1. Marieke Aged Gouda: this cow's milk farmstead Gouda is aged between 1-2 years on wooden planks at Holland's Family Farm in Thorp, Wis. It's so good, Cheesemaker Marieke Penterman has a hard time keeping it in stock. So when you do find it, buy it. No matter the price. Because one bite of that nutty, crystalized, sweet caramel delight is going to be worth whatever you paid.
2. Hidden Springs Creamery's Farmstead Feta: if you've only ever had the pleasure of eating cow's milk Feta, than Cheesemaker Brenda Jensen's sheep's milk Feta is going to rock your world. If you're lucky, you'll find it in bulk at cut-to-order shops, others carry it pre-packaged in small tubs. No matter the size, prepare thyself for sticker shock and buy it anyway. Lighter and less-salty than cow's milk Feta, it is completely void of calories. Well, at least you'll keep telling yourself this when you can't stop eating it.
3. Hook's 15-Year Cheddar: at between $50 - $60 a pound, this is easily the most expensive Wisconsin cheese on the market today. Remember, however, you only need a quarter pound to appreciate this aged cheddar's nutty, savory crystals. Buy a chunk and share it with friends. Nothing warms up a long winter evening faster than good cheese and good company.
4. Dunbarton Blue by Roelli Cheese: this Wisconsin Original has put cheesemaker Chris Roelli on the map in a hurry, with good reason. An earthy flavored Cheddar with just a hint of blue mold bloom, Dunbarton Blue is open-air cured on wooden shelves, producing a rich and unique flavor. Rumor has it that Chris may be breaking ground on a new, underground cave this spring, allowing for expanded production and aging of this blue beauty. Bring it on!
5. Cesar's Queso Oaxaca: never thought you'd find a string cheese worth $12 a pound? Think again. This hand-stretched mozzarella is made weekly in micro batches by cheesemaker Cesar Luis at Sassy Cow Creamery near Columbus. Sold in bundles of between 6-12 sticks, Cesar's Queso Oaxaca is squeaky fresh and super stringy. It's the perfect afternoon pick-me-up. I'm even eating some while writing this, because it's yummy and multi-task friendly.Worth every penny, and then some.
Still searching for a good cut-to-order cheese shop near you? See my list of favorites here on my blog - scroll down and look to the right under "Favorite Cheese Shops."