Saturday, December 29, 2007

A Very Cheesy New Year

The Night Before 2008

by The Cheese Underground Lady & her daughter, Avery

'Twas the night before 2008, and all through the state
Not a creature was stirring, as they all slept in late.

Except for the Sauk City cheesemakers, who hung their cheeses with care
In hopes that the customers would soon be there;

The cheeses were nestled all snug on their boards,
Dreaming visions of dozens of first place awards.

And Sid Cook in his overalls, and Bob Wills in his flannel,
Had just settled down to watch the sports channel.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
they sprang from their chairs to see what was the matter.

Away they flew to the front door like a flash,
So fast did they move, that they almost did crash

Into the snowplow that had just pushed three feet of snow,
blocking their driveways -- why, the driver must be from Monroe!

When what to their wondering eyes should appear,
But a lively group of Swiss cheesemakers, all donning cheese gear.

With Jeff Wideman as their leader, so lively and quick,
Sid and Bob knew in a moment they were there to make Brick.

It was the secret New Year's Eve Wisconsin cheesemakers quest,
Between Sauk City and Monroe - a yearly contest.

And then Jeff whistled, he shouted, and called out by name:
"Now Bruce Workman, now Myron Olson, now Steve Stettler and Shirley,
On Ron Buholzer! on Steve McKeon! on Josh Erickson and Jamie Farhney!

To the top of the porch! to the edge of the vat!
Prepare to craft your very best cheese, stat!

As cheese curds do squeak the fresher they are,
you see, the Monroe boys had traveled quite far

To conquer Sauk City's Sid Cook and Bob Wills,
To see who could make the best Brick in a battle of skill.

And then, in a twinkling, the Monroe bunch did shout,
"This year is our year - we've learned all about

Master cheesemaking from the Center of Dairy Research
And now our Brick cheese is about to perch

On the pinnacle of success, and we know we will win
So get out your cheese knives and let's begin."

So Bob and Sid, they began to think
What recipe to use, and then Sid did wink

And he whispered to Bob -- let's go get Joe Widmer
He's the best of the Brick makers, he'll make us a winner.

So as Bob snuck out to go find Joe,
in his spare time, Sid opened another store.

When Bob and Joe returned, he and Sid made quick
On their promise to beat the Monroe bunch at Brick.

The battle was on! How the curds and whey flew!
Like cheese curds in a tornado, the two teams did brew.

Their best batches of Brick were well underway
with Joe secretly coaching Bob and Sid all the way.

At the end of the night, Bill Wendorff did appear
to judge the Brick contest, to see whose cheese was premiere.

As Bill tasted the Sauk City concoction and compared it to Monroe's,
He said with a smile, the nose always knows!

These two cheeses are equal in every way, shape and form,
I do declare a tie and I would like to inform

That we have two winners tonight
So congratulations to all, and to all a good night.

Happy New Year to all Wisconsin cheese lovers everywhere!
-- Jeanne Carpenter

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Sibby's Soft Serve

Debuting with a completely new packaging and brand appeal, Sibby's Premium Organic Ice Cream has opened a soft-serve ice cream parlor inside the Viroqua Public Market at 215 South Main Street, Viroqua, Wis.

"My favorite way to eat ice cream is soft serve," owner Sue "Sibby" Sebion told me this week. "So we thought, let's dish it up that way."

The result is Sibby's Organic Zone Ice Cream Parlor, featuring her fresh made organic cream. The parlor also features fair-trade, locally roasted coffee, as well as espresso drinks, soda, tea and treats.

Sebion and partner Dr. Tony Macasaet chose a "warm, George Jetson, Norwegian, eclectic decor" for the parlor. Many of the shop’s elements are recycled. For example, the hand painted multi-pane decorative windows come from the barracks at Fort McCoy, while the cork-rubber floor is made from recycled tires. The booths were saved from an old Viroqua cafe.

A 100% woman-owned, independent ice cream manufacturer, Sibby’s was founded in 2001. The ice cream factory is tucked into the Sebion family's picturesque 150-year-old Norwegian homestead farm in Vernon County, home to one of the highest concentrations of organic farming in the nation.

"The milk in my ice cream comes from right nearby… its age can be measured in minutes," Sibby says proudly. Sibby’s ice cream is gluten free and made without gums or artificial ingredients and additives. It enjoys national distribution through United Natural Foods and is available in all Midwest Whole Foods Markets and many food co-ops and natural food stores across 16 states.

