People interested in cheese – and the artisan cheese culture that is developing quickly in Wisconsin and elsewhere in the midwestern U.S. – may look for bloggers to help inform them.

A recent list of top cheese blogs in the U.S. includes Fromagination!  We made #20 on the list that includes many reputable cheese shops across the nation.

Some of our favorites at Fromagination are:

  • Culture Magazine – a fine source for up-and-coming cheese news, and the tastier things associated with cheese
  • Madame Fromage – interesting and off-beat news, with a little general “culture” included
  • Cheese Underground – written by Wisconsin cheese afficionado extraordinaire, Jeanne Carpenter – a one-woman cheese promotion machine!

If you have a favorite cheese blog – or other information source – let us know about it.  Vive le fromage!


Jessica Sennett is a cheesemonger who has created the Cheese Grotto.  While Fromagination offers a special on any purchase of the Cheese Grotto during the month of May, we also want to let Jessica tell the story of how she devised this special humidor for your kitchen, refrigerator or dining table.

Below is the second part of our interview with Jessica:

Where does the design come from?

The origins of the design come from European Cheese Safes, which are boxes made of wood and screen panels.  This was a cheese storage method used before the advent of refrigeration.  My design is an elevated version of this.  I found that the original cheese safes have a tendency to dry out the cheeses due to too much air flow.  So I wanted to design something more highly functional as both an entertaining piece and a functional piece.  Hence my added humidity, condensation, and air flow controls, and the use of glass paneling for visual effect.

Why are the manufacturers in Virginia?

Manufacturing in the States is a challenge, but I was set on doing it.  The benefits are that you can make small quantities of product, and you have more say on the quality of what is being produced.  In an ideal world, our food and our home products would be made regionally.  Eco Supply Center, located in Richmond, Virginia, are very passionate about the Grotto and do an excellent job.  They also sell and source all sustainable materials for their projects.  The Grotto is made out of sustainable bamboo ply, which makes me even more proud to sell it.

Do you have a favorite Cheese Grotto story? (if so, what is it?)

The Cheese Grotto has been a long journey of almost 3 years of work, and it has been filled with many adventures.  I would say some of my favorite times have been working with the manufacturer.  Here’s a story  on my blog about my visit in January.

What’s the key to maintain the Grotto in top shape?

I often tell people to treat the Grotto like you’d treat a cast iron: wash it with hot water and a splash of distilled white vinegar or soap, and treat it with mineral oil ideally once a month.  It is a very sturdy piece designed to last a lifetime.

Why is it called a “grotto”?

A grotto is another word for a natural cheese cave, but it is also a word used for a religious shrine found in nature or in a garden.  I call the Grotto my “shrine to cheese,” so it is really quite fitting.


Jessica Sennett is a cheesemonger who has created the Cheese Grotto.  While Fromagination offers a special on any purchase of the Cheese Grotto during the month of May, we also want to let Jessica tell the story of how she devised this special humidor for your kitchen, refrigertor or dining table.

Below is the first part of our interview with Jessica:

Why are you interested in cheese?/what is your work background with cheese?

I started working in artisan cheese ten years ago at Cowgirl Creamery in San Francisco. When I worked there, I feel in love with the vast variety of flavors and textures of specialty cheeses.  Everyday, I was learning about a region of the world and their farming and dairy practices.  Working in the Ferry Building,  I was also immersed in the San Francisco culinary scene: I loved the passion of every person I met.  After working there for one year, I traveled to France to work on a couple small creameries.  It was one of the most memorable experiences of my life.  I was hooked. I’ve often called myself a “cheese nomad,” as I’ve worked for multiple companies at this point: The Monteillet Fromagerie in Washington State, Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge, and Bedford Cheese Shop.  Finally, I was ready to branch out on my own.

How did you decide to make the Cheese Grotto?

The Cheese Grotto originated as a night doodle.  I had been living in NYC for one year, and was thinking about the fact that when I lived in an urban environment, I missed the rural cheese making life, and when I lived in a rural area, I missed the creative energy of the city.  So I was brainstorming on how to bring my rural experiences with handmade cheeses to my urban environment.  The Cheese Grotto reflects centuries of traditions of cheese preservation, but it became something way more than that when I decided I wanted it to be an all-inclusive storage solution for any aged variety of cheese.

What’s your favorite (current) cheese and why?

The oldest Swedish cheese in existence, WRÅNGEBÄCK.  The flavor is so full-bodied: it’s wild, fruity notes are balanced by its rich alpine paste. So good!

Soon…part 2!


One of Wisconsin’s most famous artisan cheeses will be front-and-center in the Fromagination shop on Saturday, May 13.

Pleasant Ridge Reserve cheese, made in Dodgeville, Wisconsin by Uplands Cheese, will be offered in samples from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

An Alpine-style cheese that is made from cow milk derived from a dairy herd eating spring and summer grass in a very specific area, Pleasant Ridge possesses a unique flavor profile.

It is the only cheese that has won the Best in Show Award at both the American Cheese Society competition and the World Cheese Championship Contest.

Come in and try a Wisconsin cheese with a specific “terroir” (soil, climate, topography – environmental factors that give it specific flavors).



Fromagination is participating in Madison’s Craft Beer Week, hosting or helping to host 3 events.

“Isn’t celebrating beer something done in Madison 365 days a year?” you ask.  Well, yes, but this is CRAFT Beer Week – it tastes better

Come out and have fun.

More information is available www.madbeerweek.com



Fromagination stays open late to offer delicious, gooey raclette!

Our raclette machine melts the famous cheese over bread…and you can try a local beer or wine with it.

Fromagination, 12 South Carroll Street, across from the Capitol, and next to the Park Hotel.

Hang out later on Friday after work, and have the cheesiest Happy Hour in Madison.

Call 608-255-2430 for more information.


Cheese is a fermented food product – fermentation, according to Merriam-Webster, is “an enzymatically controlled transformation of an organic compound.”  And decades ago much fermentation occurred in natural, humid places…like a cave.  European cheese makers have long used subterranean spaces to create amazing tastes.  Nowadays, there are other options for cheese makers.

Some of Wisconsin finest artisan cheeses are aged in caves, or cave-like settings.  Just two, of many cheese producers with cave-aging processes, are Bleu Mont Dairy and Roelli Cheese.

Recently, Fromagination had contact with Jessica Sennett, a Brooklyn, New York-based cheese maker/monger, who has devised a new product.  Her Cheese Grotto was created to help cheeselovers maintain their “beau fromage” in top condition at home until its all been eaten.  You can read more about Jessica in a recent entrepreneurship article.

A grotto, for many people, is a place you might find Gollum, or some nymphs swimming in undergound pools.  But this grotto maintains humidity for your cheese, in or out of refrigeration.  It’s a situation akin to that great companion of fine cheese, fine wine…which also loves a great cellar that allows it to achieve it full flavor potential.

During this month of May, Fromagination is offering a substantial, one-time discount on cheese for anyone who purchases the Cheese Grotto.  With your order of this high-quality humidor, you will receive a special coupon code that provides a 15 percent discount for all artisan cheeses on the Fromagination website!

Air and humidity are key elements for maintaining the ripening processes of cheese.  The Cheese Grotto extends the life your precious cheese by allowing ventilation and hydration.  It can make a great dinner party conversation topic, too – it’s an attractive design that perfect for your kitchen counter top.

Consider the Cheese Grotto as a little place in your house at which you pay homage to the Gods of Fermentation.  It’s also a small investment in your taste buds.

 


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.