Thursday, April 24, 2008

Cheese Events Galore

If you're looking to learn more about Wisconsin artisan cheeses, and taste some awesome new varieties in the process, then run, don't walk to three cheese shops in Milwaukee, Madison and Sauk City between now and June.

First, On Thursday, May 1 from 5:30-7:30 p.m., malt and barley will meet curds and whey at the
Milwaukee Public Market. Join West Allis Cheese & Sausage Shoppe and the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board where some of Wisconsin’s finest cheeses will be paired alongside craft beers.

The public will have the chance to meet several Wisconsin cheesemakers and cheese experts and learn how their cheeses pair with your favorite Porter or Lager. You'll sample cheeses from Carr Valley Cheese, Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese, Roelli Cheese, Sartori Foods, Saxon Creamery, Seymour Dairy, and Uplands Cheese.

Cheeses will be paired with beer from Ale Asylum, Stevens Point Brewery, Unibroue, Lakefront Brewery, Furthermore Beer, and Great Lakes Brewing Co. Also, meet author Pam Percy as she signs copies of her newly published book, “Wisconsin Cheese: A Cookbook and Guide to the Cheeses of Wisconsin” and watch a cooking demo by Executive Chef Jack Kaestner of Oconomowoc Lake Club. Whew -- sounds like a full two hours. Cost of the event is $10. Save your seat by calling the Milwaukee Public Market at 414-336-1111.

Fromagination on the downtown Capital Square in Madison has just announced a great line-up of classes and events between now and June. Word is there are still a couple of seats open for tonight's Sweet Spring: Fruit Ales & Mixed Milk Cheeses with beer connoisseur Lucy Saunders. For $30, you get to taste a bunch of perfectly paired beers and cheeses and be entertained by the beercook lady at the same time.

Then, on May 3, May 10 and May 16, you can meet three cheesemakers and taste some amazing Wisconsin cheeses for absolutely FREE at Fromagination. On May 3, Joe Burns from Fayette Creamery samples his Little Darling & Avondale Truckle from noon to 3 p.m. On May 10, Bruce Workman from Edelweiss Creamery will be in the house from 1-2 p.m. to sample his big wheel swiss (Bruce is the only cheesemaker in America making traditional 180-pounds of Emmentaler). Jerry Apps will also be on-hand in the morning to sign copies of his new children's’ book about a master cheesemaker. On May 16, Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese will be in the house from 3-6 p.m., sampling their fresh mozz, Mascarpone and Les Freres.

Shameless self promotion alert: on May 13, I'll be leading another Cheese 101 class, where from 7-8:30 p.m., you get to listen to my stand up routine on the hows and whys of tasting cheeses and finding perfect companions. It's a great casual class and we let you drink beer and wine during it. Really, who could ask for anything more? Cost is $30.

Lastly (there are more, but go to the
website to read the rest), my friend and newest Wisconsin cheese author Jeanette Hurt will be signing copies of her new Complete Idiot's Guide to Cheeses of the World from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Then, be sure to check out the remaining three classes at the
Carr Valley Cooking School at Sid Cook's store in Sauk City. He's bringing in some pretty amazing chefs to teach cooking classes featuring his cheeses. On May 7, John Caputo, executive chef and partner at Bin 36 and the newly opened A MANO, will show how to prepare a wonderful meal with wine pairings to rave about.

On May 21, Andrea Curto-Randazzo, chef and co-owner of Talula in Miami, Florida, will teach some of her eclectic blend style of cooking where you may taste anything blended from Caribbean, Asian, Latin American, Italian to American cuisine. And finally, Roberto Donna of Galileo Restaurant in Washington, D.C. will travel to Sauk City on June 4 to share his Italian cuisine and love of wine. Register online

Ready, set, register

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Woolwich Dairy Opens

Canada’s largest goat cheese producer will celebrate its introduction into America’s Dairyland with a grand opening of its new U.S. headquarters on May 9 in Lancaster, Wis.

Woolwich Dairy owners Tony and Olga Dutra will kick off the grand opening ceremony at 1:30 p.m. The public is invited and tours will be offered. Word has it that wine and hors d'oeuvres will be served. Whoo-hoo! Bring on the goat cheese.

Woolwich Dairy is southwest Wisconsin’s newest cheese production facility. In an announcement that will go out next week, the company reports it employs 15 people and sources milk from 120 area dairy farms from five states, with the majority of the milk coming from current and start-up goat dairies in Wisconsin.