Sebion, whose business survived the devastating floods of August 2007, is proud that after seven years of struggle, she finally feels prepared for growth and success. "My new packaging is incredible, I have the support of Whole Foods and co-ops like Outpost and the Viroqua Food Coop, and we have national distribution. Most importantly, I'm making some amazing ice cream! And of course, I wouldn’t be here without my loyal customers."

You go, girl.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Yellowstone Cheese

Wisconsin’s newest farmstead cheese plant and retail store recently opened its doors to a resounding welcome from the Cadott area.

Jeremy and Heidi Kenealy have dairied since 1994 and currently milk 70 cows. Milk from their own herd goes into a variety of 25 cheeses, available for sale exclusively at their on-farm store at 24105 County Hwy MM near Cadott.

“As young farmers, we searched for options to control the milk price and this seemed like the best opportunity,” Heidi told me this week. “We love farming and didn’t want to do the same old up and down cycle anymore. This provides some income continuity.”

The Kenealys have two young children: Brad, 8 and Brooke, 7. The whole family is involved in the operation, as the retail store is open seven days a week, Mondays through Fridays, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., and on Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Cheesemaker Dave Anderson crafts cheese at the Kenealy’s farmstead cheese plant three or four days a week. He makes dozens of flavored Colby and Jack cheeses, with favorites thus far says. It includes chocolate, caramel and walnuts.being salsa and salami varieties.

A signature cheese, Yellowstone Crunch, “tastes like a candy bar but is made of cheese,” Heidi says. It includes chocolate, caramel and walnuts. Sounds interesting ....

Yellowstone Cheese on-farm store also sells a variety of Wisconsin-made products including local maple syrup, wine, beer, ice cream, packaged goods and breads. Visitors can watch cheese being made from the retail store through a large viewing window, and can even watch cows grazing nearby during warmer months.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Roth Kase Buys Caves

Here's something you don't hear every day: a Wisconsin cheese company has bought seven hilly acres of underground storage caves in Tennessee for $285,000 after the previous owner went to jail for using the space as a clandestine marijuana farm.

Roth Kase USA, a well-known Wisconsin cheese company based in Monroe, was the winning bidder at the court-ordered auction Saturday. The company's representative, Chuck Olson, says Roth Kase will make an announcement "shortly" regarding what the company plans to do with the property, but promises it will be an entirely legal operation "in a tasty way."

Apparently the cave in question is a "masterpiece" -- according to The former owner was an evil genius with superior craftsmanship who spent $750,000 turning the cave into a subterranean pot farm. In 2005, authorities found 850 marijuana plants flourishing under grow lights in two heavily secured, 100-yard-long rooms in the cave. Needless to say, said owner is now in jail.

Proceeds from the sale will go to the 15th Judicial District Drug Task Force, which will use the money to fund undercover work.

I can't wait to see what kind of cheese Roth Kase will age in these Tennessee caves and how they will market it -- gives a whole new meaning to "cheese underground."

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Wisconsin Mac & Cheese

The old stand-by of macaroni and cheese is apparently making a national comeback, thanks to new dishes from restaurants and packaged-food companies, reports the USA Today.

For example, Sonic Drive-In has started selling selling deep-fried Mac & Cheese Snacks, while Kraft has introduced an organic version of the mainstay dish, and Cheesecake Factory is selling it as an appetizer.

Here in Wisconsin, mac & cheese never went away. I can remember my mother making it from scratch about once a week when I was a kid. After"Kraft Dinner" came out, she often prepared it as a side dish -- along with the omnipresent Jell-O salad at weekday suppers (if you grew up in Wisconsin you understand -- I still look forward to attending potluck meals back home just to gaze on the dozens of Jell-O salads jiggling on the serving table).

Anyhoo ... since the weather forecaster here is predicting six inches of snow today, and since I really don't do winter (still not sure why I keep living in Wisconsin), I'm thinking I'll get reacquainted with my kitchen and perhaps spend some time experimenting with making different Wisconsin Mac & Cheese dishes.

Google the words Wisconsin Mac & Cheese and dozens of recipes appear -- even a 1995 oldy but goody that was published in Bon Appetit. In good news, mac & cheese is not hard to make. Selecting which type of cheese and which macaroni shapes are just about your biggest decisions.

If anyone has any recommendations on which Wisconsin cheeses you use in your own mac & cheese recipes, by all means, send them along. It's going to be a cheesy winter.