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.


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!

Fromagination is celebrating spring with a new lunch menu that includes new sandwiches and other offerings at our shop on South Carroll Street.

The Dehli Deli Sandwich (pictured above) is a hybrid Wisconsin/North India-themed sandwich: Roasted chicken with a Tandoori marinade on a Telera roll with chutney mayo, Wisconsin mozzarella cheese, and lettuce.

The Gastronome Trio Sandwich is meat-lover’s mix of smoked turkey, smoked ham, roast beef, Wisconsin Muenster cheese, shallot confit with red wine, lettuce and olive oil, on sesame semolina bread. It is made at the time of order.

And our new vegetarian offering is the Ambrosia Minor Sandwich, which is a Greek-themed concoction of feta cheese, red onion, tomato and cucumber, served on focaccia. It is also made at the time of order, to ensure that it’s fresh.

We have more new items, including a Cheesemonger’s choice cheese sampler box, and two crostini plates for after-work snacking on our outdoor patio.

Come in and sample our new sandwiches April 15, 16 and 17 between 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.!

Fondue lunch is a Fromagination winter tradition, and our communal table is still set this week for more fans of Swiss culture!

Aside from the great tastes – our three-cheese fondue recipe, roasted vegetables, bread and cornichons – the dipping, eating and communing is part of the fun of fondue.  We talk to guests about the tradition that came from poor people in Switzerland, and how the best part of the meal is sometimes at the end when you get to clean the fondue pot.  And we explain the various cheeses we use to create such a fabulous taste….well, those and the wine that goes in, too!

The Wikipedia “fondue” reference list 1699 as the first time cooking/melting cheese with wine was listed in a book, published in Zurich.  From there, it took on the French passive past participle for melt (fondre) in 1735 as a noun, and voila!…fondue.  It was promoted as a Swiss national dish beginning in the 1800s.

You may not feel very Swiss today, but we’ll bet you feel happier after a fondue lunch with friends.  Frigid weather and hot cheese seem to go well together.  Come in, get your fondue fork pointed toward the pot, and let your winter stress melt away.

See our fondue schedule to make a date for lunch!

Need a good recipe for a fondue dinner?

We have it!

This month’s Fromagination Cheese of the Month Subscription shipment is titled “The Fondue Dinner.”  February is cold in Wisconsin, and people need a better reason than beer to gather around the table and commiserate!  So we’ve sent three great cheeses to our Cheese of the Month subscribers for them to create a superb fondue sauce: Emmentaler (Edelweiss Creamery, Monroe, WI), Grand Cru Surchoix (Emmi Roth USA, Monroe, WI) and Baby Swiss (Chalet Cheese Cooperative, Monroe, WI).

Did you notice a certain geographic similarity among these great fondue cheeses?  Monroe must be Fondue City about this time of year.

Below, we tell you how to employ those cheeses at your dinner table to entertain guests, use up your stale bread, avoid drunkenness, and create some great “Shepherd’s Underwear”!*

Dairyland Fondue

You don’t need to own a fondue pot to create fondue cheese sauce – any heavy pan will work. (Fromagination carries a heavy, cast iron fondue pot ) A cast iron crock is especially convenient as it can be heated on the stove and transferred to the table for service.

  • kosher salt
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled and cut in half
  • 1 cup Edelweiss Emmentaler, grated
  • 1 cup Emmi Roth Grand Cru Gruyere Surchoix, grated
  • 1 cup Chalet Cheese Cooperative Baby Swiss, grated
  • 1-1/2 cup dry white wine (recommended: Tariquet Sauvignon Blanc)
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • black pepper, freshly ground

In a medium bowl, mix the cheeses and combine with one cup of wine and the lemon juice. Let the cheese mixture soak for at least 45 minutes (Fromagination soaks its overnight). When ready to prepare the fondue, add a pinch or two of salt to the pot. Starting in the salt, vigorously rub the cut end of the garlic over the entire interior surface of the pot. Discard garlic.

Add 1/2 cup wine into the prepared fondue pot and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Slowly add the cheese mixture, whisking continuously.

The fondue is ready to serve when the cheese is completely melted and the fondue takes on a smooth consistency. Serve with bread, roasted or fresh vegetables, cured and smoked meats and/or pickles.  Serves 6 people.

*Underwear references always get people to keep reading…it must be engrained from 2nd grade.  “What IS Shepherd’s Underwear?” we heard you ask.  Well, it’s the cheese baked to the bottom of the fondue pot when most of the fondue dinner is over, and only this crust remains.

Even if you think the guy should really go to the Alpine Laundromat and deal with his dirty clothes more often, we think you find the Shepherd’s Underwear a truly divine part of your fondue meal.

Have a great fondue dinner before the snow melts!  And if you don’t want to do it at home, you can come and have some fondue at our shop.