The new 28,000 sq. ft. Lancaster cheese plant is the third production facility to be added to Woolwich Dairy’s operation, and the first in the United States. The plant will craft fresh, soft unripened goat cheese. Woolwich Dairy is a family-owned company which started in 1983. It has additional processing facilities in Ontario and Quebec.

“We are very pleased with the quality and volume of milk we’re sourcing from Wisconsin goat dairy farms. In fact, we’ve met and surpassed our initial projected numbers,” Domingues told me yesterday. “We look forward to aggressively growing our business in the United States and will continue to shift production from Canada to Wisconsin.”

Most excellent. Sounds like we'll be seeing even more goat dairies popping up in southwest Wisconsin and more goat cheese made here, if Woolwich Dairy has its way. Sounds like a win-win to me.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Red Barn Family Farms

Spring has finally come to Wisconsin, and you know what that means: 'tis the season for dairy farmers to launch new bottled milk brands.

The latest news comes from Red Barn Family Farms, a new Wisconsin family-owned dairy, which plans to announce this week it will launch a new brand of bottled milk to be available in select Milwaukee grocers beginning April 17.

What's unique about this particular company is that every dairy farm that supplies milk to Red Barn Family Farms is certified by the American Humane Association.

Dr. Terry Homan, veterinarian and founder of the company, said his product fills the growing demand from consumers who are demanding exceptional milk quality and quality animal care.

“It’s simple - the cows that receive the best care produce the best milk,” Dr. Homan told me.

The quality and taste of Red Barn Family Farms milk is a direct result of the production style of the family farms it comes from, Homan says. In fact, every participating dairy must meet strict standards called “The Red Barn Rules.” These rules insure each cow consistently demonstrates excellence in health as well as excellence in the health and quality of the milk produced.

In addition, each dairy farm must pass an inspection by the American Humane Association. Red Barn Family Farms milk is rBST free.

Homan’s desire to start the Red Barn Family Farms brand came from his 12 years of dairy veterinary practice in rural Wisconsin and his desire to provide transparency in how milk on store shelves is produced.

“I believe these family dairies are the best models of how to care for animals. These farms are proud of their commitment to their cows, proud of their heritage, and I am convinced that this difference can be tasted in their milk,” Homan says.

The milk is bottled at a Lamers Dairy, a small, family owned bottling plant in Appleton, Wis., and will be available in skim nonfat milk, 2% reduced fat milk and whole milk.

A hearty welcome to Wisconsin's newest dairy entrepreneur!

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Movin' On Up

Well, Wisconsin is movin' on up and finally getting a little respect in the press for our artisan cheeses.

First, there was the awesome "Push Comes to Chevre" article in last Sunday's New York Times T Magazine, announcing Wisconsin has joined the "United States of Arugula" by learning "the magic word artisanal."

The article highlights a half dozen of Wisconsin's most famous artisan cheesemakers of the "driftless" region, which author Christine Muhlke describes as "a long strip of land that the glaciers passed by during the ice age. The area’s deeply carved hills and river valleys make it better for pasturing animals than farming, and the limestone-lined hills impart a distinctive flavor to its milk and produce. If this were France, it would have an A.O.C. designation." Couldn't have said it better myself.

Then, word on the street has it that Wisconsin will be featured on two major television shows next week.

Jane Cisler of the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association left me a voicemail yesterday, saying she's headed to New York to attend a taping of the Martha Stewart show on Thursday, April 10 where the World Championship Cheese, a Swiss Gruyere crafted by Michael Spycher, will be tasted live by Martha. The cheese was crowned on March 13 in Madison, Wis., at the World Championship Cheese Contest, so we're hoping Wisconsin gets a plug or two on her show.

And then, I got a most exciting email yesterday from Debbie Crave of Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese, who casually mentions that the Crave dairy farm, its farmstead cheese factory and on site manure digester will be featured on the April 10 NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams at 5:30 p.m. CST. Debbie says: "It’s a segment called, “Making a Difference”. Hope you can catch it."

Yes ma'am, I will definitely be setting my Tivo for Thursday's viewings of Martha and NBC News. It's not often Wisconsin is highlighted in two national shows on the same day.

Whoo-hoo! We finally got a piece of the pie.