Spring is heading toward summer.  The birds and the bees are getting active.  Where do you get ideas to help plan a wedding?

From 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, April 30, Fromagination will be available to talk about weddings at Madison’s Edgewater Hotel.  Tickets are $25, or 2 for $40.

The Everafter wedding show will include a bunch (available through the hotel), speakers and activities…in addition to vendors who can provide advice about wedding planning and events.

Details on the wedding expo are here.

Fromagination’s expanded wedding services will be featured at our booth – including wedding favors, catering services, gifts and cakes of cheese!

Other vendors will showcase services including catering, travel, entertainment, wedding planning, flowers, limousines, photography and jewelers.

Tickets for the wedding expo can be purchased here.

If this Sunday is already booked for you, and you want more information about Wisconsin artisan cheese for your big day, give Shannon a call at our shop: 608-255-2430.

We hope your celebration is joyful!…and well-planned.

 

 


Do you have a favorite place you visit – or thing you do – on vacation?  Does it ever involve food?

Travel site and magazine Travel+Leisure recently published a list of places that cheeselovers should visit before they die.  Wisconsin was, of course, on the list!…along with Switzerland, France, northern California, Vermont and several other great places.

Have a look!…here is the posting.

While we loved that Fromagination was included on that list, we thought it might be helpful to make a more detailed list of Wisconsin cheese producers…before you take your last breath.  So here are a few more places to see on your “do it before I die” artisan cheese tour:

  1. The Monroe, Wisconsin area (“Swiss Cheese Capital of the USA” and the high school mascot? The Monroe Cheesemakers, of course), including: Roth Kase Cheese Factory  a company with a long cheese-making history
  2. LaClare Farms, Malone, Wisconsin  Goats, goats, goats!
  3. Cedar Grove Cheese, Plain, Wisconsin  See their “Living Machine” greenhouse…a commitment to the environment.
  4. Door Artisan Cheese Company, Egg Harbor, Wisconsin  A new facility ready for visitors in Door County.
  5. Edelweiss Creamery, Monticello, Wisconsin  A traditional Emmental cheese producer!
  6. Holland’s Family Cheese, Thorp, Wisconsin  Home of Marieke Gouda cheese – an authentic Netherlands-style producer.
  7. Hook’s Cheese, Mineral Point, Wisconsin  Known for its award-winning aged Cheddar cheeses.

Write and tell us other places in Wisconsin for a bucket list tour!


Saturday, April 22, is Raw Milk Appreciation Day!

Wisconsin is a state that has heard much of the debate – “America’s Dairyland” being one of its adopted mottos -about raw milk.  While most people drink pasteurized milk, many of those same people may also be comfortable eating a raw milk cheese.

There are many great Wisconsin cheeses made with raw milk – Marieke Garlic & Onion Gouda, from Thorp, Wisconsin (pictured here) is one of those.  Fromagination carries lovely cheeses made from both raw and pasteurized milks (as well as cow, goat and sheep milk types).  Others include Roth Private Reserve, Pleasant Ridge Reserve and Evalon (a goat milk variety).

The Curd Nerds cheese blog gives a brief and interesting account of the issues cheese producers must consider with raw milk.

Wisconsin’s cheese-making heritage goes back more than 100 years…and prior to the mid-1800s raw milk was the only way to make cheese.  Today, great cheese can be made either way, but we believe it’s definitely worth tasting and judging for yourself those Wisconsin artisan cheeses that employ raw milk.  The flavors they capture and pass on to your taste buds can be amazing.  Even if they are garlic & onion-flavored!


A variety of non-profit agencies provide services for people without housing in Madison and Dane County.  Porchlight Inc. is an agency that provides temporary housing, a daytime resource center and emergency shelter for homeless residents.

On Tuesday, February 28, Fromagination sponsored and assisted with an event to raise funds for Porchlight.  The 2017 Original Chef’s Tasting was a dinner held on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, and supported with donations from 10 other area restaurants and food businesses.

“I want Fromagination to be a community-oriented shop, so we contribute, when we can, to causes and events that help make Madison a better place to live,” said Ken Monteleone, owner and general manager of Fromagination.  “Because of the number of donation requests we receive, we now limit our contributions to projects that support childhood nutrition, sustainable agriculture, feeding homeless people, or promotion of culinary traditions.”

For the Porchlight event, Fromagination coordinated with Roth Cheese to serve Wisconsin artisan cheese as the appetizer for guests who purchased dinner tickets.  Two Fromagination employees staffed the event, held at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, and provided a tasting card for cheeselovers who wanted to know more about the great cheese.

