I realize that not everyone who reads this blog lives in Wisconsin (but if you really loved artisan cheese you would move here and bravely face today's balmy minus 6 degree wind chill). So I thought I might share a few good retail cheese shops around the country that I've had the chance to visit and who do a great job of presenting Wisconsin artisan cheeses.
First up is Saxelby Cheesemongers in New York. Owner Anne Saxelby writes a great blog and sends out a fun weekly email - if you're interested, ask her to add you to her mailing list. She also hosts lots of fun events and her cheese description cards are the best. The above photo taken by Zoe Singer last week may be my all time favorite: Anne's description of Uplands Cheese's Pleasant Ridge Reserve reads: "You down with P.R.R.? Well you should be - it is rich and hearty with a sublime caramel-butterscotch sweetness balanced by flavors of grass and earth. It melts like a dream ... think fondue in winter!"
Another one of my favorites is the Marion Street Cheese Market in Oak Park, Ill. Owner Eric Larson again does a great job of sending out a weekly email of his offerings, and has lately been featuring a ton of Wisconsin artisan cheeses. If you have a MySpace page, add them as a friend - Eric plans to use the MySpace page to post a regular cheese and wine blog and provide information about upcoming events and news at his shop.
If you're ever in Portland, Oregon, I would definitely recommend Foster & Dobbs. Tim Wilson & Luan Schooler opened the shop about a year ago and have created an amazingly beautiful cheese case featuring quite a few Wisconsin cheeses. Another fun stop in Portland is Elephant's Deli -- store manager Nick Doughty keeps the cheese case fully stocked (they also make the best vanilla latte that I've ever had).
And if you're ever in Austin, Texas, be sure to stop by Central Market at 4001 N. Lamar. Cheese & Deli Manager Michele Haram carries hundreds of cheeses, including mammoth cheddars from Hennings, and is expanding the Wisconsin selection all the time - she carries quite a few cheeses from Carr Valley as well as other Wisconsin favorites.
A cheese shop posting would not be complete without mentioning two specialty shops in Wisconsin: Larry's Market in Brown Deer and Nala’s Fromagerie in Green Bay. At Larry's Market, ask for Steve Ehlers or his sister, Patty - both are two of the most knowledgeable cheesemongers I've ever met. Alan Trick at Nala's is also excellent - he opened about a year ago and his shop is already being called one of the best in the Midwest. (Quick piece of trivia: although I've known Alan for a long time, I just figured out that his store name is his first name spelled backwards - not sure what that says about my analytical abilities).