For a Wis. cheese tour, let your taste buds plan

By Emily Fredrix

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 13 2011 1:55 p.m. MDT

For curd fans, they are an addiction that cannot be cured. Details at the milk marketing board's curd site at http://www.eatcurds.com.

Allen Uebele makes the 40-some minute drive north from his home in Milwaukee once a month to Beechwood. Curds, he said are "the Beaujolais of cheese," a nod to the famed French red wine, whose release each November is celebrated by oenophiles.

"They're just a perfect little cheese morsel to eat," he said.

If you can't make Curd Day, or want more when you get home, visit their site to order: https://www.beechwoodcheese.com. (Click on products and cheese curds.) The curds arrive fresh, so squeak away!

MEET YOUR CHEESEMAKERS

There's something to see and eat every day at Wisconsin's cheesemakers. Get there early in the morning, just as the cheese is being made, for the freshest and the best. You are never far from one in Wisconsin.

Carr Valley Cheese hosts a growing number of cheese tourists at its seven retail stores and factories, said Sid Cook, master cheesemaker, owner and operator.

"There'll be license plates from seven or eight different states at a time, and maybe 10 places to park. It gets to be a bit of a jungle," he said of Carr Valley's flagship location in La Valle, in central Wisconsin.

He realized years ago that not everyone visiting was a local, so he started selling coolers to help transport the cheesy bounty home.

More stringent food safety requirements have put an end to factory tours, but visitors can see most of the functions of his three plants through large windows. There is always someone available to answer questions, and just as importantly, to dole out samples.

"We always have samples, lots of samples," he said. "If somebody's dying to try something we'll open it up. The idea is if you're going to buy something you should darn well like it."

FARMERS MARKETS AND STORES

Instead of visiting the dairies, you can let the cheesemakers come to you. Wisconsin has a wealth of farmers markets all throughout the state that draw farmers, cheesmakers and artisans from the area.

The Dane County Farmers' Market — http://www.dcfm.org/ — is the biggest farmers market in the state, and also claims to be the biggest in the country. At any rate, the market along the perimeter of the state Capitol, is a mind-boggling array of 300 vendors of fresh cheese, produce, crafts and more. There are often so many people you have to walk in one direction.

Even in the winter, the market is still held. The indoor market is much smaller, but just as delicious.

For a full listing of farmers markets in Wisconsin, visit this list by several government entities in the state: http://www.savorwisconsin.com/events/farmersMarketEvents.aspx.

Stores are also plentiful. Check out cheese specialty stores to get your cheese fix every day. In the Milwaukee area, the West Allis Cheese And Sausage Shoppe has a wide array of cheeses available, and even fresh curds. There's one location in the suburb of West Allis and another downtown at the Milwaukee Public Market. It's a great place to visit for any food-lover.

One of the most well-known cheese stores is the Mars Cheese Castle. It looks just as it sounds, a giant castle, and is easily found off of Interstate 94 in southern Wisconsin, about 30 minutes from Milwaukee and 45 minutes from Chicago's O'Hare airport. A true tourist delight with boundless arrays of cheese, sausages and more. Visit http://www.marscheese.com for more information.

You can always buy cheese in the Milwaukee and Madison airports on the way home. It may not be the freshest or most delicious, but it will be in the shape of a cow, a beer or even Wisconsin.

GETTING IT HOME

Flying is the ideal way to transport cheese, especially if you check the bag through. That's because it will be stored underneath the plane, where the temperature is cool. Perfect refrigeration for your delicious cargo.

Just to be extra cautious, you can go to larger grocery stores now and pick up an insulated shopping bag, almost like a cooler. You can also carry solid cheese on a plane. It's not a gel or a liquid — so that 3.4 ounce limit does not apply.

Emily Fredrix can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/emfred.

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