The encounters never seem to end!
I spent a good amount of time at the Wisconsin Cheese booth. There were so many delicious samples to try!! I had to have them all, and I pretty much did. Caitlin Hatch, lovely, amiable wife of Uplands Cheese Company’s Andy Hatch, was there to guide me and all of the other conference goers through the cheeses. Her open smile and soothing voice almost made me forget I was in a madhouse of a food convention. She explained all of her cheeses so patiently, I forgot the rush around me.
The Dunbarton Blue, from Roelli Cheese reminded me of shale. It was crumbly, harder, maybe like a piave. It had a ribbon of blue through the center, but it wasn’t your typical blue. This one was fruity, sweet, and crunchy–almost like a flinty comte, or maybe a sweet cheddar. It had a delightfully long, lingering flavor.
Delightful. I just LOVE this cheese, made by Uplands Cheese, and I have for so long. I never understood why it didn’t sell that well in the old cheese shop. People just couldn’t appreciate it for some reason. But look at that color! That bright yellow means that these cows were feeding off summer flowers and grass, and that this milk is HEALTHY and full of minerals! The flavor is beautifully complex and fresh, it’s like an alpine cheese. After tasting this, don’t you feel like Heidi in a field on top of some mountain? Yes? I sure hope so, because that’s basically what goes into every wheel of Pleasant Ridge Reserve.
Meadow Melody, made by Hidden Springs Creamery has a charming story. Caitlin told me that the farm where these cows and sheep come from still only uses horses and mechanical plows. This one was subtle, I would probably be more likely to use it in cooking than just as a table cheese, but then again, that’s me! I can totally see this in a melted sandwich.
Aaahh! I loved this cheese, made by the renowned Willi Lehner, It almost looked like parmesan, with its crumbly, craggy paste. This particular cheddar is made in 20 lb. wheels. The milk for the cheddar comes from a mix of 9 different cow breeds. Caitlin spoke of this cheese and of Willi with so much fondness. They’re neighbors, she says. His creamery (?) is about a 1/2 hour drive away from hers.
After taking a whirl through all of the cheeses Caitlin Hatch had to offer, I had to move on.
OK, so I got a little sidetracked when I saw a little corner of the Wisconsin booth preparing cubes of fried cheese. It was super greasy, super crispy, and super good. The lady at the grill said that this recipe followed a Finnish tradition. Moving on . . . .
Then I fell upon this company that was making cheese fudge using about Havarti cheese in about 1/3 of its recipe. It was also sampling its strawberry cheesecake balls, also made with Havarti cheese and coated with graham crackers. I thought it was an interesting way to incorporate cheese into the recipes, but the flavors were rather conventional. Next booth . . .
Here was an interesting company, Sartori foods. They had, I kid you not, over a dozen different wheels of cheese to sample. That said, many of the cheeses are variations on their Piave or Asiago-style cheeses. For instance, they rub their cheeses with ingredients like: merlot, espresso, raspberry ale, cognac, basil and olive oil, rosemary and olive oil, and, I swear I saw it, a salsa-rubbed cheese. In addition to all of this, they make a very respectable, small-wheeled Parmesan, aged fontina, mixed milk cheeses, and aged goat cheeses (including Caprimenthe, washed in Spanish olive oil and spearmint). I was really impressed by the quality of their products. If I didn’t know any better, I would have said that their Parmesan-style cheese was actually Parmesan. Their Piaves were great. And it’s all made in the US. The company has been around under various ownership since the 1930s–I think it started off as part of Kraft.
Sleepy time! Now that I’ve begun working full-time, it’s been getting harder to find time for this blog. I may not update it as often as in the past, but I still carry the cheese in my heart (and I hope you do too!). I will be writing as much as possible, most likely on the weekends.