“We served good stuff!” Monteleone said.  “…Grand Cru Surchoix, last year’s champion at the World Champion Cheese Contest, and also GranQueso, and Three Pepper Gouda.  Roth’s participation in this charitable event was very much appreciated.”

Grand Cru Surchoix is a washed-rind, Alpine style cheese which gains complexity with age.  Fromagination sells other ages of Grand Cru, but the Surchoix is most highly prized.  Roth also makes GranQueso which, inspired by Spanish and Portuguese cheese, is rubbed with spices, including cinnamon and paprika.  Three Pepper Gouda is a traditional Gouda-style cheese with a twist – it’s made  with Chipotle, Habanero and Jalapeño peppers.


May 2016 is going to be Swiss Heritage month at Fromagination.  Wisconsin has a strong, historic tie to the cheese-making traditions of Switzerland.  Several events will highlight that connection to America’s Dairyland.

Switzerland, a small, mountainous country in south-central Europe, has an outsized role in cheese-making history.  It is famous for creations such as Appenzeller, Gruyere, Tete-de-Moine and Fromage a Raclette.  What U.S. residents often just call “swiss cheese,” Swiss residents might call…hmmm….generic cheese?  The tradition of cheese-making in Switzerland crossed the Atlantic Ocean and landed, frequently, in Wisconsin.  Now it’s time to find out how the milk choices, the techniques and equipment, and the long-standing practices, have enriched our state!

The first event will be Tuesday, May 3 – a cheese class, “Discovering Swiss Cheese!”  The class – limited to 20 registrants – will feature special guest Chris Roelli, Wisconsin master cheese-maker and owner of Roelli Cheese, in Shullsburg.  He is a fourth-generation cheese producer, and creator of some excellent artisan Wisconsin cheeses.

The 1.5 hour class will include a cheese-tasting of Alpine-style cheeses, a review of the Swiss influence in Wisconsin, discussion of Alpine cheeses, and a fondue snack made from Swiss and other Alpine cheeses sold at Fromagination.  The cost is $50 per person, with a discount for group/multiple registrations.  Sign up here.

 


It’s Time to Make Your Choice

Today is Presidential Primary Election Day in Wisconsin!  That’s important, yes..but after you vote, even more important is the issue of which artisan Wisconsin cheese corresponds to the candidate of your choice?  See below for Fromagination’s answer.

Hillary Clinton

We chose Hook’s Eight-Year Aged Cheddar cheese for Hillary Clinton.  She is mainstream Democrat and so corresponds to a pasteurized, cow milk cheese.  She can be sharp when you push in her in a debate, and she has certainly had to age 8 years during the Obama Administration.  Cheddar cheese is one of the best known cheeses, so it goes well with Ms. Clinton, also well known.  It goes well with a Cabernet Sauvignon wine, as the former Secretary of State no doubt is aware, and dark chocolate.

Ted Cruz

Bad Axe sheep milk cheese from Hidden Springs Creamery seem best for Senator Cruz.  He seeks evangelical Christian votes…which means he’s naturally going to side with the Sheep over the Goats.   He’s the youngest of the candidates, and this is a young cheese with a consistency of a young Mozzarella.  It is a mild, even sweet, cheese, and therefore appropriate for conservative tastes…pair it with rye crackers and a dry mead.  Finally the name – Bad Axe –  rhymes with something that the Senator has a reputation for being in the U.S. Senate.

Bernie Sanders

For Senator Sanders, we think Evalon from LaClare Farms is the best fit.  Sanders is more of a purist who’s bucking the Establishment, so we see this raw, goat milk cheese as quite appropriate.  Many people have never tried goat cheese, but like it when they do.  Evalon has “a nutty finish”…we’ll leave it up to you whether this is a comment on the candidate or final months of the Democratic race.  And many of his supporters are too young to drink alcohol, so we decided to pair it with fresh fruit juice or apple slices.

Donald Trump

Moody Blue from Emmi Roth USA is the best choice for Mr. Trump.  Like Blue cheese, Mr. Trump seems to be either a “love him or hate him” sort of candidate.  And despite being a Republican, he seems to have some policy choices that appear somewhat blue.  He has strong opinions, and therefore pairs well with other foods and beverages that can hold their own, such as bacon or a Porter beer.  Finally, the name – Moody Blue – may sometimes describe his debate demeanor.

