Monday, January 08, 2007

Real Cheeses from the Underground

With no snow and the third consecutive week of 40 degree days in southern Wisconsin, I'm giving up on winter and committing myself to spending more time eating funky cheese.

Luckily, there's an event coming up to help me with this quest. On Saturday, Jan. 27, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m West Allis Cheese at the Milwaukee Public Market (400 N. Water St in Milwaukee) is hosting "Cheeses from the Underground."

The event will feature Wisconsin artisan cheesemakers who are reviving the Old World tradition of aging cheeses in natural caves. Cave-aged cheeses are cared for in a natural, underground cave from several weeks to years, depending on the a variety of variables. The cave environment creates amazing flavors and beautiful cheeses. These are the kinds of cheeses that are helping artisans find successful niche markets for their products, while also maintaining cheesemaking traditions.

Not only is West Allis Cheese celebrating these rare Wisconsin cheeses by hosting a cheese tasting where people can come meet the cheesemakers and sample their unique products, but they're also bringing in the one and only Mary Falk, an award-winning cheesemaker from LoveTree Farmstead, to conduct a presentation on affinage, the art and science of maturing cheese. Her presentation is from 11 a.m. to noon. (That's her cave pictured above).

The best part: it's FREE and is open to the public.

Here's the scoop on the participating cheesemakers:

  • Mary Falk, LoveTree Farmstead, Grantsburg, WI
    LoveTree Farmstead Cheese produces some of the world's finest and most unique sheep cheese. Located in the Trade Lake area of northern Wisconsin, this unique glacial setting features eight lakes within two miles of the farm. It is these lakes that their different cheeses are named after: Trade Lake Cedar, Big Holmes, Spirit and Trade River. Since its founding in 1986, LoveTree has won numerous awards, including being named Food Artisan of the year by Bon Appetit/Food Network and several American Cheese Society awards.

  • Sid Cook, Carr Valley Cheese, LaValle, WI
    Carr Valley draws on its heritage of four generations of cheesemakers to continue the care and standards it established in the late 1880s. Long known for his popular Cheddars, Sid Cook, Carr Valley's Master Cheesemaker, has begun to make cow's milk artisan varieties that include Cave Aged Cheddar (reminiscent of farmhouse Cheddars produced 100 years ago) and Virgin Pine Native Blue (a blue-veined cheese that's also cave-aged and pierced with needles to allow the defining molds to grow with the cheese).

  • Tom Torkelson, Natural Valley Cheese, Hustler, WI
    Natural Valley Cheese is proud of its longstanding Wisconsin traditions. The milk that goes into the cheeses - both cow's and goat's milks - is produced by an Amish farm families who hand-milk their animals and store and chill the milk in metal cans. He won four awards at the 2006 American Cheese Society Conference, for his Twin Bluff Select, Lindina, Goat's milk Feta and Redstone Robust.

  • Brian Nelson, FenceLine, Grantsburg, WI
    A joint venture with the dairy farmers at Burnett Dairy Cooperative, FenceLine uses new and historic methods to create a family of Italian country cheeses respectful of the special characteristics of the milk, water and fauna of Burnett County. Using only the finest cow milk from Wisconsin's successful dairy farmers in northwest Wisconsin, FenceLine crafts award-winning cheeses like a lightly-aged Provolone and Winter Sun.

  • Wisconsin Dairy Artisan Network
    The Wisconsin Dairy Artisan Network is agroup of artisan and farmstead dairy cheese, butter, yogurt and bottled milk producers from around the state. From the rolling pastures of the unglaciated Uplands region of southwestern Wisconsin to the rocky, forested Northwoods along the shores of Lake Superior, a growing number of highly skilled Wisconsin Dairy Artisan are creating the finest quality artisan and farmstead dairy products, sweeping cheese awards across the nation. These talented people are leading a resurgence of artisan products, reintroducing recipes that many believed were lost in the United States and creating their own products and processes along the way. They will host a booth representing all of the artisan and farmstead cheesemakers from the state.

Is this, or is this not almost the perfect event ever? Let's hope the weather holds and we can all road trip to Milwaukee on Jan. 27.