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A Cheese Adventure by Maureen McHugh

Would I like to go on a cheese tour of Wisconsin’s Dairyland?  Absolutely!!

Fortune Fish & Gourmet, in partnership with the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, invited Jill and a guest to board a bus for a three day tour that would take us up to Madison where we would explore the Southwest cheese region of Wisconsin. Our primary interest was to see what great cheeses we could identify and bring back to Marché when it opens this fall. What I didn’t expect was to be completely blown away by the farmers and cheesemakers that we met along the way. We met 15 cheesemakers in three days, many who represent generations of European cheesemakers who immigrated to Wisconsin.  Here are a few highlights from our cheese adventure.

20150616_094859[1]First stop the Crave Brothers, a locally owned, family run dairy farm and creamery, was one of our most anticipated stops. They not only make outstanding fresh cheeses but also do it by practicing farming techniques utilizing 100% green power.  By working in harmony with the land and investing in innovative farming practices they are a carbon negative company which continues to pass the heritage of dairy farming and cheese making down to the next generation.

Another stop was to Uplands Cheese, a small dairy farm that honors the age-old traditions of milking cows seasonally, in time with the pastures. They make only two traditional farmstead cheeses: Pleasant Ridge Reserve, made in the summer months, while the cows eat fresh pasture and Rush Creek Reserve, made in the fall, when their diet changes to hay.

While on a tour of Cedar Grove Creamery we were lucky enough to meet cheesemaker Anna Landmark who quit her job as a policy research director for a Wisconsin non-profit a few years ago and took the plunge into full-time cheesemaking. Today, she’s co-founder of Landmark Creamery and is crafting small batch seasonal cheeses from the milk of cows, sheep, and water buffalo.

Anna shares space at Cedar Grove Creamery. She had just finished making a batch of her Petit Nuage cheese and was nice enough to let us have a tasting.  Petit Nuage is a French style soft sheep milk cheese. What a treat! Each cheese is a perfect single portion that has a tangy brightness and sweet finish. We could imagine pairing it with honey, preserves, or adding it to a grilled vegetable salad.

As the bus drove us back to Illinois we were both excited to share the experience and thought: what better way than a tasting!  Jill has provided a sneak peek of what’s ahead by including Landmark’s Petit Nuage and Nordic Creamery’s Summer Butter in the current Marcel’s refrigerated case. Nordic Creamery uses farm-fresh sweet cream to make “Summer Butter” from April to October when cows are on pasture, creating fresh, herby flavors and a sunny yellow color.  Pick some up next time you’re in! Follow all the happenings at Marché on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/marche496.            

 

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