 


Another post from the Wandering Cheesemonger finds her now interning at a goat and sheep dairy/cheese maker in Thurman, New York (upstate): Nettle Meadow.  Below is her first communication from midst of the New Yorkers:

At Nettle Meadow, cheese chaos is the rule. There are three floors of people running around, making jokes about ‘cutting the cheese’, and trying to do everything that needs to be done. There are never enough hours in the day, a common symptom of farmstead cheesemaking, but somehow everything manages to get finished. I’ve been training at Nettle Meadow for 2 weeks now, and although I haven’t dropped any cheese in the shuffle yet, I have almost fallen head first in to the bulk tank of milk many times – the floor can get slippery when you’re working with so much whey!

A ‘make shift’ starts at 4 in the morning. You arrive alone, and spend the first four hours in the cheese room moving through the first steps of the process completely solo. It may sound painfully early to wake up at 3:30 a.m., but I think most people think of it as almost meditative; you may be tired, but at least you don’t have to talk to anyone (other than the ghosts that are rumored to live in Nettle Meadow’s cheese aging cellar). I haven’t started doing the 4:00 a.m. shifts yet, but I have to admit that I’m excited to get this one-on-one time with the cheese, ghosts or not!

I’m helping out in the cheese room and aging cellar, making cheese, aging it, and wrapping it up to send out to the world. Nettle Meadow makes quite a few different cheeses, but the most popular is Kunik, a semi-aged goat milk cheese with Jersey cow cream. Its creamy, rich, mild paste tastes decadent all by itself or with a drop of honey (my new go-to after work snack!). Kunik won first place in the Triple Crème category from the American Cheese Society in 2010, and is widely recognized as one of the most successful European style farmstead goat cheeses made in the United States today.

I’m also helping out with feeding kids and lambs, which is hands down the cutest part of my job. On my third day, my boss Shelia asked me if I would drive a couple of kids over to the other farm where we keep them (separating the kids from their moms helps to stop the spread of disease between the animals). I had visions of throwing 5 bleating baby goats in to the back of my mom’s Honda Civic, imagining with mild horror the mess the back seat would be, until Shelia pulled up in her car, explaining that they had a makeshift bed in the back for just such occasions.


The Wandering Cheesemonger has wandered back to Wisconsin in time for winter.  She offers this advice for the season:

Fondue is the perfect decadent treat for a cold winter’s night, traditionally eaten in mountainous regions where a good cheesy meal could help ward off the snow and ice.  A lot of people come to me baffled by how exactly to make a fondue, so I wanted to share my personal favorite recipe while we’re going into peak fondue season.  Fondue is usually primarily made from alpine style cheeses, such as Gruyere or Comte.  The buttery, floral flavor of these easy-to-melt cheeses make for a delectable pot of fondue.

The first thing you need for fondue is a base cheese; something not too flavorful (I like to use Emmental) to create a base for your fondue without overpowering the other cheeses. Once you have your base cheese, you can start being a little more creative in cheese choice. For a traditional style fondue, I usually add Pleasant Ridge Reserve, from Uplands Cheese, as well as Gran Cru Surchoix, from Roth Kase, both in Wisconsin.  Both of these are alpine-style cheeses with fuller flavor than the Emmental. They add light floral, fruity notes to the fondue, but at the same time don’t make the flavor too crazy. You can also use Comte or Beaufort as your two more flavorful cheeses, imported alpine-style cheeses made in France and used in traditional French fondue -I just like to go local when possible!

Of course, fondue can be made with much crazier cheese combinations.  It is usually important to make sure that any cheese you use melts well.  Stay away from bloomy rind cheeses, which don’t melt very well, but beyond that, the sky’s the limit.  I once made fondue with quadrello, a buffalo milk cheese from Italy that isn’t considered a good melting cheese. The high fat content in the buffalo milk made my fondue look a little greasy, but the taste was out of this world.

In general, I stick to this basic recipe:

4-6 ounces of cheese per person of:
2 parts Emmental
1 part Pleasant Ridge Reserve
1 part Gran Cru Surchoix (or other Gruyere-style cheese)

Before beginning, grate all of your cheese, then rub the fondue pot with whole garlic cloves, then chop the garlic up and place it in the pot with a splash of dry white wine.  Gradually add the grated cheese, heating and stirring as you go along.  Add a little more wine if the cheese starts to get too thick, but be careful to add only a tiny bit at a time!

I like to cut up some crusty bread, grab some cornichons (a traditional French fondue companion), and then steam a little broccoli to dip in my fondue.

If you’re still nervous about making the right fondue, come in to Fromagination for more guidance, and a cheesemonger will help you find the perfect cheeses!


