsin what rattles your chains.

        4 Replies
        1. re: Moedelestrie

          I am also from Wisconsin and a bit surprised by your comments. Like Living4fun, I will forgive you as the hospitality / kindness in WI is just as good /strong as the food and cheese. When searching for different kinds of cheese, you need to keep in mind that there are an extensive amount of artisanal cheese makers in WI. Here is an artical specifically related to chesse which outlines the quality and success of chesse makers in WI at a global level.

          http://media.eatwisconsincheese.com/m...

          For me, I prefer most cheese from Carr Valley and Hooks. Hooks as an oustanding 12 year and 15 year cheddar. Also, if you are looking for a good Goat and Sheep milk cheese, try Carr Valley. However, this doesn't even touch on what good cheese is available.

          As menioned in one of the earlier posts, Madision will give you everything you need when it comes to WI food. Check out the surrounding areas, such as New Glarus. You will not be dissapointed. Also, I recommend you visit the Old Fasion in Madison as that will give you a taste of good old WI comfort food.

          Lastly, I happend to attend the Kohler Food and Wine experience this year and happend to meet one of the top cheese experts, Laura Werlin (http://www.laurawerlin.com/). She appreciates the excellence and attention given to the cheese in WI and has nothing but postive things to say and appreciates products are coming out of the state is.

          I am a bit biased growing up in WI, but I know we have a great thing and would pair our food talent and cheese against any other state. And don't forget the beer. WI has many micro brews that are also award winning.

          1. re: wifoodie

            Websites are posted above for traveling to cheesemakers in rural Wisconsin. wifoodie mentions the breweries in Wisconsin; the craft breweries have a guild with links to their members, at www.wibrewersguild.com And you can find information about Wisconsin's 36 wineries at www.wiswine.com

            For me, any food-oriented trip to the Madison area would not be complete without a trip to the Mustard Museum, which recently moved to Middleton, right next to Madison. They sell literally hundreds of different kinds of mustards, and they'll give you samples of anything you want to try, and can advise you based on your preferences. Last time I was there, I found two particular kinds (one made in Wisconsin, the other in Michigan) that I absolutely love and I would never have known about otherwise. (I now order them directly from the Mustard Museum when I run out.) www.mustardmuseum.com

            Madison has many great restaurants, everything from gourmet dining (L'Etoile, Fresco) to ethnic cuisine to cheap eats and pub type places (the Old Fashioned) and breakfast places (Marigold Kitchen) and lots more. You'll find many topics about Madison dining in this forum, including these extended discussions:

            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/673960
            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/608266
            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/570274
            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/462929
            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/418838
            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/125180

          2. re: Moedelestrie

            Anything made by Capri, whether their fresh goat cheese, or various aged ones, is excellent. Hook's is renown for its aged cheddar. Carr Valley is in Middleton, right near Madison. Its Gran Canaria is one of the best things I've ever eaten, be it animal or vegetable.

            http://www.carrvalleycheese.com/

            The diversity and quality of food in the Midwest has changed greatly in the last 20 years. If we try the cheese board at Graze tonight, I'll report back.

            1. re: Moedelestrie

              And by the way, Fromagination has Humboldt Fog, not a WI cheese, but had to buy it as the only time I had it before was in San Fran last Xmas. Wonderful stuff.

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              Fromagination
              12 S Carroll St, Madison, WI

            2. If you do have time in Madison, please consider a visit to Fromagination or Brennan's (for shopping) or Graze (for excellent cheese board selections):

              http://www.fromagination.com/
              http://www.brennansmarket.com/
              http://grazepub.com/

              Wifoodie's Old Fashioned recommendation: seconded. Possibly the most written-about restaurant in Madison: http://www.delicious.com/madisonatoz/...

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              Fromagination
              12 S Carroll St, Madison, WI

              1 Reply
              1. re: jumble

                Thanks this is the kind of response I was looking for. I look to Chowhound to provide me with this type of information. I was also hoping someone might provide me with their ultimate Wisconsin cheese experience even it is a good bowl of Mac and cheese in the right place at the right time.
                Here in Quebec cheese is not just food it is a culture a visit to Fromagerie Hamel, Fromagerie Atwater , Yanni's (incredible French cheeses but maybe 10 varieties at a time) can last an hour or more. Is there a cheese culture of similar ilk in Wisconsin.
                Locally we have La Stationne a small farm operation which makes 3 kinds of cheese which are available in only 4 or five cheese shops in the world (frommagerie Atwater in Montreal) , it is near Compton which has a world class bakery and an incredible strawberry farm and an equally enchanting blueberry farm. On the right day with the right people it is like dying and going to heaven. I am sure a similar experience could be had in Wisconsin but where?

              2. I've lived all over and, recently, challenged our Vermont-based sister and brother in law to a "cheese off" judged by our father in law (who lived in France for 15 yrs, and, as such, has strong opinions about cheese).

                The Dunbarton Blue beat their blue (http://www.roellicheese.com/ one of my favorite blues, creamy

                )

                Our goat beat their goat: Benedictine, a hard, very gamey goat)http://www.wisconsincheesemart.com/be...

                Marieske's Gouda is also very, very good.

                they beat us at softer cheeses and, sadly, cheddar (though the 10 yr Hook was my first choice, I wasn't able to find it, here it is: http://www.hookscheese.com/cheese%20d...).

                The addition of orange coloring is really something I wish Wisconsin cheesemakers would abandon.