Before I launch into dishing about the new, funky cheeses I've encountered this week, I thought I'd write a quick blurb for any newbies out there who might be just discovering Wisconsin artisan cheesemakers and let you know of two opportunities next week to try one of THE best artisan cheeses made right now in the United States.
Part of the excitement of tasting an amazing cheese is when you get the opportunity to meet the artisan who actually makes it. For those of you living near Milwaukee or Chicago, you have the chance next week to meet one of America's premiere artisan cheesemakers - Mike Gingrich - who crafts Pleasant Ridge Reserve (that's him - pictured above in his affinage room). His cheese was voted Best of Show out of nearly 1,000 cheeses at the 2005 American Cheese Contest, took the same award at ACS in 2001 AND was named the U.S. Champion Cheese in 2003 (that's a lot of accolades for a cheese that's made at a farmstead cheesrie on a dairy farm near Dodgeville, Wis.)
Mike is one of the sweetest, most humble people you'll ever meet - and one of the smartest when it comes to making cheese. Buyers from around the U.S. order his cheese to sell at their specialty cheese shops. If your schedule allows, don't miss an opportunity to meet him and taste his cheese at these two events:
- April 12: Stop in at one of Chicago's leading specialty artisan cheese, wine & bread shops - Pastoral at 2495 N. Broadway - to meet Mike Gingrich and sample his cheese. Event runs from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. and is free. For more information, visit http://www.pastoralartisan.com/ or call 773-472-4781.
- April 13: The Milwaukee Public Market will welcome Mike Gingrich, Chef Jack Kaestner, Oconomowoc Lake Club; and a founding member from Slow Foods Wisconsin Southeast to share how to use local ingredients to prepare amazing recipes using Pleasant Ridge Reserve. Mike will talk about how he produces his Beaufort style cheese while Chef Jack will prepare cheese bruschetta, celery root salad, winter root vegetable gratin, and homemade cheese biscuits with cheese "fondue" sauce. Class runs from 5:30 - 7 p.m. and fee is $30. To register or find out more info, call 414-336-1111 or visit http://www.milwaukeepublicmarket.org/cookingclasses.shtml
You can't ask for a better opportunity to try one of America's favorite cheeses!