Rush Creek Reserve is a star in the cheese world, a deliciously creamy cheese whose name is known by anyone and everyone who keeps up on great food, and food legislation, in the United States. This cheese – made by Uplands Cheese Company in Dodgeville, Wisconsin – became a superstar because of its decadently creative flavor profile.

Rush Creek Reserve is made only of the winter milk from cows at Uplands Dairy. The difference between summer and winter milk is an important distinction because the milk’s flavor changes significantly as the cows diet shifts from grass, in the summer, to hay, in the winter. The summer milk at Uplands is used in Pleasant Ridge Reserve, giving that cheese a more floral flavor, while Rush Creek Reserve has the more dense, rich flavor that often comes with winter milk cheeses.

Rush Creek Reserve is a young, raw milk cheese wrapped in spruce bark, giving the cheese a slightly woody flavor. You eat each ¾ pound wheel of Rush Creek by prying off the top of the wheel so you can dig into the gooey center with a knife (or spoon…). The paste has a strongly earthy, woody, and almost meaty flavor with a slightly sweet note. The luscious cheese is incredible smeared on a piece of crusty baguette, paired with dried figs and walnuts, or simply eaten alone.

In the last year, however, Rush Creek Reserve has garnered a different type of attention because of the stand made by its producer, Andy Hatch. Due to unclear FDA regulations on the legality of aging soft raw milk cheeses on wooden boards, Andy Hatch decided to stop making Rush Creek Reserve in 2014, a huge blow to the cheese world. His worry was that, with FDA regulations being so shifty and unsure, Rush Creek could end up being illegal to sell after it was produced, losing a lot of money for Uplands Cheese. Andy Hatch’s stand highlighted the importance of clear FDA regulations for small cheese producers, while also beginning a more public conversation on the importance of FDA support of small cheese production in the United States.

Although we went one year without Rush Creek Reserve, it all paid off when the FDA responded by making regulations much more clear. This year the delectable Rush Creek Reserve is once again being made and is available to the public! You can order directly from the producer, or from a number of cheese stores, but be sure to order in advance. Most wheels are being sold before they even arrive at distributors, so don’t expect to be able to walk into your local cheese store and find a wheel!

Fromagination will be receiving shipments of Rush Creek December 10th and December 17th, so pre-order now to reserve your own!


In this fourteenth edition of The Wandering Cheesemonger,  our blogger on the dairy scene, Grace, heads toward the spiritual side of cheese.

If I were to try and convince someone of the existence of a higher power, I would do so through the miracle that is cheese.  Without prior knowledge, who could possibly imagine that the delectable morsels we snack on are created through the transformation of something as simple as milk?  In my opinion, the miracle that is the creation of cheese is practically on par with Jesus’s miracle of the loaves and the fishes.  Following this logic, the cheesemakers that act out this miraculous transformation on a daily basis are essentially prophets, spreading the word of good food.

I may be going a bit too far with this, but the gist is that a good cheese tastes truly miraculous.  The miracle worker with whom I am apprenticing right now, Marisa, makes a whole range of miracles whose flavors I will attempt to describe.

Marisa’s fresh goat cheese rounds are creamy and delicate, with a light creamy flavor that dissolves quickly on your tongue, leaving you wanting more.  At the same time, the large cheeses are dense and smoothly consistent in texture, perfect for eating on a crepe with honey or caramel, in a salad, or just completely plain.

Her ‘demi sec’ (‘half dry’) cheese is a aged somewhere between 2 and 3 weeks, the point at which the cheese develops a bloomy rind and a gooey, sometimes almost liquid interior.  The rind has a sharp, almost acidic flavor that balances perfectly with the dense and creamy paste.  It’s full flavor makes it delicious all by itself, but we also sometimes cook it in to small, flakey tarts; when warm, this cheese really packs a punch.

Her ‘sec’ are small ‘crotin de chèvre’, which technically translates to goat poop, but is also the name for small, well-aged dry goat cheeses.  This hard cheese is extremely dry and covered on the outside with a fine, brown powder which is in fact millions of tiny spiders that work away at the cheese, lending it its unique flavor.  This cheese has such a strong, sharp bite that we tell customers that it eats holes in your tongue–it isn’t for the faint of heart.

Finally, her  buffalo mozzarella are brilliant balls of pure heaven, spheres of rich and smoothly textured cheese from which buffalo milk leaks as you slice.  The fresh flavor of the buffalo milk intertwines with the more complex curd, which has the classical gamey taste that often comes with buffalo milk cheeses.